The 'new right' is not a reaction to neoliberalism, but its offspring - 2019-07-16
The ongoing and increasingly intense conservative backlash currently taking place across Europe is often understood as a populist reaction to neoliberal policy. The neoliberal assault on the welfare state, as for instance Chantal Mouffe has argued, has eroded post-war social security even as it destroyed people's faith in electoral politics. Coupled with a sharp increase in inequality and rapid globalisation, the technocratic nature of neoliberal government has angered electorates across the continent. Wanting to "take back control" of their political life, these electorates have turned away from traditional centrist parties and have thrown their lot in with populist parties on the fringes of the political spectrum. Although, as Mouffe is at pains to point out, this creates a space for both left-wing and right-wing populisms, today it seems that especially its inward-looking, nationalistic variants are experiencing electoral success.
To be sure, this diagnosis is by and large correct. Decades of neoliberal hegemony have certainly served to impoverish the cultural life of many European nations. Meanwhile, neoliberal policies of privatisation and deregulation, followed after the 2008 crisis by a decade of blithe austerity measures, have gutted most of the institutions that previously carried the promise of equity and security—even if that promise was always already a false one. The rise in jingoistic nationalism is, in this sense, without doubt a consequence of the neoliberal era.
It would be incorrect to assume, however, that these nationalisms are somehow juxtaposed to or fundamentally different from neoliberalism. It would be wrong, that is, to see the rise of the so-called "new right" as a sign of neoliberalism's demise or to see the 2008 financial crisis as marking its death rattle. Neoliberalism did not merely provide the occasion for the rise of nationalist sentiment; rather, the latter also grew out of the former. Differently put, neoliberal doctrine already carried the seeds of the kind of conservativism that is currently running rampant in Europe.