Political Entrepreneurship in the Age of Dealignment

The Populist Far-Right Alternative for Germany

Michael A. Hansen, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Contemporary History, and Political Science, University of Turku/Turun Yliopisto
Jonathan Olsen, Department Chair and Professor, Department of Political Science, Texas Woman’s University

Eric Langenbacher, Senior Fellow and Director of the Society, Culture & Politics Program, AGI

In contrast to many of its European neighbors, Germany’s far-right parties have historically had no lasting electoral success, and the story of the far-right in the postwar period has been one of fragmentation, infighting, organizational weakness, lack of professionalization, and, at the end, implosion. All of this changed dramatically with the arrival of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is currently poised to not only secure a strong showing in the upcoming election for the European Parliament but to win the largest share of votes in state elections in Saxony and Thuringia this fall. In a new book from Palgrave/Macmillan on the AfD, authors Michael A. Hansen and Jonathan Olsen ask how the AfD has been able to achieve unprecedented electoral success even while radicalizing further to the right. They show how the party has consciously set out to win voters over the course of three different federal elections through a concerted strategy of “issue entrepreneurship” and demonstrate which voters the AfD is reaching through this strategy.

In conversation with AGI Senior Fellow and Director of the Society, Culture & Politics Program Dr. Eric Langenbacher, Dr. Hansen and Dr. Olsen discuss the AfD’s ideological and electoral trajectory, the impending EP election, the AfD’s weakening in the polls over the past several months, and various scandals currently swirling around the party.

Dr. Michael A. Hansen
Michael A. Hansen is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Turku, Finland. He previously held a Postdoctoral position at Lund University and was an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin Parkside. Hansen’s research includes political behavior in the United States and Europe with a focus on underrepresented groups in these regions and political movements that target minority groups. Hansen has published in journals such as Comparative European Politics, Social Science Quarterly, German Politics, German Politics & Society, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, and Party Politics. Published topics have included radical right and left party voting behavior, the impact of chancellor candidates in German politics, attitudes toward social policy and sexual behavior, and attitudes toward democracy. His current research explores gender and politics, which has featured analysis of the #MeToo movement, perceptions of female political candidates, and the gender gap in voting for radical right parties.

Dr. Jonathan Olsen
Jonathan Olsen is professor of political science and the chair of the Department of Social Sciences and Historical Studies at Texas Woman’s University. From 1997-2014, he was a professor of politics, philosophy, and law at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Olsen is the author of numerous scholarly articles featured in journals such as German Politics, German Politics and Society, Party Politics, and Problems of Post-Communism. He is the author of four books, including Nature and Nationalism and Right-Wing Ecology and the Politics of Identity in Contemporary Germany, one of the earliest treatments of the phenomenon of “eco-fascism.” Olsen also is a three-time Fulbright Scholar and has been a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) fellow. He has held visiting appointments at the University of Münster, the University of Potsdam, and the Europa University Viadrina (Frankfurt-Oder).

This event is supported with funds from The Harry and Helen Gray Humanities Program.

May 14, 2024


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