Event Date: 15 – 17 May 2019
Richmond University – The American University in London
Richmond TW10 6JP
A Century of Radical Right Extremism: New Approaches
Julian Göpffarth (LSE) – Activating the socialist past for a nationalist future: Far-right intellectuals and the prefigurative power of multidirectional nostalgia in Dresden
A wide-spread explanation for the success of populist far-right parties is that they mobilise economically left-behind voters via a backward-looking, nostalgic and thus, it is implied, illegitimate agenda. Yet, recent research on the drivers of the populist far right in Germany has shown that it is often specifically wealthy areas that vote for the AfD (e.g. Manow, 2018). This paper draws on this recent literature on far-right populism as well as the memory studies and social movement literature to examine the way nostalgia drives the future-oriented activism of well-off intellectuals for the populist far-right AfD. Presenting data from six months of ethnographic fieldwork in Dresden I argue that intellectual support for the far-right in East Germany is based on the convergence of two distinct but related forms of nostalgia. Firstly, a “positive” nostalgia for a guilt-free past. This nostalgic narrative has traditionally been propagated by a West German New Right but was equally engrained in the memory politics of the East German socialist regime. Secondly, a “negative” nostalgia characterized not by a celebration of East German socialism, but of the joint resistance to it. As multidirectional nostalgia both serve as a legitimization for an alternative German collective memory. Infused with a future-looking “anxious and catastrophic hope” (Gordon, 2018) for change in the present this multidirectional nostalgia prefigures an alternative far-right and nationalist future.