classic statue of Socrates close up, academy of Athens

The appeal of nostalgia: The influence of societal pessimism on support for populist radical right parties

Azmanova (2011) suggests "opportunity versus risk", specifically with regard to globalisation, is the contemporary dividing line in political discourse. Where liberal and green parties have emphasised opportunity and possibility, populist and radical left parties have stressed risks and insecurities.

Eefje Steenvoorden and Eelco Harteveld define social pessimism as "a concern that society is in decline". Studies show that either a "large minority or a majority of citizens in Western countries can be labelled as social pessimists" who perceive social and cultural decline and "collective powerlessness to change things for the better".

In particular, societal unease is seen to relate to five aspects: "distrust of human capability, a loss of ideology, the decline of political power, the decline of community and socioeconomic vulnerability". Rather than "egotropic" concerns centering on individual self-interest, these characteristics of societal unease reflect sociotropic concerns on behalf of the "socioeconomic vulnerability" of the country or society as a whole.

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Harry Pitts


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