Modern societies have increasingly thematised themselves with ecological issues as their basic problems. However, the ‘legitimacy’ publicly ascribed to ecology renders its appropriation possible by groups widely viewed as ‘illegitimate’, enabling such actors to attract not only their core audience, but also a moderate wider public. This project analyses such appropriation, i.e. both the assessment of as well as the potential for self-legitimisation via ecological topics. This is done via an analysis of the politically relevant case of increasingly popular far-right populist and radical parties, and looser groups of organised intellectuals in Austria, Germany and Switzerland between 2001 and 2011.
Existing research on these actors has investigated, e.g., their stance on immigration but similarly extensive research into their public discourses on ecology does not exist. Little is known about ‘how’ and ‘why’ some far-right actors reject ecological issues, while others appropriate the protection of nature. Through triangulating quantitative corpus-linguistics (direct comparison of the investigated discourses on ecology), quantitative appropriation analysis (mapping assessments of and potential self-legitimation via ecology) and qualitative discourse analysis (how ecology is performed in detail), I ask: Which topics characterise far-right discourses on ecology? How are these performances affected as soon as these actors address a moderate wider public? (How) Do these actors draw on traditional right-wing narratives about the humans-and-nature relationship?
Successful appropriation of the ‘legitimate‘ topic of ecology might enable these actors to legitimise their core topics, attract a moderate wider public and transvalue (liberal-)democratic values. Thus, the project provides, for the first time and in a historical and comparative perspective, an analysis of such attempts, enabling a better understanding of increasingly successful far-right populists and radicals.