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The Normalization of the Radical Right: A Norms Theory of Political Supply and Demand

Radical-right behavior is increasing across Western democracies, often very fast. Previous research has shown, however, that political attitudes and preferences do not change this fast. How, then, can we make sense of these patterns?


I argue that, to explain them, one needs to appreciate the crucial role of social norms as drivers of political behavior. Social norms can make one's behavior conditional on expectations of what others deem appropriate. In so doing, they can block the translation of preferences into behavior, and bring about changes in behavior even under preference stability.


Building on a theory of how norms affect political supply and demand, I argue that growing radical-right behavior is driven by individuals who already had radical-right views, but who did not act on them because they thought that they were socially unacceptable.


If radical-right voters do not express their preferences, politicians can underestimate how much latent support there is for radical-right policy. This leaves the radical right with less skilled leaders, who are unable to mobilize even radical-right voters to support them. However, if politicians realize that there is more private support for radical-right policy than is typically observable, they have an incentive to run for politics with a radical-right platform and mobilize silent radical-right views. Their electoral success, in turn, makes radical-right individuals become more comfortable showing their views, and impels more politicians to join the radical right.

"The Normalization of the Radical Right" will be published by Oxford University Press in 2024, as part of the Oxford Studies in Democratization series. A Portuguese adaptation will be published by Gradiva, which can be pre-ordered at this link.


The book has benefited greatly from a book workshop with the participation of Ben Ansell, Rachel Bernhard, Giovanni Capoccia, Jane Green, Sara Hobolt, Desmond King, Isabela Mares, Pazit Ben-Nun Bloom, and David Rueda.

Below you can find some advance praise for the book:

This truly exceptional book will change how we think about the success of the radical right. It provides a general theory of how social norms shape political behavior and puts norm change center-stage in explaining the ascent of the radical right. Based on rich data and rigorous analysis, the book demonstrates how stigma and normalization are key components of radical right success. A must-read for those who want to better understand one of the most pressing political phenomena of our time.”

Tarik Abou-Chadi, Associate Professor in European Union and Comparative European Politics, University of Oxford

“Why do populist parties often surge in popularity out of nowhere? Has the radical right been normalized? These questions, crucial to contemporary politics, were poorly understood. Not any more. Vicente Valentim's pathbreaking new book develops a novel theory about how social norms emerge and spread and applies it using cutting edge empirical techniques to this crucial question. This is a must-read for anyone interested in political parties, social norms, populism or the future of European politics.”

Ben Ansell, Professor of Comparative Democratic Institutions, Nuffield College, University of Oxford

“Social norms have received much less attention in political science than their importance for many political outcomes would warrant. The Normalization of the Radical Right significantly advances the vast literature on the recent success of radical right parties in many liberal democracies by documenting how a perceived change in social norms may lead to rapid changes in large sectors of the electorate. An impressive achievement, which will leave a mark on the literature for a long time to come.”

Giovanni Capoccia, Professor of Comparative Politics, University of Oxford

“Radical right parties have made significant electoral strides in recent years. By highlighting the importance of social norms, Vicente Valentim argues that this rise is not due to voters changing their political preferences, but rather due to their willingness to express these preferences publicly by backing radical right platforms. With the clarity of its argument and richness of data, this book is bound to become an instant classic for anyone interested in the future of our democracies.”

Catherine E. De Vries, Generali Chair in European Policies and Professor of Political Science at Bocconi University in Milan

“In this important and highly original book, Valentim places norms in the spotlight. It isn’t enough to understand voter preferences in our understanding of the radical right; we need to understand how those preferences become politically acceptable. This book has implications for political science broadly and is essential reading for understanding the changes and challenges of populism in Western democracies.” Jane Green, Professor of Political Science and British Politics, University of Oxford

“Why is the radical right on the rise across Western democracies? In this path-breaking book, Valentim presents a norm-based theory of political supply and demand that explains how the radical right has been strengthened through a process of normalization.This ambitious and carefully researched book is essential reading for understanding how social norms can bring about important political change.”

Professor Sara Hobolt, London School of Economics

“Vicente Valentim introduces a bold new agenda for the study of electoral behavior: the exclusive focus on intrinsic motivations ought to be complemented by a consideration of extrinsic motivation, in particular of social norms. Norms-based models, he argues, can explain fast behavioral change in the absence of an actual change in political preferences. Applying this insight to the radical right in Europe, he shows how its rise was originally constrained by social norms, and only became possible once exogenous triggers led to its normalization. This book is a must-read for students of electoral behavior.”

Hanspeter Kriesi, European University Institute, Florence

“In this highly original book, Vicente Valentim documents how social norms matter in explaining the political fate of far-right parties. Valentim formulates a dynamic account of the process of entry and normalization of far-right parties that accounts both for voters’ incentives to misrepresent their political preferences and for the surge in the political support of far-right parties, once such normative sanctions decline. Drawing on a wealth of data across advanced industrialized democracies, Valentim documents how social norms condition the strategies of right-wing politicians as well as the background of politicians willing to run of far-right platforms.”

Isabela Mares, Arnold Wolfers Professor of Political Science, Yale University

“In democracies around the world, commentators and analysts decry the “normalization” of radical right parties. What exactly does normalization mean and how does it happen? This book represents a major breakthrough, analyzing with the most sophisticated theoretical framework and careful cross-national data to date how precisely citizens and politicians rethink what is acceptable in politics and how this changes political behavior.A major reorientation of the analysis of the radical right with implications for the study of modern democratic politics more generally.”

Daniel Ziblatt, Eaton Professor of the Science of Government at Harvard University

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