Reactionary or Traditional Conservatism?: The Origins and Consequences of the Far Right Movement of the 1960s
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The emergence of the Tea Party movement is a reminder that the Far Right can be a powerful political force in America. Yet, scholarship on the Far Right pales in comparison to work on left-wing social movements. My project examines the Far Right by revisiting the 1960s, a critical time because of the ideological realignment that shapes America today. Scholars explain that far-right movements are motivated by a commitment to retain social prestige, and unlike traditional conservatives, sympathizers with the Far Right are reactionary conservatives who resists social change at all costs. However, work on the Far Right and reactionary conservatism, especially work focused on the 1960s, fails to place the movement in its appropriate historical context, theorize and subsequently test the theory. My project first grounds reactionary conservatism in the political context of the 1960s. I examine the driving forces behind the Far Right's resistance to social change in relation to the progress of the Civil Rights movement and the ever-present Cold War. Through a comparison of Far Right literature to mainstream conservative thought, the Far Right's anxiety toward social change stands out. Moreover, an analysis of 1964 National Election Study data suggests that anxiety toward social change goes above and beyond other explanations to explain sympathy for the movement. Far-right sympathy is also a powerful predictor of political participation, negative attitudes toward integration and out-group antipathy. Finally, I use panel data to examine the power of reactionary conservatism over time, and test whether or not the anxiety of the Far Right is a long-standing, stable attitude acquired early in life. I find that reactionary conservatism is an important explanation for political behavior and attitudes in times of clear social change and years into the future.
- Political science