The idea that not all identities are or should be the same is very visibly on the ascendance. Carried aloft by growing populist movements these ‘new imaginings of what constitutes the “people” and “elites”’ are already having deep consequences for world politics.1 In recent years, theirs has become the most significant challenge to globalisation and neoliberal economics,2 as well as ‘old’ liberal international norms such as equality of rights for cultural, ethnic, and gender identities, multilateral international agreements,3 rules-based international organisations, and even limitations to the exercise of coercive power. Their recent electoral successes, taking the initiative within existing conservative movements, in the UK, US, and France, or on their own as with the Italian Lega and Front National (FN), have revealed remarkable coherence between their foreign policy objectives.
These nationalist movements centre around a conceptual assemblage we refer to as the New Right. This set of political theories, which counts French author Alain De Benoist among its leading exponents,4 challenges the twentieth-century-liberal cosmopolitan vision of a singular humanity endowed with rights for all identities, races, and genders, and the subsumption of conflict under multilateral institutions and trade. The New Right is the latest iteration of a reactionary challenge to liberal belief in human universality by those that believe in fundamentally ‘natural’ inequalities. It is defined by an internationalism of its own, which advocates linking nationalist movements to restructure international relations norms. To examine how these movements might affect international politics, we identify their ideas as a kind of alt-internationalism that has been disciplined and narrated out of the mainstream of IR. How, then, does the New Right reimagine the international and international relations?
The answer lies in retrieving the New Right's philosophical machinery through examination of its intellectual history, conceptual foundations, and political discourse. Only then can its conceptualisation of the international be understood. The New Right has taken concrete shape over the last three decades. Though the term initially referred to 1980s electoral coalitions associated with Reagan and Thatcher, their ‘social conservative’ wings, after initial alliances with 1980s free market radicals, found more independent expression in the 2000s and 2010s.5 In this article we refer to this complex ideological ensemble as ‘New Right’ because this is the only term that they themselves agree on. We observe that in their – often incoherent and contradictory – expressions, groups that are described and self-label as ‘New Right’ (or ‘Alternative Right’ in America) share a set of political sensibilities, theories, and approaches to international issues. This article locates the international political logics they share through analysis of their public discourse and their own key texts to make sense of the conceptual machinery that drives it.
New Right politics have been extensively covered in the media and studied from the perspective of post-Cold War nationalism,6 fascist theory,7 xenophobia,8 nativism,9 nationalist gender,10 anthropology,11 electoral strategy,12 econometrics,13 and even charisma.14 These studies identify a continuity from 1930s ideas,15 and retrieve the role of 1990s culture wars,16 and late 2000s anti-migration rhetoric.17 Among works exploring the conceptual mechanics of individual cases, Connolly analyses how American identities attached to Evangelical Christianity constituted a resonant discursive relationship with corporate interests.18 However, we suggest, this does not retrieve the international dimension that provides an equally or more important background condition.
Probably due to its obscurity until Brexit and electoral victories in America and Europe, scholarship on the New Right remains limited to its 1990s anti-feminist impact,19 identity and anti-migration politics,20 their electoral ‘mainstreaming’,21 post-communist nationalist resurgence,22 or post-guilt German reassertion.23 From an IR theoretical perspective, their study has been grouped under ‘populism’ or ‘far right’, focusing on their drive for sovereignty-first and anti-immigration approaches.24
The New Right is thus commonly associated with a ‘withdrawal’ from international engagement.25 We argue that it is not analytically sound to reduce these movements to a symptom of decay in international relations,26 or to their anti-immigration sentiment.27 European far-right populists, who widely reference New Right thinkers like De Benoist, are ‘not persistently anti-internationalist/anti-EU’.28 Our analysis suggests a relatively coherent programme for an internationalist future: a radical remake of internationalism as a normative architecture. This is not the reverse or negation of internationalist hope, but a doppelgänger, the latest iteration of an essential part of the history of internationalism. We call this set of ideas Reactionary Internationalism.
‘[N]ot all internationalism was liberal’, noted Jens Steffek.29 Significant ambivalence has always marked uses of the word. Kuehl divided internationalists into ‘community thinkers’, the ‘polity minded’, ‘socialists’, and ‘Liberal internationalists’, which were in turn subdivided into those who analysed the term ‘conceptually’, or as ‘structure and process’. In particular, the nature and role of nations has been understood variously by discrete groups of internationalist thinkers. The priority of the nation state may be questioned by liberal internationalists, but this is far from intuitive from the perspective of the word's broader intellectual history. Relatively unused before 1950, the history of the word internationalism after 1950 is complicated by the emergence of a range of alternative terms like transnationalism, globalism, Wilsonism, or supra-nationalism, which are deployed by authors precisely to achieve distance from a relationship to the ‘nation-state system, which they decry’.30 This is why it makes little historical sense to read internationalism as synonym for passage beyond the world of nations.
Martin Wight noted that the revolutionary ‘principle of uniformity’ among nations was of use to ‘ideologists’ of various kinds. It was put ‘into effect in a counter-revolutionist sense by Alexander and Metternich’, forcing theorists to admit ‘counter-revolutionism as a mode of revolutionism. Mazzini gave the principle a violent push’ such that ‘there would be no valid international society till all its members were nation states.’ It is Mazzini's reactionary political thought, rather than Kantian liberalism, that underwrote the triumph of the principle of self-determination in 1919 and ‘gave its driving force to Afro-Asian anti-colonialism’.31 In suggesting the need for internationalism to be examined on its own terms, Kuehl's implication was that diverse iterations of the idea remain to be uncovered.
In acknowledging the New Right as defined by Reactionary Internationalism we address the ways in which the conduct of relations among international actors is central to the New Right's philosophical machinery. At every discursive level, the international provides the key unifying frame for the loose assemblage of the New Right. Even cultural expressions surrounding New Right political formations refer to problematic international norms that must be reformed.32 The New Right see themselves as having an international agenda characterised by an emphasis on freedom to trade, negotiate, or engage in conflict without the unjust limitations imposed by liberal internationalist norms, which they refer to as ‘globalist’. This agenda is evident in the foreign policy programmes of Trump, Le Pen, Salvini, Orban, Putin, as well as the wider discourse around Brexit. Donald Trump's statements do not suggest cutting international links, but rather a transactional mode of international relations that rejects rights-based norms and embraces difference in power as a logic of engagement.33
The current prominence of these forces and their explicit desire to reconfigure international norms justifies analysing them as a form of internationalism with various localised manifestations. Their conceptual assemblage and public discourse cohere around common themes: resistance to liberal norms, an account of their negative consequences, a cultural identity-based causal temporal frame and, once they capture the state, solutions provided by international normative change. Because it retains Liberalism as a key referent,34 we define the New Right as the contemporary expression of a reactionary trend within the internationalist tradition. Our examination follows from MacKay's and La Roche's call to retrieve the role of Reactionary International Theory in IR and their examination of 1920s and 1930s reactionary strategies.35 We advance this investigation by identifying a New Right project to restructure international norms, replacing liberal assumptions of universal humanity and its protection through institutions, with the promotion of inequality among identities.
Regular comparisons of contemporary New Right movements with 1930s ethnonationalisms highlight the role of social hatred, racism, xenophobia, and violent discourses therein.36 However, while some New Right discourses and concepts originate in the 1920s–30s, the rhetorical association to fascism can obscure how the New Right addresses the international relations of the 2010s with solutions that are, even when nostalgic of the 1930s, markedly different. It is important to track how the New Right draws from both the history of nationalisms and from the liberal internationalism it critiques, breaking with prior formulations of populist reaction like fascism or post-Napoleonic counter-revolutionary and anti-populist realpolitik. Having engaged substantively with liberal internationalism,37 the New Right offers a distinct alternative vision. Far from seeking isolationism, the New Right has stepped into a battle over which norms should govern international relations.
We find that the New Right's alt-internationalist offering is defined by: (i) adoption of a resistant subjectivity grounded on a birth-culture identity; (ii) a reactionary disposition to contemporary liberal internationalist norms; and (iii) a project to break loose from these norms to ‘liberate’ the ‘natural’ qualities of birth-cultures. In sum, there is a vision for the remaking of the international contained in the New Right, which binds together diverse groups and cultural formulations. International norms are dynamic, their legitimacy liable to rise and fall,38 which in our view means the New Right can be considered ‘norm entrepreneurs’ advocating a re-modulation of the relationship between the ‘society of sovereign states’ and the ‘global society of individuals’.39 This normative drive to return the international to a rightful, imagined to be prior, condition, is well instantiated in their call to privilege the rights of birth-cultures over the rights of international institutions.
Our method of analysis draws upon poststructuralist approaches to analysing discourse,40 to make sense of New Right claims, positions, and beliefs, including politicised narratives such as Trump's use of ‘fake news’ to delegitimate opposition critiques. We seek to retrieve their underlying logic by comprehending them from within the New Right theories that produce and govern them. To do so we firstly deploy genealogy, an approach to the history of ideas that follows how concepts change and are repurposed over time. Genealogical method identifies the breaks, disjunctures, and transformations that mark the history of a thing, whether it be an idea, a discourse, a ritual, or a social practice.41 The genealogy of New Right internationalism, in relationship to past nationalisms and fascism, shows continuity only alongside significant differences in their treatment of the international. Secondly, to show how contemporary New Right debates coalesce around Reactionary Internationalism, we deploy Foucauldian archaeological analysis. This method focuses on retrieving the specific systems of knowledge production at work in a single discourse, to reveal the mechanisms through which ideas govern and produce others. Archaeology prioritises detailed conceptual deconstruction of texts that, here, informs an assessment of how New Rights theory works in practice, engages with and contests other ideas, and how its precise internal mechanisms sit within wider genealogies of reactionary thought.
This dual approach produces insights into how New Right concepts and discourses: (a) produce political subjects; (b) propose an analysis of the global addressing identity and economics; and (c) how it seeks to change international norms. Further, poststructuralism's concern with conceptualising and accounting for intertextuality – links across and among texts of different types and sites – enables research into the multi-platform amorphous formations of New Right enunciations. This method links the discourses of politicians to online fora, the repeating memes and actors that multiply and diffuse it, and the speech acts that bring it to the broader public. The method allows us to unpack discourses drawn from diverse political groups while making sense of their points of alignment and cohesion.
In selecting the textual corpus for our analysis, our criteria includes discourses from the campaigns of New Right political formations established in the late 1990s to early 2000s, which, although not always officially incorporated (such as the Brexiteers and the Trump campaign, only officially coagulated in 2016), have existed in political and discursive terms for more than a decade, and have developed links across one another. We could term these movements first-generation New Right movements. Accordingly, this article includes discursive data from the Brexit, Front National, Lega, and Trump campaigns 2016–18. Longstanding links across these groups are identifiable by common adherence to the EU Parliament European Nations and Freedom Group (ENF), the Brexit and Trump Campaigns’ sharing of ideas and frequent references to each other as examples of ‘liberation’,42 Bannon's recent promotion of an international coalition,43 public mutually supporting political links such as between Bannon and Jacob Rees-Mogg,44 as well as explicit self-identification with the New Right or core New Right ideas.
These first-generation New Right movements were selected because they pioneered a range of discourses and political logics, now deployed by a second generation of New Right movements in the late 2000s and 2010s. This includes Alterntative for Germany (AfD) in Germany,45 Vox in Spain, Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands, the Sweden Democrats, Law and Justice (Poland's PiS),46 and Orban's Fidesz, which emerged more recently or joined New Right discourse in the 2010s on the back of the migrant crisis.47 These actors explicitly reference and draw heavily on the successes, rhetoric, strategies, and even aesthetics of the first-generation movements here analysed, and should be the future focus of research into the New Right. The research agenda initiated in this article might be further extended through work expanding the empirical focus to assess the degree to which Reactionary Internationalism provides the philosophical machinery for nationalist populist movements worldwide.
The first section of the article locates the New Right assemblage within the history of nationalist thought, retrieving the continuities, discontinuities, and shifts that justify its definition as a form of internationalism. The second examines how the birth-cultural definition of identity characteristic of the New Right relates to critique of liberal internationalist norms. The third section analyses New Right explanations for grievances and their solutions before explaining these findings as a concerted project to replace rights-based internationalist norms with freedom of competition between birth-cultures, which we term Reactionary Internationalism.
In among the history of nationalism
This section traces the intellectual history of the New Right in relation to nationalist thought. This genealogical analysis entails investigating the background of these ideas, retrieving continuities, differences, and caesuras in the history of nationalism leading to the New Right. We specifically identify which concepts, intellectual mechanisms, modes of critique, and solutions the New Right has or has not absorbed from preceding nationalist traditions.
Classical nationalism assumes friction among identities as a natural condition underpinning conceptualisations of identity, survival, competition, and hierarchy.48 The traditional nationalist hierarchy of rights is clearly apparent in contemporary discourses that allocate rights on the basis of identity.49 1920–30s nationalisms drew on the pseudo-scientific Geopolitical tradition pioneered by Kjéllen and Ratzel,50 to link geopolitical survival to birth and ethics through conceptualisations that linked razza (biologically determined identity, not solely race) to the spirito of a nation (its immanent ethical basis), framing history, decadence, hierarchy, and culture as variables produced by that relationship.51
Classical nationalist discourses blamed modernity and its universalist norms – particularly identity, gender, and individual rights – for endangering the nation. Bismarck, for example, framed constitutionalism and liberalism as self-inflicted existential weaknesses, arguing that ‘it is not by speeches and majority resolutions that the great questions of the time are decided … but by iron and blood’. In this discourse the universality of individual rights hinders national power, which (framed as the capacity for violence), linked to national necessity, supersedes the rights of individuals. To this day, this discourse establishes universality of rights as a threat to national security or, in social contexts, the freedom to be strong against the weak, and is commonly expressed through demands to establish identity and gender hierarchies by overturning ‘political correctness’.
Fascist nationalism drew on these survival ‘requirements’ to promote totalitarianism, erase dissent, and optimise the nation for violence against others. 1930s nationalists and fascists believed in remaking nature, developing and bending it to the will of man. Mussolini, the futurists, or Primo de Rivera did not only seek to purify identity, but to create a new obedient national warrior subject, l'uomo fascista, devoted to national imperative as dictated by the leader. ‘Fascist Man’ is born in the mind of the pioneering nationalist: he must be invented, moulded, and made: a detailed vision of society beyond purifying identity from foreignness and traitors. This is why, to nurture spirito as the optimal realisation of biological identity, fascism featured revolutionary programmes for radical social change, beginning with a vision of people's membership of society and the state that erased the social unit of the family –though not its biological role – in favour of state-corporatist social units that separated men, women, and children, linking each to the state via work, dopolavoro (after-work) socialising, women's collectives, youth organisations, and the military.52
Only one element of this conceptualisation remains in New Right thinking. If 1930s reactionary philosophy was grounded on the razza-spirito axiom and the programmatic move to heroically enact the potential of the race, the New Right retains the axiomatic logic but abandons the programme. Instead of constructing and programming the future, the New Right appears content to purify and ‘unshackle’ national identity – a passive approach to salvation.
The New Right's birth-culture axiom diverges from the fascist razza-spirito, integrating race into a broader conceptualisation of identity mediated by the constructive role of culture in history. This identity remains circumscribed by birth, which explains why New Right politicians aggressively attack jus solis (citizenship for children of foreigners born in the national territory). Culture emerges as immutable and primordial, removing the need for active self-improvement, leaving only passive protection of cultural purity. Birth stands as the limit condition of culture, binding past and future belonging into existing membership. Race remains a part of birth-culture but, subsumed as an accident of birth, it does not need to be explicitly enunciated. This avoids legal restrictions and is how the New Right articulates racism without mentioning race.
Birth-culture is at the core of the New Right's electoral and discursive machinery. It is particularly evident in foundational texts such as de Benoist and Champetier's internationally influential ‘Manifesto: The New Right for the Year 2000’, cited by New Right nationalists like Bannon and Dugin. New Right thinking conceptually refutes the existence of humanity as a social and political category, arguing that ‘mankind as such does not exist, for its affiliation to humanity is always mediated by cultural belonging’.53 Identity is cultural, de Benoist argues,54 innate and determined from birth – therefore, as deterministic as race – but articulated through a framework that absorbs Evola's normative identity (spirito) into a birth-determined immutable origin now articulated as culture.
De Benoist's ideas draw heavily on French anti-liberal late nineteenth-century nationalists Charles Maurras and Maurice Barrès55 – the latter a key instigator of the anti-Semitic 1894–1906 Dreyfuss affair.56 Barrès grounded national belonging on a conceptualisation of culture that is determinant, immutable and ‘eternal’, and which defines the individual from birth through racially enabled determinant nurture. Through this framework of cultural immanence, the birth-culture axiom defines nationhood and locates two threats to its survival: liberal norms and the presence of foreigners.57 Mazzini contemporarily embedded birth-culture into an international frame that predicated its survival on national particularism and, in a more nuanced reactionarism than his French contemporaries, reframed democracy as an enabler of national self-determination rather than individual emancipation.58 Belief in the immanent and eternal quality of birth-culture, which only required defence from foreigners and liberals, distinguishes this tradition from fascism and means that the revolutionary programme that fascism had for society is displaced onto the international as anti-liberal normative reaction. Crucially, the two conceptualisations remain compatible and contiguous, particularly on anti-liberalism.
The immutable and immanent conceptualisation of culture grounds the role of birth and history in New Right identity politics.59 Their focus on numbers of migrants – rather than any other qualifier – betrays the logic that migrants have no agency as to their normativity and negative impact.60 While the fascist race-spirit discourse constructed the individual Jew or race-enemy as a threatening object of purification, the birth-culture discourse displaces normative agency from the individual to birth-identity, and thus the individual migrant is not to blame but rather their identity is.
This reveals how the birth-culture discourse incorporates international concerns. International norms are framed as impediments to solutions, which follow logically from the birth-culture linkage. Proposed analytics and solutions tend to be peculiar to each domestic national case but share a critique of conspiratorial ‘internationalists’ like George Soros and the liberal international norms that permit their operation. The temporal inscription of recently arrived foreignness in the New Right's 2010s anti-migration discourse underpins a mission to unravel international norms, such as European freedom of movement or UN obligations to refugees.61 This is how the passive (narratively nostalgic) mode of the birth-culture discourse ensures that liberal internationalist or ‘globalist’ norms are viewed as the overarching problem by the New Right.
The transactional mode of international and economic engagement evident in the international behaviour of Trump, Salvini, and radical Brexiteers, however, betrays the influence of a strand of the liberal internationalist tradition they critique: economic neoliberalism. This suggests another fissure between the New Right and prior nationalist traditions. The transactionalism of the 1980s economic revolution led by Thatcher and Reagan focused on liberating the economy from normative, legal, governmental, and international constraints, a preference for supply-side economics through commodification of all activities, deregulation, and depoliticisation of economics.62 Its evolutionary mode, known as ‘creative destruction’,63 is passive: it assumes that once obstacles are removed, prosperous natural balance ensues. This led to contradictions within the New Right between supply-side universalism and ethnonationalist particularism that sees ‘economic globalists’ like the Koch brothers as profiteering from liberal internationalist norms.64
This paradox was to some extent conceptually resolved in the 2010s, as the New Right began to form electorally successful national units. The ideas of Bannon and Brexiteers are interesting examples of this partial reconciliation, though this is less apparent in the Italian and French New Right. Supply-side theory, especially in its survivalist ethic of just success or failure,65 appears to have influenced the New Right by informing and updating ideas of struggle anchored in nineteenth-century geopolitics. This survivalist logic is visible in the New Right's attacks on ‘Social Justice Warriors’ (#SJW, progressives) that, in their view, pervert nature by upholding weak subjects, particularly women and those of different birth-identity. The partial solution was evident in economic claims of ‘liberated’ trade and ‘increased prosperity’ during the Brexit referendum.66 Contiguity is possible because economic failure is comparable to failure to survive through violence – in both theories considered fair and natural functions of freedom.
Neoliberalism influenced New Right thought in three ways. Firstly, the New Right logic of liberation focuses on the destruction of liberal international economic norms (like the European single market) perceived as constraining freedom through regulation, further distancing it from 1930s programmatic or ‘high-modernist’ solutions.67 Secondly, national economic survival has largely replaced violent survival, as evident in Bannon and Trump's discourse and policy on trade with Mexico, Europe, and China.68 It is also visible in claims that Britain, no longer constrained by EU regulation, would triumph in international trade as it did before joining. The ‘Darwinism’ of struggle between identities no longer draws on 1920–30s racial geopolitics of protection and isolation, but rather seeks to be set free to achieve nature-given economic potential. Thirdly, and crucially, an alternative internationalism emerges at the heart of the New Right critique, which borrows from neoliberalism's core logic. That logic, evident in 1980s economic reforms, drove a process of creative destruction to liberate capital from normative and institutional constraints as well as from future political or institutional policies.69 This revolutionary ‘mode’ of reform70 seeks state power to dismantle and remove – rather than reform – normative structures, institutions, and limitations.71 The New Right has adopted this method and logic, proposing in campaigns and enacting in office the abandonment or disestablishment of international normative frameworks, for example in trade (NAFTA, the EU), migration (European free movement), and legal structures recognising universal humans and their rights.
The greatest area of neoliberal-New Right divergence is the extent to which to allow one's identity to be harmed by economic failure.72 This accounts for differences between Brexiteers and Trump, and on the other side the continental New Right. As discussed in the following section in the context of survival, Brexiteers and Trump advocate a liberation of identity's economic potential where failure is the just desert of the inadequate. However, continental New Right politicians like Le Pen, Salvini, and to some extent Steve Bannon, gravitate towards compensating for the misdeeds of ‘global internationalists’ with economic preferentialism. This includes Bannon's ‘Economic Nationalism’ or Le Pen and Salvini's ‘economic patriotism’, which favours preferential economic treatment for nationals.73 This is framed, however, by the same logic of restructuring international norms to facilitate innate capabilities, which to a great extent avoids discursive contradiction. Furthermore, neoliberal methods of reform fit the New Right drive to deploy state power to overcome parliamentary and institutional limitations while citing this move as fulfilling popular will. For instance, Trump and Brexiteers frequently refer to their election/referendum results to discursively and practically bypass parliament and promote their normative revolutions.
The manner and method of New Right politics are diverse, but clearly different from past nationalisms. New Right populism shares the logic of fascist ‘mobilisation’,74 Communist ‘collective agitation’,75 or French revolutionary levée,76 to outrage the public about specific grievances. The programme, as analysed, is mostly limited to removing hated norms, a logic then expanded into international normative reaction.77 At the electoral level, candidates gather support from various, sometimes contradictory, nationalist, identitarian, and economic libertarian sources, which is why informal electoral coalitions of radical and more moderate New Right groups are increasingly important. New Right campaigns tacitly accepted extremist support, including Brexit (Leave.EU), Trump 2016 (Alt-Right ‘fine gentlemen’), Le Pen 2017 (Génération Identitaire), Salvini 2018 (formally Fratelli d'Italia, informally Forza Nuova and Fiamma Tricolore). What binds these coalitions together is a shared internationalism; the belief that the sources of problems are international, and that solutions necessitate restructuring international norms to liberate birth-culture's innate potential.
At the idea-making level, the New Right draws on networked micro-centres of outrage that actively refuse long-term coalescence with others and leadership, not least because focus on specific grievances makes support highly contingent. Gentile, Evola, or Primo de Rivera would have not recognised this decentralised logic, considering their emphasis on total surrender of authority and initiative to a saviour leader. Despite the nostalgic use of fascist or swastika symbols, these dynamics suggest a new political and aesthetic process for coalescing and expressing ideas.78 A good example is a culture of transgression on the Right – which loops back, after liberal critique, to claims of tyrannical political correctness by establishment conspirators79– that resonates more with 1960s left-wing student movements or nineteenth-century French ‘dark’ literary libertinism than rigid socially conservative schemes.
IR theorists might be tempted to equate the international dimension of New Right thought with Samuel Huntington's civilisation thesis.80 Similarities, however, are limited to xenophobia and existentialist fear of migration, rather than conceptual structure and history. Huntington reduces identity, culture, and their attendant norms to religion, rather than the above-analysed birth-culture axiom. Huntington's clash pits evangelical Christianity against millennial Islamic extremism because of their competing universalisms, which is anathema to New Right national particularism. Its intellectual history is parallel to the New Right's in drawing on American 1990s ‘culture wars’, and they share a common predecessor in paleoconservativism,81 but its international dimension absorbs Bernard Lewis's Occidentalist-Orientalist binary, which informs its grounding of norms on religious identity.82 This leads Huntington to foresee ‘civilizational blocs’ as vast regionalist alliances, contrasting with the transactionalist statist particularism of the New Right. While Huntington's assertions of the Otherness of Islam resonate with New Right discourses and the birth-culture concept here outlined, his ‘observation’ of colliding civilisations is a symptom rather than a component of the emerging influence of early 1990s predecessors of the New Right.
This genealogy has identified three key mutually constitutive New Right modes of thinking and their attendant discourses: passive identity definition and survival, with economic issues framed as identity conflict, and solutions discursively based on unshackling birth-culture through international normative reaction. Despite superficial similarities to 1930s nationalisms, the New Right draws more heavily on nineteenth-century ethnonationalism based on ‘eternal’ cultures. Far less programmatic than their predecessors, they focus on unravelling ‘imperialist’ international norms, so as to ‘unshackle’ nations from restrictions on economic, identity, or gender power. The impact of neoliberalism has replaced programmatic aspirations with the assumption that if ‘unnatural’ restrictions are lifted the nation and its culture will thrive, an (apparently) passive ‘liberation’ mode that has seeped into normative, legislative, and social realms. In confronting late modern grievances, the New Right promotes a fundamental shift in international normative regimes so as to unleash the natural power of cultural identities.
Freedom, diversity, and survival
This section examines how the contemporary New Right defines identity and frames its survival in an international context. It shows the international reach of these ideas and evidences their logic through analysis of the discourses of Brexiteers and European identitarians.
The 2016 Brexit campaign was split into the ‘official’ Vote Leave campaign and Leave.EU, reflecting the uncomfortable alliances characteristic of New Right electoral politics. Vote Leave discourse focused on normative identity by proposing binaries that forced self-definition as totalitarian or free. The main ‘choices’ for the electorate opposed British sovereignty against ‘Soviet-style control freaks’ ‘ruling’ over British identity, ethics, tax, property law, and even defence. Likewise, exclamations of ‘Britain's a great country. Vote Leave’, ‘believe in Britain’ and ‘don't talk down Britain’ confronted unpatriotic sentiment against belief in innate British capabilities.83 Concerning immigration, they claimed their position was ‘non-discriminatory’, a ‘practical’ solution to ‘uncontrolled’ ‘numbers’, forbidden by ‘[t]he dogmatic defenders of the EU's free movement rules’.84
The right to reject universalism is the core driver of this discourse. Michael Gove, speaking for Vote Leave, elevated the right of the UK to discriminate or deport by identity, wealth, or risk, to an issue of ‘fundamental liberties’ and especially survival.85 This resonated powerfully with (false) claims of imminent Turkish accession to the EU and added an economic and security dimension where Brexit opposed ‘British families struggling to make ends meet’ to migrants who were only ‘good for some of the multinationals funding the IN campaign’.86 International migration, they claimed, drives scarcity in housing, healthcare, school places, even green space,87 and accused critics of ‘sneering at Brits who voice legitimate concerns about the crisis’, making migration an anti-establishment issue.88
Leave.EU enunciated a discourse of indigenous survival more explicitly, highlighting that European countries like Hungary and Slovakia had closed borders, blaming the 2015 Paris attacks on migration rather than extremism.89 Seeking to ensure a ‘proper’ Brexit, Leave.EU blamed the 2017 Westminster terrorist attack on migration,90 and framed Brexit's success as an anti-elite ‘kick-back against the status quo that leads to a popular revolt across the West’ – a common New Right discourse.91 In a show of solidarity demonstrating the internationalism of these ideas, Breitbart followed the Leave.EU campaign in detail. Linking the two campaigns, Michael Gove argued that ‘fundamentalist terror’ is provoked by Western ‘moral relativism’.92
The Front National's 2017 campaign also linked specific norms to culturally framed identities. Echoing Vote Leave, it demanded a referendum ‘to liberate ourselves from the EU's anti-democratic rules’ and ‘institutional reform’ to deliver ‘national priority’ – discrimination in favour of French citizens.93 Radicalisation, it argued, results from allowing ‘ethnic or religious communities to coexist’ – for ‘Sunni Islam is incapable of defining right and wrong’. Blaming liberal ideas that ‘discard the existence of French culture’, and it blamed ‘threats’ to women on Muslim immigration, advocated the abolition of jus solis, family reunion, and a target of 10,000 migrants per year.94
Enunciating the New Right's theory of ‘cultural diversity at the global scale’, FN expressed respect for all cultures, for ‘it is the existence of original cultures, each anchored and safe in its soil and population that makes the diversity of the world’, proposing ‘diversity’ as healthy segregation against ‘the disappearance’ that follows from ‘cohabiting in the same place’. This assumes a static vision of culture ‘that can only survive if each culture remains in its soil’. As part of measures to ‘give real value to French citizenship’, naturalised ‘French citizens of African origin’ should assimilate ‘fully’, or face deportation.95 FN proposed an international normative shift, including ending multilateralism, shifting to unilateral or bilateral security, development, aid, and an ‘economic patriotism’ model similar to Bannon's ‘economic nationalism’ discussed below. Echoing the US Alt-Right's rejection of ‘white guilt’ in considering colonialism and slavery, FN, not unlike Boris Johnson, promotes defence of the positiveness of French colonialism.96
French youth group Génération Identitaire holds a more militant and European perspective. In the 2017 election they mobilised youth voters for Le Pen as the final opportunity to ‘save France’.97 Génération Identitaire describes itself as the centre of a pan-European ‘resistance’ against ‘enforced interbreeding’, ‘sexual perversion’, and ‘ethnic fracture’ of ‘our land, our blood, our identity’.98 Their campaigns seek to ‘defend’ French borders against ‘invaders’ and roll back ‘colonisation’ of French cities with rallies in migrant neighbourhoods like St Denis, Paris.99 They seek pan-Western unity against the (‘May ’68’) international liberal norms that destroy European identities by ‘promoting’ Islam, homosexuality, women's and minority rights, migration, and ‘interbreeding’.
In Italy, Lega's resistance to liberal norms focuses on promoting identity birthrights. Lega opposed jus solis, claiming countless pregnant foreigners give birth in Italy ‘to steal Italian rights’ and ‘sneak’ in more migrants. Enacting the birth-culture axiom, Lega argued that granting citizenship to infants ‘without Italian parents and ancestors’ endangered Italians’ ‘demographic’, ‘cultural’, and economic survival. Lega blamed vast youth unemployment on the immigrant ‘invasion’ and, echoing de Benoist on the wrongs of ‘human rights ideology’, pledged to carry out mass deportations and outlaw assistance to refugees and migrants.100 To show their ‘Italians first’ campaign, at their annual festival in 2017 the party restricted parking for pregnant women to ‘European heterosexual women only’.101
Following their 2018 election victory, Salvini closed Italian ports to NGOs rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean and proposed a census and register of Roma people ‘to protect Italians’.102 Lega's journey from anti-Southern regional party to a New Right ethnonationalist party was openly discussed,103 and directly involved international New Right figures like de Benoist and later Bannon.104 Like other New Right calls to dismantle international norms, Lega seeks to repeal the Mancino Law (banning fascism) as a ‘device used by globalists to conceal their anti-Italian racism as antifascism’.105 Likewise, Salvini proposed a referendum on leaving the Euro and recently blamed EU ‘diktats’ imposing ‘external constraints’ to ‘protecting Italian lives’ for the August 2018 Genoa bridge collapse.106
These discourses do not only establish and delimit identity. They seek to shift norms so as to enact an existentialist claim: exercise power on the basis of cultural identity so as to measure, ‘contain’, ‘choose’, govern, or dispose of differentiated bodies and determine their fate. This is apparent in Trump's position on DREAMERS and incarceration of migrant children. The logic animating these discourses is the right of cultures to survive, on the assumption that all identities seek the same at the expense of one another: a struggle for (primarily economic) survival, a ‘fair cause’ that necessitates lifting the international norms that prevent its pursuit.
New Right thinking understands intellectual or cognitive resistance as a necessary precursor to identity liberation. At stake here are the reasons why ‘fake news’ is believed, why truth becomes contingent on who speaks and against whom. Its conceptual construction ties together ideas of indigenous birth-cultural survival to a frame of epistemological resistance. As Evola before him,107 de Benoist identified modernism ‘embodied in’ the culture of Liberalism as its ‘dominant ideology’. The pursuit of cognitive resistance to liberal ‘thought control’108 pulls together three intersecting pillars of the New Right project: (i) a self-conscious adoption of a resistant subjectivity; (ii) a reactionary disposition to the liberal globalism; and (iii) a project to capture the state as the means to dismantle the liberal prison. This account is exemplified in the widespread use of the metaphor of the illusion-busting ‘Red Pill’ in the US Alt-Right to describe the experience of breaking with liberal internationalist norms concerning for example race, gender, and migration.109
The birth-culture axiom is central to this resistance. As de Benoist put it: ‘Man is not born like a blank page. Every single individual bears the general characteristics of the species, to which are added specific hereditary predispositions.’ The capacity for subjectivity is tied to ‘this inheritance, which limits his autonomy and plasticity, but also allows him to resist political and social conditioning’. Binding human subjectivity to indigenous qualities implies that universalist norms are necessarily totalitarian, inasmuch as they efface the rooting of agency in a determined birth-cultural historical particularity.110 This is why the New Right does not treat biocultural diversity as a ‘burden’ to be reduced, but ‘to be welcomed’, ‘maintained and cultivated’ through segregation. Indigenous diversity, and thus subjectivity, is what is placed at fatal risk by liberal internationalism, requiring political action to sustain the particular against universal indifference.
The reactionary argument for cultural indigeneity is central to 2010s white nationalist (‘White Civil Rights’) demands to protect European particularity as already extended to other indigenous identity groupings.111 This is enunciated as a ‘natural conservativism [by which any group is] inclined to prioritise the interests of their tribe’. Three common New Right arguments emerge from this. Firstly, as occurred in the Brexit campaigns, an appeal to its legitimation due to wide popular support. Secondly, like Le Pen and Salvini, defending the ‘logical’ claim that ‘separation is necessary for distinctiveness’ to be maintained. Thirdly, as Nick Land notes in his contribution to Alt Right thought, The Dark Enlightenment, fostering birth-cultural subjectivity can necessitate a biopolitics of ongoing ethnocultural purification,112 which was apparent with the Génération Identitaire-linked perpetrator of the 2019 Christchurch attack. These three are far from self-contained separate boxes, with evident interchange and continuity between them and a determined drive towards radicalisation as a function of exasperation with social and economic grievances.
The rejection of international liberal norms is underwritten by focus on the agency involved in their application. Modernity is an ‘inherent trend to degeneration or self-cancellation’, ‘done by people of a certain kind with, and not uncommonly to (or even against), other people, who were conspicuously unlike them’.113 A misguided universalism is identified, that ‘has been the main cause of [the West's] subsequent attempts to convert the rest of the world’ and itself. Universalist norms are interpreted by the contemporary New Right as efforts to erase cultural identity and distinctiveness, with development ideology viewed as its latest iteration. Liberal internationalism is thus defined against embodied ethnocultural particularity, as ‘the Westernisation of the planet has represented an imperialist movement fed by the desire to erase all otherness by imposing on the world a supposedly superior model invariably presented as “progress”’.114
Opposing universalism requires the construction of an alternative internationalism that embraces national particularity. This anti-universalist discourse is explicit in Bannon, Le Pen, Orban, and Salvini, as well as Putin, Xi, Erdogan, and Modi. Ethnocultural particularisms may collaborate but ‘in a multipolar world, power is defined as the ability to resist the influence of others rather than to impose one's own’.115 The New Right sees liberal norms as eroding the capacity of indigenous cultures to compete, but also to subsist in their particularity. In nurturing the capacity to say no to the erasure of particularity under a logic of universal progress, resistance to liberal internationalism underpins the capacity of ethnoculturally determined national identities to endure.116 The future, faced by the crisis integral to liberal internationalist universalism, can only be saved by remembrance of cultural traditions (the ‘eternal’ nineteenth-century birth-culture analysed above) and allowing for their collective defence. Even aid and knowledge transfer is rejected in favour of each cultural particularism becoming free to actualise its potential.
The New Right's call for the reconnection of international politics with birth-cultures renders all global normative interference dangerous. In other words, to oppose liberal internationalist norms is, for the New Right, to defend a particularist internationalism, which allows for those nations who wish to remember their culture to determine what is right for themselves. This is an argument resonant with classical expressions of communitarianism in IR theory and may be found in works by authors such as Martin Wight, Herbert Butterfield, Hans Morgenthau, or even Hedley Bull. What distinguished these classical IR communitarian scholars was domestic advocacy for liberal political values. The ‘communitarian pluralism’ of the New Right can therefore claim that it updates a conservative tradition that always existed at the heart of internationalist thought.
Implicitly or explicitly, a Mazzinian conceptualisation of national survival informs New Right demands for ethnocultural diversity. In a world cured of oppressive universalism, defenders of national particularism believe themselves most ‘fit’ in a Darwinian sense to succeed. In this lens, the critique of liberal internationalism has the function of asserting the value of inter-national diversity. This politics formulates an internationalist subject committed to a rejection of the universal as its constitutive ideal, whose agency is archaic, in being rooted in reactionary nationalist discourse around birth, culture and autonomy, and futurist, in its recognition that the international cannot be ignored or isolated from. This is a reactionary form of internationalism because the discourse rests on the global re-enchantment of particularity, restoring birth-cultures to their rightful place as determiners rather than victims of international history.
Reactionary international norms?
This section examines New Right explanations for contemporary grievances, their varying solutions and tensions among them. New Right theory and discourse make vast efforts to address market deficiencies, growing inequality, poverty, and access to resources, albeit with varying interpretations of the role of markets. All point to an economy that has been taken out of the political debate and given over to unaccountable international decision-makers for the benefit of global Others. The influence of Hayekian neoliberalism was to some extent conciliated with cultural nationalism through the logic of dismantling liberal internationalist norms to liberate identity's potential. While they agree that liberal norms are a hindrance to our control of the economy, how they ought to be reconstituted remains an area of divergence. In this section, we address the diverse intersecting strands of New Right thought on the international economy, which tie together critiques of multilateralism as imperialist, with the anarchic accelerationism that characterised some elements of Trump's campaign – excluding Bannon – and the identity-based nationalist protectionism of the latter, FN, and Lega.
The Brexit and Trump campaigns argued for liberation from multilateral rules and bodies such as the EU or NAFTA. The Vote Leave campaign focused on the possibility of greater prosperity, trade deals, budget flexibility, and other advantages once ‘unchained’ from the EU, thanks to Britain's ‘natural’ qualities.117 The Brexit and Trump campaigns blamed binding multilateral agreements for allowing others to thrive at their expense, with solutions focusing on a more radical application of neoliberal economics and replacing multilateral compacts with bilateral arrangements. The claim in Trump's case, to some extent evidenced by his renegotiation of NAFTA, was that bilateral agreements reward coercive power, while Brexiteers similarly sustained that unilateral and bilateral arrangements reward British strengths.118 The presumption is that institutionalised multilateral agreements are intrinsically a danger to the nation's autonomy, while ad hoc bilateral or international negotiations are less likely to inhibit self-determination.
Trump's political-economic discourse, however, features a further dimension. Combined with the New Right's revival of nineteenth-century anti-democratic reactionarism with neoliberal methods, it includes strong echoes of anarcho-capitalist thought, sometimes referred to as corporatist accelerationism.119 Donald Trump frequently argued that he could be trusted to act uncorrupted by the influence of ‘special interests’, claiming ‘I'm so rich I can't be bought.’120 The anarcho-capitalist strands of the American New Right, to which this argument seems to have appealed, seem diametrically opposed to calls by Le Pen, Salvini, de Benoist, Orban, or Bannon calls to defend illiberal democracy through separation of wealth and power. Anarcho-capitalist ideas have been present among post-Hayekian libertarian economists for some time and may be considered contiguous.121 Strands of libertarian thought appear among various New Rights groups in Europe and America and share with cultural identitarian and economic nationalists only the reactionary critique of liberal internationalism.
New Right Libertarians treat social decay as a function of the failure of liberal internationalism's globalisation of democracy as a political project. As Thiel, Sea-Steading advocate, founder of Paypal and CIA data-mining firm Palantir, explains: ‘the great task of Libertarianism is to find an escape from politics in all its forms’.122 The New Right-accelerationist answer is to acknowledge the mythic nature of democracy, which is seen as a reality suppressed only by the constant effort of a dedicated ‘media-industrial complex’. They advocate surrender of the management of society to those who already control the actual levers of power: ‘[s]ince winning elections is overwhelmingly a matter of vote buying’ libertarians ‘have been looking for something else entirely: an exit’. That exit takes the form of ‘neocameralist’ authoritarian governance: with the state viewed as a corporation legitimised by efficacy in delivering value to its shareholders. Nick Land suggests the closest contemporary examples of how such a reactionary vision might be realised are Hong Kong or Singapore, which:
appear to provide a very high quality of service to their citizens, with no meaningful democracy at all. They have minimal crime and high levels of personal and economic freedom. They tend to be quite prosperous. They are weak only in political freedom, and political freedom is unimportant by definition when government is stable and effective.123
This strand of New Right thought proposes a future stripped of Liberalism's first creation, democracy, whose death is an inevitable consequence of its globalisation and subsequent demonstration of liberal ineptitude. Since democracy is deemed a farce acting only on behalf of liberal internationalist norms, all that remains in question is how much of cultural tradition and particularity can be saved from an inevitable global crisis. This is contiguous with neoliberal suspicion of democratic control over business,124 capital and profit, both necessitating and proposing an escape from democracy altogether. It is easy to see how a radical reaction against precedent, shaped as populist authoritarianism, is framed in this discourse as the ‘escape route’ back to a social contract rooted in national particularity.125
Bannon, Salvini, and Le Pen advocate for ethno-identity's control over the economy. There are clearly tensions between the economic theories of anarcho-libertarians and cultural identitarians such as these, but they share a commitment to the restoration of the nation as the dominant actor in international relations. Salvini, Bannon, and Le Pen, blame economic hardship on political choices that surrendered the economy to ‘globalist’, unaccountable unelected operators enabled by liberal internationalist norms and institutions. Le Pen, for example, accused Macron of being the ‘agent’ of an internationalist elite ‘programme’ and ‘networks’, equating a vote for him as a ‘VOTE FOR THE $YST€M’ (in English in the original), highlighting his former affiliation to Rothschild Bank as part of his ‘multiculturalism against French secularism’.126 Further, they target multilateral ‘restrictions’ like membership of rules-based bodies curtailing agency such as NAFTA, the Euro, or the ‘Soviet-like’ EU.127 This drive to ‘liberate’ identity from shared economic norms is contiguous with the rejection of multilateralism and human rights.128 What is due to replace it, called ‘economic nationalism’ by Bannon and ‘economic patriotism’ by Le Pen and Salvini, is vague, sustained by the assumption that sovereign control over norms, by privileging nationals for instance, will fix economic issues. The critique of multilateral institutions like the EU, UN, or WTO can take accelerationist or national protectionist forms, but both are underwritten by the claim that once free from constraining norms, national culture, and economics will flourish due to natural capabilities.
These two economic visions are contradictory. How they are reconciled is key. As is evident in the case of Trump, the role of the truth-telling patriot can provide some discursive reconciliation by governing the very believability of information, particularly in critiques that highlight contradictions. This leader, defined by willingness to disrupt the liberal ‘establishment’, ‘political correctness’, and other norms, is often discursively familiarised –Marine, Boris, Nigel, or The Donald – and understood as willing to enunciate the experience of non-elites. When these figures achieve a truth-teller role, they define through their representational frame which information is believable or not.129 This is why the Trump administration's ‘alternative facts’ and Gove's ‘enough of experts’ are powerful informational moments. They ordered believability by faith in the truth-teller, itself defined by faith in their defence of identity (‘don't talk Britain down’) against identity-treacherous opponents (‘fake news’ or Brexit ‘pessimists’). The anti-elitism characteristic of populist movements and politicisation of credibility are not new,130 but in New Right discourse they are supercharged by the framing of truth as defined by patriots’ identity loyalty against liberal internationalism.
New Right critiques of multilateralism and the cases for economic and cultural patriotism analysed should be understood from the perspective of normative entrepreneurialism. As Sikkink and Finnemore demonstrated, international norms can change due to the work of norm entrepreneurs.131 The consecration of the rights of global society in postwar liberal internationalist institutions increased the costs of violating liberal internationalist norms, rendering the wholesale dissolution of the existing normative architectures unlikely.132 New Right reactionary norm entrepreneurs instead seek to reweave the fabric of international norms to reposition the obligations of states as derived from a patriotic responsibility to liberate the potential of birth-cultures.
Trump's 2018 speech to the UN provided a clear articulation of this Reactionary Internationalist vision. Trump lauded the UN as a home in which distinct cultures could ‘choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control, and domination’ and the ‘global compact on migration’. Trump celebrated US withdrawal from trade deals, institutions such as the human rights council, and questioned the legitimacy of the ICC, calling instead for all to ‘embrace the doctrine of patriotism’ to defeat ‘the ideology of globalism’. Securing the diversity of nations should be the object of the UN, Trump argued, ‘[a]nd so we must protect our sovereignty and our cherished independence above all. When we do, we will find new avenues for cooperation unfolding before us.’133
Overturning liberal internationalist norms binds together New Right ideas, discourses, and political movements. Despite clear contradictions, for instance on the economy between Salvini's birth-rights, free-trade Brexiteers, or Anarcho-capitalist libertarians, we find that they are coherent insofar as they occupy contiguous locations in the spectrum of how to proceed in the revolutionisation of international norms. They share the assumption that liberation from liberal internationalism will herald a ‘natural’ order where identity's strength will be unleashed, its mettle tested, and the deserving succeed. Cohesion around a critical vision where international normative destruction is the solution makes Reactionary Internationalism the key conceptual, discursive – and policy – frame uniting the New Right.
Genealogical study found that these ideas evolve out of classical nationalist principles, in conceiving a historically immutable ethnocultural identity conceptualised as birth-culture. Birth-culture grounds New Right thinking about policy, opposition to liberal modernity, and its norms as a betrayal of the Self. This grounds discourses advancing a protective return to the Self at the expense of hindering internationalist norms or actors. Rather than descending simply from 1920–30s nationalisms, New Right thought draws upon the nineteenth-century nationalist tradition best represented by Mazzini, Barrès, and Maurras, as well as politicians like Napoleon III and Bismarck.
New Right departures from classical nationalisms are significant. Its suspicion and pessimism as to liberal modernity are not invested principally on democracy, but on internationalist norms – which, in certain circumstances, includes democracy. Their salvation politics are influenced by the neoliberal drive to unchain the gods, raising normative destruction to a core prescription. However, liberation remains passively grounded on identity, making faith in natural superiority a key driver. This is distinct from 1920–30s nationalisms, which had extensive and pervasive plans to remodel people, society, and country. 1930s violent survivalism is replaced with an economic version that accepts international interconnectedness and interdependence – Trump, Brexiteers, Le Pen, and Salvini don't want to end trade, only demand better terms.
Unlike 1930s nationalists, the New Right do not seek isolation from the rules, but their remaking around unilateral sovereignty, replacing multilateralism with transactions that reward power. It proposes the unravelling of the rights-based norms that govern much of international relations (equality of rights among states, or human rights, for example). Mussolini, Evola, and Marinetti were not afraid of isolation to create the perfect ‘Fascist Man’ and society. Conversely, Trump, Brexiteers, and the Continental New Right want to reconstitute the international rules of the game. The movements here examined anticipate a greater share of the profits of global wealth and trade by overturning norms that in their view limit their potential. Much as in Hayekian theory, the market once set free achieves balance and fairness, the New Right's national identity once set free from normative burdens like NAFTA or the EU, will achieve its natural potential.
Reactionary Internationalism is an internationalist vision. Though unfamiliar, it is projected as the basis of a more just international relations where innate birth-cultural and economic quality will triumph, as exemplified by the buccaneering claims of Brexiteers who demand only the freedom to set forth to the world. Though often criticised as withdrawal, it is proposed as a global model. If, as we argue, we gauge its influence from a Reactionary Internationalist perspective, it is evident that a remarkable number of political movements around the world adhere to this core tenet, from Putin to Xi, who also demand to be set free from – at least some – international norms as the means to success. Their claim to identity's right to overturn international norms has been rewarded with electoral success, whether independently as in the case of Lega, or conquering conservative movements as with the British Conservative and American Republican Parties.
The vision of the international that is the result places survivalist cultural geopolitics as the main conceptual frame of reference for international relations. This is evident in the renegotiations of international norms currently driven by New Right actors in the US, Britain, and Italy, who appear to relish the opportunity to dismantle the international norms that bind them. In support of our argument that this constitutes an ‘other’ internationalism, New Right actors do not conceive of each other as threats, but rather remain focused on a collective struggle against international norms and institutions. Even as they agree on and unite around the need to dismantle liberal international norms, the assumption remains that among them there must be victors and defeated in the world of total sovereignty they imagine.
Finally, temporal pessimism is more important for the New Right than it ever was in past nationalisms. 1890s nationalists believed that global European power might be corrupted by liberalism, and thus projected and enacted a reactionary salvation of cultural permanence; 1930s Fascists detested modern decadence and planned for an alternative modernity that aggrandised identity to epic proportions. Conversely, the New Right vision of the national and international is entirely framed by a reactionary imaginary. Reactionary Internationalism presupposes an international already at breaking point and sees its collapse as an opportunity for pure identity to emerge as salvation, informing interpretation of crises as resulting from normative failure, and limiting solutions to normative destruction. This is why some Brexiteers are happy to simply ‘crash out’ of the EU without any subsequent deal: Reactionary Internationalism is the post-Brexit plan.