AskDefine | Define rightist

Dictionary Definition

rightist adj : believing in or supporting tenets of the political right [syn: right-wing] n : a member of a right wing political party [syn: right-winger]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. One who believes in the politics or policies of the political right.

Extensive Definition

In politics, right-wing, the political right, and the Right are terms often defined as politics that seeks to uphold or return to traditional authorities and/or the liberties of a civil society and the preservention of the domestic culture, usually in the face of external forces for change. In general, the right also advocates the preservation of personal wealth and private ownership and emphasises more self reliance. The term "the Right" is often associated with any of several strains of Traditionalism, Social conservatism, Classical liberalism, Laissez-faire capitalism, Corporatism, Right-libertarianism, Minarchism, Reactionism, Monarchism, Aristocracy and, to some extent, totalitarian ideologies like Fascism and Nazism.


The term originates from the French Revolution, when liberal deputies from the Third Estate generally sat to the left of the president's chair, a habit which began in the Estates General of 1789. The nobility, members of the Second Estate, generally sat to the right. In the successive legislative assemblies, monarchists who supported the Ancien Régime were commonly referred to as rightists because they sat on the right side. It is still the tradition in the French National Assembly for the representatives to be seated left-to-right (relative to the Assembly president) according to their political alignment.
As this original reference became obsolete, the meaning of the term has changed as appropriate to the spectrum of ideas and stances being compared, and the point of view of the speaker. See political spectrum and left-right politics for further discussion of this kind of classification.
As new social issues arose, right wing views continued to be concerned with keeping "traditional" values (often religious values) and the preservation of individual and corporate rights through constraints on government power. However, the values and policy concerns of the right vary in different countries and eras. Also, individual right wing politicians and thinkers often have individual priorities. There are no universally accepted objective criteria to determine which of two sets of beliefs or policies is more right-wing.(See political spectrum)

Contemporary usage

Strands of right wing thought come in many forms, and individuals who support some of the objectives of one of the above stands will not necessarily support all of the others. At the practical political policy level there are endless variations in the means that right wing thinkers advocate to achieve their basic aims.
In recent times, the term almost always includes some forms of conservatism. Some consider the political Right to include those forms of liberalism that emphasize the free market more than egalitarianism in wealth, but some free-market advocates, including some libertarians, conceive of a two-dimensional political spectrum that they say more accurately portrays their political position. (See Nolan chart, Pournelle Chart, Political Compass). Many anarchists (including libertarian socialists) also avoid placing themselves on the classic political spectrum.
Outside the United States and Canada (where capitalism is supported by most major politicians and most people from both the left and right), the most notable distinction between left and right is in economic policy. The right advances capitalism, whereas the left advocates socialism (including democratic socialism) or communism. Some on the right advocate laissez faire capitalism, tending toward minarchism, with little government intervention in the economy other than to control the money supply and little taxation except to support military and police functions. At the other extreme within what is usually considered right of centre, the centre-right Gaullists in post-World War II France advocated considerable social spending on education and infrastructure development, as well as extensive economic regulation and even a limited amount of the wealth redistribution measures more characteristic of social democracy.
A more obscure strand of contemporary right wing thought, often associated with the original right wing from the times of monarchy, supports the preservation of wealth and power in the hands that have traditionally held them, social stability, and national solidarity and ambition.

Left-Right politics

As noted above, the political use of the terms "left" and "right" has evolved across linguistic, societal, and national boundaries, sometimes taking on meanings in one time and place that contrast sharply with those in another.
Two prominent political ideologies, very different from one another, are widely considered "right-wing", but in each case, for different reasons, the classification is controversial.
Libertarianism has focused on the preservation of individual and corporate rights through constraints on government power, while not necessarily favoring "traditional" values. Some on the right, especially outside of the United States and Canada, reject the rights-based assumptions of this philosophy. Conversely some, but by no means all, libertarians do not consider themselves to be right wing and reject the traditional one-dimensional political spectrum, preferring to think in terms of liberty vs. authority rather than socialism vs. capitalism.
According to most scholars of fascism, there are both left and right influences on fascism as a social movement, but fascism, especially once in power, has historically attacked communism, conservatism and parliamentary liberalism, and attracted support primarily from the "far right" or "extreme right." (See: Fascism and ideology). The left influences in fascism are claimed to originate in the fact that several prominent theorists of fascism began their political careers as socialists, syndicalists, anarchists, or a combination thereof. Still even scholars reluctant to call fascism a purely right wing ideology contend that fascist movements ultimately build alliances with the political right. However, certain scholars and many conservative authors argue that Fascism is the left-wing movement. Their argument is based on a view of the political spectrum that equates "left" with support for increased government power and "right" with opposition to the same. However this idea is contradicted by the fact that leftists like Anarchists believe in no state. In addition, Karl Marx and Lenin, envisoned that a pure communist society would be stateless.

The Right and Foreign policy

The right has a complex and sometimes contradictory view on foreign issues. As is the case with Paleoconservatives and Neoconservatives in the United States.
Paleo-conservatives generally debate over whether supporting other countries is in the United States' interests. Paleo-conservatives are generally against wars of aggression, upon the basis of their illegal and unconstitutional nature, and are generally cautious about military action or sanctions against foreign entities. Paelo-conservatism is generally viewed as a kind of shelter for those, generally in the Republican party, who feel that neo-conservative ideology has hijacked the traditional Republican position. . Unlike the paleolibertarians, some paleoconservatives like Buchanan supported the Cold War. Most paleo-conservatives believe that any support of other countries, such as Israel, South Korea, Germany, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, for instance, over American neutrality is not in the United States' interests while also viewing such aid is illegal and immoral.
Neoconservatives believe that America should "export democracy", that is, spread its ideals of government, economics, and culture abroad, they grew to reject U.S. reliance on international organizations and treaties to accomplish these objectives. Compared to other U.S. conservatives, neoconservatives take a more idealist stance on foreign policy; adhere less to social conservatism; have a weaker dedication to the policy of minimal government; and in the past, have been more supportive of the welfare state. None of these qualities are necessary.
Aggressive support for democracies and nation building is additionally justified by a belief that, over the long term, it will reduce the extremism that is a breeding ground for Islamic terrorism. Neoconservatives, along with many other political theorists, have argued that democratic regimes are less likely to instigate a war than a country with an authoritarian form of government. Further, they argue that the lack of freedoms, lack of economic opportunities, and the lack of secular general education in authoritarian regimes promotes radicalism and extremism. Consequently, neoconservatives advocate the spread of democracy to regions of the world where it currently does not prevail, notably the Arab nations of the Middle East, communist China and North Korea, and Iran.

The Right and religion

Many religious groups have allied with the Right. Notably the Christian Right in America.
Social conservatives emphasize traditional views of social units such as the family, church, or locale. Social conservatives would typically define family in terms of local histories and tastes. To the Protestant or Catholic, social conservatism may entail support for defining marriage as between a man and a woman (thereby banning gay marriage) and laws placing restrictions on abortion.
Some conservatives want to use federal power to block state actions they disapprove of. Thus in the 21st century came support for the "No Child Left Behind" program, support for a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, support for federal laws overruling states that attempt to legalize marijuana or assisted suicide. The willingness to use federal power to intervene in state affairs is the negation of the old state's rights position.
Anti-intellectualism has sometimes been a component of social conservatism, especially when intellectuals were seen in opposition to religion or as proponents of "progress". In the 1920s, William Jennings Bryan led the battle against Darwinism and evolution, a battle which still goes on in some conservative circles today.
However Libertarian conservatives like Barry Goldwater have been strong opponents of mixing religion with government. In addition some right-wing parties support separation of church and state.

The New Right and populism

Right-wing populism and Radical right-wing populism (RRP) relies on a combination of ethno-nationalism with anti-elitist (populist) rhetoric and a radical critique of existing political institutions.
In the United States, radical right wing populism traces back to roots in the Jacksonian period and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the mid-19th century following the Civil War. It also played a role in mobilizing middle class support for the Nazi Party in Weimar Germany.In this case, distressed middle–class populists during the pre-Nazi Weimar period mobilized their anger at government and big business. The Nazis "parasitized the forms and themes of the populists and moved their constituencies far to the right through ideological appeals involving demagoguery, scapegoating, and conspiracism".
They are considered radical because they oppose the current welfare system and the present political system; right-wing because they oppose aspects of socialism and have traditional policies on immigration; and populist because they appeal to the fears and frustrations of common citizens.

See also


  • Berlet, Chip and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Diamond, Sara. 1995. Roads to Dominion: Right–Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. New York: Guilford.
  • Easton, Nina J. 2000. Gang of Five: Leaders at the Center of the Conservative Crusade. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  • Eatwell, Roger. 1996. Fascism: A History. New York: Allen Lane.
  • Fritzsche, Peter. 1990. Rehearsals for Fascism: Populism and Political Mobilization in Weimar Germany. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505780-5
  • Griffin, Roger. 2000. "Revolution from the Right: Fascism," chapter in David Parker (ed.) Revolutions and the Revolutionary Tradition in the West 1560-1991, Routledge, London.
  • Griffin, Roger. 1991. The Nature of Fascism. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  • Himmelstein, Jerome L. 1990. To The Right: The Transformation of American Conservatism. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Laclau, Ernesto. 1977. Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory: Capitalism, Fascism, Populism. London: NLB/Atlantic Highlands Humanities Press.
  • Laqueur, Walter. 1966. Fascism: Past, Present, Future, New York: Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Payne, Stanley G. 1995. A History of Fascism, 1914-45. Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press ISBN 0-299-14874-2
  • Reich, Wilhelm. 1970. The Mass Psychology of Fascism. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
  • Weber, Eugen. [1964] 1982. Varieties of Fascism: Doctrines of Revolution in the Twentieth Century, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, (Contains chapters on fascist movements in different countries.)

External links

/ The Right-Winger's Guide to the Radical Left [*Political Compass
rightist in Catalan: Dreta
rightist in Czech: Pravice (politika)
rightist in Danish: Højreorienteret
rightist in German: Politische Rechte (Politik)
rightist in Modern Greek (1453-): Δεξιά (πολιτική)
rightist in Spanish: Derecha política
rightist in French: Droite (politique)
rightist in Korean: 우익
rightist in Indonesian: Sayap kanan
rightist in Icelandic: Hægristefna
rightist in Italian: Destra (politica)
rightist in Lithuanian: Dešinė (politikoje)
rightist in Hungarian: Jobboldal
rightist in Malay (macrolanguage): Politik sayap kanan
rightist in Dutch: Rechts
rightist in Japanese: 右翼
rightist in Norwegian Nynorsk: Høgresida
rightist in Polish: Prawica
rightist in Portuguese: Direita política
rightist in Russian: Правые (политика)
rightist in Simple English: Right-wing
rightist in Serbian: Десница
rightist in Finnish: Oikeisto
rightist in Swedish: Politisk höger
rightist in Ukrainian: Права партія

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Bircher, Bourbon, Tory, bitter-ender, conservationist, conservatist, conservative, diehard, extreme right-winger, fogy, fundamentalist, hard hat, imperialist, laudator temporis acti, monarchist, mossback, old fogy, old liner, old school, radical right, reactionarist, reactionary, reactionist, right, right wing, right-winger, royalist, social Darwinist, standpat, standpatter, stick-in-the-mud, tory, ultraconservative
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