Bart Bonikowski is Associate Professor of Sociology and Politics at New York University. Using relational survey methods, computational text analysis, and experimental research, his work applies insights from cultural sociology to the study of politics in the United States and Europe, with a particular focus on nationalism, populism, and radical-right parties. In 2016-2020 he was an Associate Professor of Sociology at Harvard University and worked as Co-Director of Research Cluster on Challenges to Democracy in the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. During the 2018-19 academic year, he was a Lenore Annenberg and Wallis Annenberg Fellow in Communication at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. His works include numerous highly cited articles in American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Annual Review of Sociology, Social Forces and many other eminent journals.
What has prompted the right’s swift radicalization across a wide range of contemporary democracies? I argue that a persuasive explanation requires attention to three levels of analysis: the supply side, that is, the political frames put on offer by insurgent political elites; the demand side, that is, the beliefs held by the public; and the structural context, that is, the economic, demographic, and cultural transformations, as well as exogenous shocks, that have provided fertile soil for radical-right claims-making. It is within the structural context of rapid change—itself subject to cultural interpretation and political manipulation—that preexisting political frames and preexisting beliefs have taken on a newfound resonance, propelling radical actors into the political mainstream, from which they have increasingly threatened the stability of democratic institutions. At the core of this cultural nexus are deep nationalist cleavages in democratic polities—competing understandings of the nation’s meaning, memorialized past, and desirable future—that have become increasingly salient as bases of political decision-making. Understanding their composition, their interplay with populist and authoritarian appeals, and the mechanisms of their mobilization is necessary for grasping the present historical moment and the future prospects for democratic politics in Europe, the United States, and beyond.