The Global Rise of the Radical Right: A Comparative Case Study in Brazil, Denmark and The United States

Thomas Sundtoft Tellefsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis takes its impetus from the contemporary and seemingly global rises of radical right populist forces. As a result, a wide array of new questions must now be answered by social and political scientists leading this thesis to investigate the following research question: ‘To what extent is there a pattern that can help explain the global emergence of the Radical Right?’. In its pursuit of answering the research question, the thesis investigates three distinctly different rises of the radical right in Brazil, The U.S., and Denmark, using an explorative approach. In doing so, the thesis employs a ‘Most Different System Design’ to bolster the veracity of a potential pattern. The method to establish an adequate baseline for the case studies, was facilitated through the usage of Arzheimer’s framework of electoral studies comprising the most relevant ‘micro-, meso-, and macro-level’ variables driving radical right support. Emanating from this, the thesis suggested an overarching approach in the form of ‘three revolts’ to better instantiate and assess the interactions of the ‘variables’. The findings of the comparative analysis of radical right rises in Brazil, Denmark and The U.S. were twofold. Viewing the rises through the individual lenses of the micro, meso and macro variables did not result in a discernable pattern. Extending the perspective and viewing the comparative rises through the lens of ‘the revolts’ made a vague pattern discernable. A pattern that suggests that the degree of radical right ascension is proportional to the accumulated economic, social and political revolts of the electorate. In line with the permeating insights of social constructivism and the explorative approach undertaken, the thesis refrains from proclaiming these findings conclusive. Rather, it critically proposes the argument that with the ascension of Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump, future research on the radical right and particularly the global radical right should carefully consider if the traditional academic assumptions still hold true or if we indeed have experienced the ‘paradigm shift’ of Thomas Kuhn and thus moved into a new era of the RR that requires us to alter our scientific approaches accordingly.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages100