Protagonists or consenters: Radical right parties and attacks on trade unions

Philip Rathgeb, Michael B. Klitgaard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Populist radical right parties (PRRPs) not only seek to influence public policies with (re-)distributive implications to attract voters; they also try to reshape economic governance to weaken their opponents. We develop a theoretical model suggesting that the institutional reform strategies of PRRPs depend in large part on the degree of Social democratic party–union ties. When organizational ties between centre-left parties and trade unions are strong, PRRPs are protagonists of attacks on institutional union power and unite with centre-right parties in alternating long-term power relationships. By contrast, when Social democratic party–union ties are weak, PRRPs turn into consenters to the centre-right’s institutional reform proposals and act in accordance with short-term electoral and coalitional concerns. We research our argument in two primary case studies of Austria and Denmark, and control for alternative explanations with reviews of the institutional reform agendas pursued by radical right parties in Sweden and Germany.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Early online date5 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 May 2021


  • institutional reform
  • labour market policy
  • populism
  • radical right parties
  • trade unions
  • welfare state


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