Defiant Populist: Jörg Haider and the Politics of Austria

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Purdue University Press, 2003 - Political Science - 281 pages
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A great deal has been said and written about Jorg Haider, the charismatic but controversial leader of Austria's Freedom Party. To some he is a neo-Nazi and admirer of fellow Austrian Adolf Hitler’s policies. To others he is merely an artful opportunist, a telegenic master of coded sound bites and slogans that means different things to different people. And to that quarter of the country's voters who voted this glamorous rabble-rouser's Freedom Party (FPO) to power in 1999, he represents a fresh alternative to the incestuous two-party oligarchy that had run Austria for a half century. This book goes a long way in explaining how his use of rhetoric and language style reminiscent of Nazi leanings have promoted his meteoric rise to political power, and how this same rhetoric could possibly be this man's downfall. For instance, he has been outspoken about endorsing Hitler's unemployment practices, as well as calling former SS veterans, "men of character." As a result, among his FPO party members, there are rumors of a split, for there are some who object to his use of language, and his penchant for using the Nazi agenda as a backdrop for their party's political domination. Defiant Populist is about de-bunking the Haider myth created by the love-hate relationship of a clever maverick and the media who feed upon one another. To be understood, the Haider phenomenon needs to be seen in the context of the strange politics of a country that leads a very sheltered existence in the heart of Europe and yet continues to be the odd man out in more ways than one, from machine politics to neutrality, from its hang-ups about past glories to its ambivalent approach to its German and European identity, from its conservative mentality to its lack of a real conservative tradition in politics. This book explains and analyzes the "Haider phenomenon" from the context of a country of contrasts: an admirable record of non-violence and social peace with residual anti-Semitism, socialist economics with enviable wealth, staunchly pro-Western values with equally ardent neutralism, and a relatively new Austrian identity with a dark German past. Lothar Hobelt is one of Austria's leading modern political historians. In addition to over a hundred articles, he has published ten books, including Republik im Wandel: Die große Koalition und der Aufstieg der Haider-FPÖ, and Von der Vierten Partei zur Dritten Kraft: Die Geschichte des VdU. He appears regularly in print, radio, and television media, both at home and abroad, as an authority on Jörg Haider and the Freedom Party. Dr. Hobelt has held visiting professorships at the Universities of Chicago and New Orleans, and has taught since 1983 at the University of Vienna.

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The Freedom Party and Bruno Kreisky
Austrias Muted Response

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About the author (2003)

Lothar Hobelt teaches at the University of Vienna.

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