Making Sense of the Alt-Right

Columbia Univ. Sept. 2017. 232p. notes. index. ISBN 9780231185127. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780231546003. POL SCI
Hawley (political science, Univ. of Alabama) attempts to explain the ideology and appeal of the white nationalist movement referring to itself as the "alt-right" in American politics. A scholar of American conservatism, the author was caught by surprise by the "meteoric rise" of the groups supporting this movement and the energy it received from Donald Trump's presidential campaign. He explores the influence of white nationalist movements and traces the intellectual roots of such organizations found in the "paleo-conservative" writings of Paul Gottfried and others. In this regard, this book can be seen as a sequel to Hawley's Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism, with much of its assessment revolving around the movement's attack on traditional conservatism, as well as on the religious right. Hawley asserts that the movement "rejects liberty and equality as ideals" and describes provocative tactics used by those such as Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich, and Milo Yiannopoulos. He devotes an entire chapter to its role in the 2016 election and the support of the "alt-lite"—right-wing populists who do not fully embrace extremist positions. Hawley speculates that increasing online censorship of "alt-right" views could diminish its effectiveness in U.S. politics but does not see the movement fading in the near future.
VERDICT An important contribution to contemporary political discourse that sheds light on a disturbingly influential group in American politics.
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