9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN31 Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism

Understanding expressions of anti-immigration, xenophobia and racism in observing the changes in the work field.

This presentation is related to a European research project which involved 8 European countries aimed to explore the link between socio economic changes and right wing populism and extremism (SIREN, Socio Economic Change, Individual Reactions and the Appeal of the Extreme-Rignt, FP6). The results are based on the analysis of empirical data provided by close too300 in-depth qualitative interviews and a phone survey (5,800 people). We will show how experiences in the employment system and working life, the threat of social decline and precarious living conditions have made people receptive to xenophobia, nationalism and racism. In trying to give sense to their every day life the European we interviewed depicted the immigrants (labelled with negative items like "scroungers" "bogus refugees") as the
main figures of the negative socio-economic change. These exclusive attitudes which aim to mark the distinction between the national group and
the immigrants are not specific to people from the lower class (the socalled "losers of the modernity") but also present in individuals belonging
to the upper class who try to understand the changing society. Differences between countries result from different aspects of socioeconomic
change experienced, but also from the agendas of the various right-wing populist or extremist parties. The consequences of the
reunification played a role in Germany, religion were a central theme in France and refugees from the Balkans dominate the debates in Austria. While in Denmark and Belgium the deterioration of welfare provisions was strongly
linked with the issue of immigration, the major issue in Italy seems to be the combination of high levels of insecurity and a distrust and
disenchantment with politics. The case of Switzerland will be taken as an empirical case to show how xenophobia and racism (historically supported by extreme right parties and movements) have been institutionalised and are
now present - more or less explicitly - in the program of the SVP party. Having stated a lack of empirical researches addressing the link between
socio-economic changes and anti-immigration ideas, we will propose a few concepts that allow understanding the process between the structural level and the psycho-sociological one.