In his piece “From Fascism to Populism in History”, Federico Finchelstein establishes what he views as the thin distinctions between the ideologies of populism and fascism. According To Finchelstein, both populism and fascism follow the same historical tradition of authoritarianism with differing approaches towards attaining and maintaining power. While fascism remains openly rejects the democratic process in favor of traditional despotism and totalitarianism, populism supposedly works within the confides of democracy in order to establish an authoritarian form of democracy. Taking this into account populism can be seen as the historical evolution of fascism following the atrocities committed by the fascist regimes of the mid twentieth century.
Finchelstein describes populism as authoritarian democracy which trumps the will of the majority often over the rights of minorities and uses the term populist pejoratively. In his criticism of populism however Finchelstein inadvertently reveals to me a dilemma of liberalism that being it’s source of political legitimacy. Finchelstein clearly argues that populism is inherently apposed to liberal democracy given it’s tendency to subject minorities to the will of the majority, despite this political legitimacy within liberal democracy is purportedly rooted in popular support. While the protection of minorities is widely seen as a fundamental characteristic of liberal democracy at what point does the rejection of the will of the majority in favor of a minority result in the political process losing its legitimacy? While few in our society would argue that ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities should not be protected from the so called tyranny of the majority, how far can this principle extended? Do the rights of an elite economic minority trump the desires of a potentially exploited economic majority?