Defining Terms

Sara Dix

Since the Second World War, the use of the term “fascism” has increased to label specific groups of people. Its meaning has changed over time since World War II which has led to its lessening impact on identifying true fascist behaviour within certain political parties or its corresponding groups of extremist followers. President Trump and his administration are often used in comparison to analyze similarities and patterns from history, but there are opposing arguments regarding the definitions of these terms that creates conflicting messages about these terms and how they are, or should be, used.

Victoria de Grazia goes to explain that understanding the meaning of fascism during 1920-1945 is extremely important in order to use the term correctly. She mentions that the historical importance of fascism was that the term, as a label, was not what mattered to people, but that it was created to fight off important political, material, and social issues at the time. But now, the term has transformed into a label against people with opposing ideologies, particularly those in populist, extremist groups. So, how does this impact the effectiveness of using the historical definition of “fascism” to identify similarities within the current politic scene with the rise of populism and extremist groups?

Both Gordon and Moyn discuss the issue with analogies when comparing the past to the present. A good point that Gordon emphasizes is that by reflecting and understanding history, a person can connect the past to see the significance in the present and how it is beneficial to analyze the historical context of fascism in order to see its components arise once again. While analogies can be misleading in certain situations, they tend to be more helpful in identifying patterns so people are aware and can respond appropriately.

Works Cited

Victoria de Grazia, “What We Don’t Understand about Fascism” Zocalo Public Square

Peter E. Gordon, “Why Historical Analogy Matters,” NYR Daily (7 January 2020),

Samuel Moyn, “The Trouble with Comparisons,” NYR Daily (19 May

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