Political Analogies: Helpful Tools? or Harmful Comparisons?

By Austin Pellizzer

The articles of this week looked at the use of political analogies of the past to be applied to the present is a discussion that carries divided stances from scholars and historians alike. While we were able to analyze articles from both groups, I am afraid that this discussion and debate is anything but solved after considering all sides.

In Samuel Mayn’s article The Trouble with Comparisons, Mayn takes the stance that comparisons are helpful and the key to being able to understand the importance of historical events and actions. However, it is also seen that it can lead to intellectual laziness and letting the fears of such comparisons take control. Additionally, we see that similarly, in Victoria de Grazia’s piece, What We Don’t Understand About Fascism discusses the overused term ‘fascism’ which she states, “Calling people “fascists” has been as American as apple pie”… . While both writers demonstrate the dangers of oversimplifying and overusing the term which carries heavy meaning especially in the last century, it is also important to understand the reason as to why and how these analogies have been able to carry such weight in public discourse and political circles. 

In contrast, we see in the Peter E Gordon article, Why Historical Analogy Matters, the comparisons of historical accounts of the Holocaust and the concentration camps and the migrant detention camps are easily used to try and push similarities. While these analogies useful and gets across very similar messaging, we see how this could once again be seen as minimizing the events of the past to try and fit different political narratives. 

With all this being said, it is apparent to see why and how the political phenomena of analogies is a nuanced area when discussing the socially acceptable tools and means of getting messages across.

Works Cited/ Bibliography

de Grazia, Victoria. “What We Don’t Understand about Fascism.” Zocalo Public Square, 13 Aug. 2020, zocalopublicsquare.org/2020/08/13/understand-fascism-american-history-mussolini-hitler-20th-century/ideas/essay

Gordon, Peter E. “Why Historical Analogy Matters.” The New York Review, 7 Jan. 2020, nybooks.com/daily/2020/01/07/why-historical-analogy-matters/

Moyn, Samuel. “The Trouble with Comparisons.” The New York Review, 19 May 2020, nybooks.com/daily/2020/05/19/the-trouble-with-comparisons/

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