Defining Terms – Populism Versus Fascism

The readings from this week all center around a similar topic and that is defining populism versus fascism. All the authors from this week seem to have their own definitions, which are similar in some points, but they are clearly different definitions and none in my opinion are one hundred percent concrete.

Looking back at the reading, I found it fascinating the similarities between fascism and populism. With them both being ran by confident, charismatic leaders. But also, the enormous differences, with fascism being against democracy often creating a dictatorship (Finchelstein, 2017). While populist leaders would often work in a democratic state. Before doing the readings, I have heard very little about the term populism but after going over them I had a better understanding. Especially the Finchelstein one that was rather descriptive on the subject. He goes into depth on how many people may have mixed ideas on what populism actually is and how people can use the terms of fascism and populism interchangeably especially people who may have very little knowledge on either subject.

One thing that especially stood out to me was how both Mudde and Finchelstein made a point in saying that Populism is neither left nor right and it is highly dependant on the populist actor and their own personal ideals. I feel as that would be very important as this shows that populist ideals can vary in their ways and as Mudde states often a populist leader has a larger ideology in mind with populism being a secondary note. So being the fact that this is one of the first times I have actually read about this word populism, I am left still a little confused and in need of further research on the subject.


Federico Finchelstein, “Introduction: Thinking Fascism and Populism in terms of the Past” in Federico Finkelstein, From Fascism to Populism in History (University of California Press, 2017).

Cas Mudde, “Populism in Europe: An Illiberal Democratic Response to Undemocratic Liberalism” (The Government and Opposition/Leonard Schapiro Lecture 2019). Government and Opposition, (2021): 1-21.

One Reply to “Defining Terms – Populism Versus Fascism”

  1. I also found that I really never heard about the existence of populism at all, though granted I don’t consume a lot of normal media like twitter, regular TV etc. What surprises me is how populism seems to not be centrally focused on describing an individual/groups political viewpoints/ideology as you mentioned, but from what I can gather it seems to be a very class/economic status based term with a strong focus on comparing and contrasting the “people” to the elite classes, rather than narrowly focusing on left or right like you said. Which honestly kind of makes sense when you consider how many other terms can be used to describe all kinds of political viewpoints and ideologies. Either way the term does seem to have varying interpretations on an individual basis.

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