Fascism vs Populism: Differentiated by Violence? By Lauren McCoy

For this week’s reading response, I wanted to take a closer look at the relationship between populism and violence. Within his chapter, Finchelstein argues that while populism is the successor of fascism in the post-war context and possesses many similar features, its rejection of violence is critical in understanding how it differs from fascism. This disassociation between populism and violence is further visible in the other material for this week – while Finchelstein and Paxton both identified violence as a key part of fascism, neither Mudde nor Brubaker mentioned violence in their description of populism.

While I agree that top-down violence is a critical feature of fascism, I am confused about how populism could be seen as non-violent. Combining Mudde’s Monist understanding of “The People” and Brubaker’s emphasis of populism as fueled by a (economic, cultural, physical) protectionist narrative, it’s easy to imagine how this type of rhetoric could both scare and empower “The People” to act against the perceived threat. This is especially the case since this minority “threat” is considered illegitimate within a populist understanding of citizenship, negating their right to protection. Potential examples could include the violence against Muslim populations under Indian Prime Minister Modi and white terrorism in the United States – where violence is legitimized by the perceived threat posed by minorities against “true citizens”.

While these acts of violence are not the same as the institutionalized violence conducted within fascist governments, I do not understand how you could consider populism as unrelated to the violent consequences of its rhetoric.

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