A Look at the Complexities of Populism, Fascism, and Authoritarianism

I found the readings for this week quite unique. At times, in an attempt to emphasize the intricate aspects of fascism and populism, some arguments would be overly complex and unfortunately, I often found that this distracted me from the original argument that the author was trying to make. However, I still appreciated the approaches that both Finchelstein and Mudde took in an effort to emphasize the ever changing perspectives surrounding fascism and populism.

For one, Finchelstein classifies populism as a category of “authoritarian democracy”. I found this approach to populism quite unorthodox considering that Finchelstein is essentially referring to a democratic society which is blindly being ruled by an authoritative figure. Personally, I would consider this perspective to lightly tread on the boundary between democracy and dictatorship. However, since populism renounces anti-democratic institutions, I am not completely in agreement with Finchelstein’s decision to classify populism as a form of “authoritarian democracy”. Even if populism does promote majoritarian extremism, as emphasized in Mudde’s piece,  the political approach also believes in compromise and equal power, which are both vehemently renounced by authoritarian and totalitarian societies. 

When it comes to fascism, I found that Finchelstein continued to overly complex the issue, but I did find the argument surrounding fascism to be more appealing. Specifically, Finchelstein’s contention that society today is misusing the term ‘fascism’. Finchelstein makes reference to the fact that there were major figures referring to Donald Trump as a fascist during his time in office, however, just because he was prejudiced, racist, intolerant etc. that is not enough to classify Trump as a fascist. Rather, what truly makes a person a fascist is their intense desire to create an entire new nation with a new order. Instead, Trump merely wanted to reform America, or in his words, ‘Make America Great Again’, but his objective was not to create a whole new America. 

I must also note that my main takeaway from what was reviewed this week, is that fascism and populism both seem to be used as a societal tool to justify or oppose controversial decisions and actions against various groups of people.

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