Fighting with definitions of Fascism and Populism

In each of the readings this week, analysis was mostly focused on understanding Fascism and Populism, especially in regards to differentiating the two. As underlined in Finchelstein’s From Fascism to Populism in History, though the terms are both used in a colloquial sense to label others as “evil,” they do not share the same ideology, often even having clashing ideals. Though the work offers a good framework for discerning between the two, the categories lead to questioning regarding the gray area between Populism and Fascism. In Paxton’s work, he points out the “fascist minimum” as a concept which would hope to tidy up problems in separating the two. However, his further explanation that Fascist regimes were different from one another, primarily due to their inherently nationalistic ideology.

Facing these different ideas in the readings, a few questions arose in my mind. Though I don’t doubt the usefulness of these categories, are they entirely beneficial in analyzing different movements? Could they be detrimental to better understanding of the similarities and differences that appear? Where do we define the line between the two? Though Finchelstein gives his own interpretation, can it really be said that each of the stated elements is absolutely necessary to call a movement Fascist?

I believe these considerations are especially pertinent in observing new movements which may not fit into either category. Trying to force them into our own categories could lead to a false sense of understanding, where our own biases may cloud our judgment on history.

One Reply to “Fighting with definitions of Fascism and Populism”

  1. I think the main point within Finchelstein was to understand how ideologies from the past impact the development of current ideologies. In turn, it could help better the understanding of populism as various authors have noted that it is a thin ideology to use as a tool of analysis. Finchelstein tries to increase the depth of understanding populism by dividing the difference between the populist right and left and how it’s the right-wing populism that was born out of fascism. Namely, in the way in which the right embrace nationalism and racist rhetoric. However, there are important differences in the way in which fascist regimes use violence and seek to dismantle democracy whereas, right-wing populists seek to dismantle the liberalist aspect of democracy.

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