The thin line between Populism and Fascism

In this weeks readings we looked at media that discussed fascism and populism, these articles and one podcast looked to define and explore how these ideologies occur. What stuck me as I read each article was the overlapping terms, especially when discussing the group each ideology was representing. Mudde states that the group that a populist is representing share common ethnic, religious or class identities that often over lap. This can be related to Paxton’s view that fascist leaders look to lead a group that is a majority and looks to “other” minorities in the state. Though Mudde doesn’t outright state that populist leaders look to the majority population to seek a cultural basis it is stated that populist look to create one group that leads the state.

I read the Anatomy of Fascism first and what struck me as I read portions of the chapter was the striking similarity to what has been called illiberal democracy. Where Paxton describes how fascist leaders lack a set public agenda/program, it struck me that is seemed very similar to hoe Viktor Orban wanted Hungary’s political system to be shaped like. This similarity was confirmed by Paxton as he showed data that had Hungary as the state that voted the most for populist parties (one party).

There is though a line that divides these two ideologies. Most importantly fascism and fascist movements have a violent undertone to their message that often threatens or delivers violence if their agenda is not meet or just to meet said agenda. This differs from populist movements that thrive in a quasi democratic space, where they control the levers of power while still offering an illusion of choice. Populist as described by Mudde aren’t populist first, they normally have a stronger more concrete ideology that guides their larger policy. They using populist thought and practice to garner support and create smaller more distinct policy based on the specific nature of their populist movement (anti-latin American in the United States vs anti middle eastern policy in Europe). This is juxtaposed to the firmly fascist governments that proclaim that as fascist they have risen above other ideologies to understand a superior movement.

In summation, fascism and populism share similar traits, ideas and aspirations but the methods in which they look to achieve them are different. As populists look to work within the confines of some democratic process versus the fascist approach as succeeding in their goals at whatever the cost, whether that includes violence or not.

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