Providing Legitimacy

To understand the similarities and differences of how populism plays out in different contexts, is to understand the pragmatism of populism. The way in which it plays out in different countries is not fixed, rather it adapts. The articles for this week look at how populism needs to be broken down and disentangled from the idea that it takes the same form in all countries.

David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar look particularity at how anti-gender campaigns are  utilized by populists, and that they should not be conflated together. It is important to look at the use of anti-gender campaigns as a tool used by Populists, but it is not specific to populist movement. That is is used by evangelists, Populists and the left. The way it is used is dependent on the climate in the the region. This is seen particularly in how anti-gender campaigns in Brazil are a result of catholic versus evangelist rhetoric, with less use by populists, contrary to a more Western European use.

Zack Beauchamp’s interview with Cas Mudde, discusses in particular the difference between the conceptualization of nativism between Western Europe and Eastern Europe in the context of Anti-Semitism. Mudded regards nativism as a key element to populism, but is clear in making the distinction, in this case, how in different areas this element of populism is used. That for the heavy influence of Communism following the Second World War illustrates the differences of East and West Populist approaches.

Ina Schmidt looks at the German Pegida movement and how it is, as she calls it, a “hybrid populist movement.” That is had populist foundations, but it also draws elements from the Nouvelle Droite’s concept of ethnopluralism, and the Autonomous Nationalism use of  “patchwork identities,” violence, and media in the group’s mobilization.

An interesting concept that Jan-Werner Müller discuses in his interview on The Dangers of Populism, is the concept of providing legitimacy. That in order for populism to rise, it needed conservative backing. What these reading have then discussed is the importance of the way in which populism rose in particular regions as well as the political and religious climates in these places. That populism is malleable and exists on a spectrum. It is this spectrum that shows the need and desire for providing legitimacy. That this legitimacy is both the similarity and the difference of how populism plays out in different contexts. It does not have to be specifically a conservative backing, rather it is dependent on the region in which it trying to take hold.

Islamophobia and the new Far Right Scapegoat

By Alex Wittmann

In Nazi Germany there was a very obvious scapegoat, it was the Jewish population. They were blamed for Germany’s misfortunes. The Nazis planted the insidious conspiracy that the Jews were responsible for Germany’s WWI defeat. Hitler also asserted that they were behind the ideology of Bolshevism. Knowing all of this, I could not help but notice that the Far Right of the past and present has a particular interest in using a scapegoat to rile their base and create a common reactionary movement in the cause of their Populist movement propelling them to power in their country. In Nazi Germay it was the Jews and in European Far Right movements today it is Islam. This was shown in the Vox article The Growing Influence of Anti Immigrant Politics. There was one major similarity in which I noticed similarities in which I noticed. I consisted being of course Xenophobia or Anti Islam. The article asserts that Populism gained traction in the Refugee Crisis of 2015,where the perfect storm emerged. The article explained that prior to 2015 the Far Right did not have much power in Europe. Right Wing movements are usually born out of reaction. The massive influx of refugees, terrorist attacks, and fear of racial diolution lit the spark for Populist movements in Europe. Creating a major backlash against immigrants coming in from Syria. The Far Right used them as scapegoats for Europe’s problems with terrorist attacks that year. I am not saying that the European Far Right movements are born again Nazi movements. However it would appear that any Far Right movement is born out of reaction and scapegoating. The Nazis did it with the Jews and the Far Right European Populists have made scapegoats out of Muslims trying to seek asylum. The difference between the current Far Right and the Nazis is that the current Far Right has not systematically exterminated their enemies.

Work Cited: Zack Beauchamp, “An expert on the European far right explains the growing influence of anti-immigrant politics” May 31, 2016 https://www.vox.com/2016/5/31/11722994/european-far-right-cas-mudde.

Defining Terms Round 2: Radical Right vs. Extreme Right

By Christine Collins

Another week, another set of definitions to consider. Castelli Gattinara draws together terms from other academics to establish a minimum definition of far/radical right based on the centrality of three factors: nativism, authoritarianism, and populism. 

Nativism places the needs of ‘real’ citizens above those of immigrants. They hold a homogeneous view of the nation, viewing foreign people and ideas as a threat to the collective whole 

Authoritarianism refers to a strictly ordered society based on ‘law and order’ 

Populism divides societies into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups: ‘the pure people’ and ‘the corrupt elite’ 

Throughout the readings, I was constantly checking my understanding of the radical right vs. the extreme right, terms I have used interchangeably throughout my life and throughout this course. This harkened back to our fine combing of the differences between fascism and right-wing populism from Week 2. Of relevance to this week’s themes, the Matthews article made the distinction that Trump is not a fascist because he doesn’t want to overthrow the democratic system. 

This consideration of democracy and its place in society linked to Castelli Gattinara, in that he distinguishes the ‘extreme’ from ‘radical’ far right actors. Both see the end goal as authoritarianism.  However, Castelli Gattinara emphasizes those under the radical category deem it reasonable and even necessary to step beyond basic political reforms to achieve their goals. In other works, extreme right wing actors are ideologically opposed to democracy. 

One contrast I saw in the readings pitted Beauchamp and Castelli Gattinara’s ideas on the Othering used by right wing groups. As defined by El-Tayeb and Wekkers, Othering Is the act of grouping people who do not fit the ideals of a social group and, as a result, looking to that group as inferior. For Beauchamp, radical right wing ideology is a race game, grouping the Muslim, foreign threat as the outsiders in Europe. Castelli Gattinara offers a different perspective, considering the Other less biological and more cultural. For him, far right groups Other immigrants on the basis of their supposed unshared values on gender equality, free speech and secularism. 

I’d challenge this belief there has been a shift from biological to cultural racism. In my view, while “differing values” is a justification right-wing groups will give for their Othering, at the end of the day, European exceptionalism is first-and-foremost linked to race. Beauchamp addresses this to some degree in his discussion on Eastern Europeans, recognizing how some, but not all, are accepted by Westerners. I’d argue we saw the act of Othering play out when comparing the two most recent refugee crises in Europe: displaced Yugoslavians were resettled into Western European countries, while migrants coming from Muslim-majority countries have experienced much weaker integration today. While these differing welcomes may be as a result of cultural differences, I believe that race and a lack of shared skin colour is a far more convincing explanation.  

Populism: United and Fragmented

Populism as a concept, as shown throughout this week’s readings, is fluid and shapeshifting. Before getting to the content of populist claims, even the act of defining what populism is can vary; populism has been called a policy (Schmidt), a political style (Paternotte &Kuhar), and an ideological feature (Gattinara referencing Mudde). When considering framing ,as put  forward by Paternotte & Kuhar, the importance of categorizing or classifying populism becomes very crucial for the analysis and diagnosis of populist content. Personally, I tend to agree with Mudde’s idea of populism as an ideological feature that is then joined with politics.

Despite the hardship of defining what populism is categorized or classified as, the content of populism is somewhat clearer. The importance of an in-group and out-group is key to populism. This group dynamic in populism centres around the creation of a ‘pure people’, which populist leaders are able to define the values and identity of the group. The content of what the in-group identity consists of is where populism shines, as this identity is vastly different in all implementations, allowing for populist groups and movements to really shape and target their audiences. For example, the Global Right in the Paternotte & Kuhar reading, focus on fighting ‘gender ideology’ to fight the progressive a causes that challenges their group values, mainly Christian beliefs. Another example, the Pediga focus on protecting national identity through antiimmigration and nationalist rhetoric. All of these claims are portrayed as being against a ‘corrupt’ other, typically this ‘other’ will be the elites of a state or social movement. However, as Jan Muller points out, the idea of rallying against the elites should not be universally attributed to populism. This is because in a democracy, people have the right to challenge those in charge.

Nonetheless, far right populism poses a risk to Europe due to the centrality of nativism, and authoritarianism. Nativism plays into the populist ‘people’ idea by arguing that states should be inhabited exclusively by natives. Authoritarianism for populist groups entails rule through ‘law and order’. Muller warns that the danger of populism is that the anti-pluralist style of populism produces the effect of deeming all those not aligned with the ‘people’, as illegitimate.

Populism as a concept is hard to summarize neatly, which is not surprising as the concept is meant to be flexible and adaptive. It can hardly be expected that in most cases populist actions play out in a similar fashion. While there can be overlap in group identities and values, I believe Paternotte & Kuhar are correct in their argument that a more nuanced understanding is needed when looking at similar groups. As they have shown, similar groups may have similar rhetoric, but do not typically share the same path to the same conclusions and do not share similar core values that drive their rhetoric. For example, the Christian groups and populist groups differ in their shared opposition to ‘gender ideology’. Christian groups base their driving forces on historic grounds and oppose gender and sexual equality (according to Paternotte & Kuhar). Whereas, right wing populist groups, while opposed to ‘gender ideology’, do not necessarily oppose gender and sexual equality.

Replacement & Colonial Thought Patterns

By Daniel Williams

The Great Replacement. Not just a great sounding name for a metal band, but a nationalist/white supremacist slogan. That is the topic of a fairly recent New York Times article, addressing the term and its ‘father figure’.

Within this, we learn that the intent of the term centers around the idea that modern immigrants, especially those from African nations, do not wish to assimilate with French culture, and instead fail to integrate and would rather simply ‘replace’ French culture with their own.

Interestingly, it can be noted that Renaud Camus was originally a socialist. This is nothing new: there is a surprising pattern of many a socialist falling instead into far right patterns of thought over time. The Nouveau Droite itself played on this idea, getting radical members by playing on the divide between socilaist and new right-wing extremes.

Perhaps more interestingly is the sort of language that is used when describing the term Great Replacement. Because it’s not anything new.

South Africa has long been confronted with its own version of this concept, the idea that Afrikaner and white populations within South Africa has a history of extreme thinkers and radicals suggesting that a black takeover is inevitable. Even before the end of Apartheid, neo-fasicst and far right groups were actively propagating such ideas.

Why then is France different? What makes France’s case so unique that Camus gets the glory for coming up with this concept? Perhaps it can all be tied to a lack of historical reckoning.

France has, historically, been a colonizer. One of the best (or worst, depending on your perspective) colonizers of the world. France has, by extension, been a ‘mother country’ in the colonial context. France hasn’t been forced to reckon with this past, not entirely, and dealing with the idea that France is no longer in some cultural way ‘above’ former colonies and peoples, may be part of the way that these white supremacist notions grow to be so powerful.

Unfortunately, the idea has stuck one way or another. Whether it can be rooted out, or called out for what it is, remains to be seen.

Global Populism : A European Concept ?

Populist movements are not “one size fits all”. The following two examples prove that populism in its global presence is made of complex and intertwined relationships of various elements that each play a part in a greater scheme.

Through the study of the Pegida Movement in Germany  (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident) and how the activists are boxed in different categories, one can deduct that the populist movement in general cannot be define as a homogenous group and that politics and social movements contribute to the amalgamation that most people do about right-wing movements and xenophobia. According to Ina Schmidt, and based on the general definition of populism, practical and ideological categories provide a separate but complementary constructive element to what is considered right-wing activism. On one hand, autonomous nationalism drives the movement with radical demonstrations, violence and an opposition to the politics in place. On the other hand, ethnopluralism which characterizes the ideological standpoint, makes a departure from the former fascist ideology based on race to turn it into culture.

If there is one topic that encompasses the complexity of defining the strict definition of populism, it is the anti-gender campaigns that became more visible in the last ten years and which substantiate the difficulty to categorize movements within ideologies. According to David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, the term gender ideology itself proves difficult to describe illustrating the main argument that many various groups will focus on one aspect only ( same sex-marriage, reproductive rights or sex and gender education in schools). Adding to the position of the Catholic Church, and potentially a greater audience, populism movements in Europe are easily associated with anti-gender campaigns .

This association although present in many protests, has a different history on a global scale but always uses the same rhetoric of fear. The heavy use of modern media is also a mean to gather more people, which is what populism is based on. But should we make a general assumption about Europe and right-wing movements increasing presence ? Studies have proved that this phenomenon also occurs in Latin America and North America. Can we agree to disagree on the assumption that populism is a one concept ideology, and can we consider that crossovers between different political and cultural institutions or government can alter the strict definition of populism ?

Europe’s Radical Right: Cultural Descendant of the Nouvelle Droite

By Absalom Sink

Two weeks ago, we read and discussed the rise of the Nouvelle Droite (ND), first in France, and then in a broader, pan-European context. Crucial to the formulation of the ND was its retreat from the political arena into the realm of culture, the realm of “metapolitics”. Seeing in the protests of 1968 the sway that the Left held over cultural institutions—particularly institutions of higher education—far right figures led by Alain de Benoist ostensibly abandoned politics and moved instead to open up cultural space in which later generations of Far Right thinkers and politicians might act; they appropriated from the Left Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, and worked to sow the seeds of a counterhegemonic bloc.

From this week’s readings, I would argue that the experiment is something of a qualified success. Certainly, most of today’s so-called Radical Right1 have not taken up de Benoist’s neopagan ritualism. And the populist, self-described “democratic” nature of Radical Right movements is inherently contrary to the ND’s anti-democratic, elitist formulation. But as the readings make clear, there are crucial threads linking the ND and the Radical Right. Chief among them is ethnopluralism. As Ina Schmidt explains, “Ethnopluralism is an ideology of the far right, which is no longer directed against foreign ethnicities, but rather against cultures—understood as being irrevocably connected with certain values, practices, and habits.” Essentially, it is a form of cultural racism, as opposed to the biological racism of yore, popular with fascists. By shifting the focus of their xenophobia from “race” to “culture”, Radical Right groups avoid the charge of racism and open ideological space between themselves and fascist forebears. It’s the ideological sleight of hand that lets Islamophobes respond to charges of racism with the stock sentence “Islam isn’t a race!” And as we’ll recall from Tamir Bar-On’s article, it is the same semantic shift that de Benoist and his followers made in the 1980s, moving from biological racism to the anti-multicultural “Europe of a Hundred Flags”.

It does not really matter that groups like Pegida or the Front National don’t adhere entirely to the roadmap laid down by the ND. Remember, the goal of the ND was simply to create the cultural space in which Far Right ideals might be taken once more into the political sphere—ideals like the abandonment of liberal democracy, and at least since the 1980s, of ethnopluralism over multiculturalism. By achieving broader cultural acceptance, as evinced by de Benoist’s Prix de l’essai from l’Académie Française and glowing coverage in Telos, the ND was able to open that political space it desired. It now needed political actors to take up the mantle. As both Zack Beauchamp—in his interview with our old friend Cas Mudde—and Pietro Castelli Gattinara show, a series of events in 2015 would provide the spark for an explosion of Radical Right movements to occupy that space, a sort of Far Right Big Bang.

According to Mudde, “the core of the ideology of the radical right includes three features: nativism, authoritarianism, and populism.” Nativism, he says, is essentially a form of xenophobia that dictates that a state should only be inhabited by people who are “native” to it.2 Authoritarianism revolves around the belief that society should be “strictly ordered”, and in which any social issue becomes treated as an issue of security—the example Mudde gives here is the treatment of drug crises as “something to be cracked down on” through law and order, rather than as a public health issue. Finally, populism boils down to another “us versus them” dichotomy, this time between “the elites”—typically mainstream political figures, but with a healthy helping of wealthy proponents of liberalism, like the far right’s bogeyman George Soros—and “the real people”.3 2015 brought a confluence of factors that served to empower nascent Radical Right movements throughout Europe. First, the refugee crisis, stoked nativist fears throughout Europe. Terror attacks, starting with Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015, fueled authoritarian tendencies and calls for increased vigilance, particularly against ‘outsiders.’ Finally, the lingering effects of the 2008 financial crisis and the aftershocks that threatened the structural integrity of the EU undermined the existing economic liberal order and played into populist anti-elitist rhetoric.

Julius Evola knew he would never see a truly resurgent fascism in his lifetime; it is entirely possible that Alain de Benoist never thought he’d see the ideological seeds he sowed bear fruit. But a series of external shocks—a financial crisis originating in the United States, revolutions throughout the Middle East leading to a nearly decade-long civil war in Syria, the rise of ISIL, and the largest refugee crisis since the Bosnian War—provided the cover for a broad range of Radical Right political movements to spring up in the cultural niche carved out by the ND.

1Borrowing here from Cas Mudde’s differentiation between “Extreme Right” and “Radical Right”, in which the former rejects democracy outright in favour of revolution aiming for authoritarianism, while the latter merely rejects aspects of liberal democracy, like pluralism and minority rights, while still claiming to adhere to democratic principles. Castelli Gattinara helps to further clarify, explaining that radical right groups “locate themselves outside the political mainstream but without intending to replace democracy with an authoritarian order.”

2Remember, though, from our very first class, when we grappled with the question of “who is really ‘native’ to a given place?” The Magyar people claim ownership of Hungary, even though they are likely to have arrived significantly later that the ancestors of today’s Slovenes within the borders of Hungary. Likewise, how “native” is a person who calls themselves an “Anglo-Saxon”—itself an incredibly fraught term—to Britain?

3”The real people” has become something of a shibboleth for Far- and Radical Right groups, differentiating them from Left populists; as Jan Werner-Muller explains, the term serves to “other” any who don’t fit with the “majority”, while also delegitimizing any other groups and figures vying for power.

Works Cited:

Beauchamp, Zack. “An expert on the European far right explains the growing influence of anti-immigrant politics”. Vox. May 31, 2016 https://www.vox.com/2016/5/31/11722994/european-far-right-cas-mudde

Bar-On, Tamir. “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite.” Patterns of Prejudice 45, no. 3 (July 2011): 199–223.

Castelli Gattinara, Pietro. “Framing Exclusion in the Public Sphere: Far-Right Mobilisation and the Debate on Charlie Hebdo in Italy.” South European Society & Politics 22, no. 3 (Sept. 2017): 345–364.

Schmidt, Ina. “PEGIDA: A Hybrid Form of a Populist Right Movement.” German Politics & Society 35, no. 4 (Winter 2017): 105–17.

“The Dangers of Populism” Interview with Jan Werner Mueller, Council of Europe (March 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahtvsNU2bkk

The Heterogeneity of the Right-Wing Populism Regarding Middle Eastern Migrants

BY Vadzim Malatok

The populist actors oftentimes present policies in ways that are intended to have an emotional or fearful effect on the population. This approach adds more malleability to an already fluid ideology. As a result, the populist actors are able to adopt to the changing political landscapes and manipulate social issues to their own advantage. 

The ability to present themselves as political chameleons have resulted in emergence of various populist actors that disagree with one another on a variety of issues. For instance, the populist radical actors point out at the dysfunctionality of Islam in the Occident and denounce uncontrolled immigration from the Middle East. In addition, they advocate for halting immigration and tightening border security as well as creating programs directed at immigrant assimilation, for the latter believed to help preserve European democratic institutions and principles. The extreme-right actors also share similar attitudes toward immigration from the Middle East but are of the opinion that immigrants, and in particular of the Middle Eastern origin, are incapable of integration and assimilation, which might further explain their opposition to globalization in general. There are also ultra-religious groups that do not berate Islam directly but maintain that liberal secularism and liberal democracy, which are prevalent in the Western world, engender Islamization of the European continent. 

And although the above-mentioned groups differ in how to maintain European identity, they present Muslim migrants as the main contaminants of the European culture. But even the act of racialization itself has shifted from biological, as was conceived by the Nazis, to cultural suggests Pietro Castelli Gattinara in “Framing Exclusion in the Public Sphere.” This shift is significant in that it allows the populist actors to label migrants as ‘incompatible’ with Western values rather than ‘inferior’ to a particular ethnic group.

 As a result of the fear of the cultural contamination, the Pegida movement emerged in 2004 in Germany. Similar to the most of the far-right populist actors, the Pegida views Islam as a “religion of conquest and submission,” though, unlike the other groups, it offers a great deal of freedom and flexibility to its participants, which can be attributed to the emergence of the ethno-pluralistic ideology and certain autonomous nationalistic groups that are self-governed and do not answer to any superior body. 

 In conclusion, the heterogeneity of the populist right-wing movement is evident upon considering their stance on migration, which also points to the shared similarities between them such as Islamophobia. As a result, most of these groups present themselves as “the last defenders of national interests.”

Op/Ed 2: Religion, Populism, and Authoritarianism – Andrew Devenish

Since its founding in 1923 as a democratic nation after the fall of the religious Ottoman Empire, Turkey has officially been secular. Unique in its geographic region, Turkey has a long tradition of secular politics despite its overwhelming religious majority of Muslims. However, that has been changing recently.

Turkey was founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, forming the Republic of Turkey and serving as its first President for many years. Despite Turkey’s secularism not being written into its constitution at the time of its founding, secularism was a strong principle of Ataturk’s, so he amended the constitution in 1928 to include a mandate of secularism. This was an extraordinary feat – just a few years earlier the Ottoman Empire had reigned, which was a fundamentalist Islamic empire which had controlled vast territory as a caliphate, and which was now, only six years after its fall, constitutionally a democratic, secular republic. Ataturk accomplished all this within a few short years after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, but his work is now at risk.

In the past, whenever Turkey’s government strayed too far from its secular roots or overstepped its authority, there has been a military coup. Whether it’s a good or bad thing for the military to overthrow the government (it’s bad), these coups have done their jobs. Turkey has had five successful coups since the country’s founding, but the last one was in 1997, with a failed coup occurring recently, in 2016. Over the recent years, Turkey has been leaning further and further into its religious side. This doesn’t come as a total surprise – any nation with a 98% majority of one religion, as Turkey has with Islam, would likely cater its laws and practices toward that vast majority. However, this goes against Turkey’s original secular ideals. Especially since its current leader, Erdogan has come to power, Turkey has faced much criticism over the state of its religiosity. As an authoritarian, Erdogan exercises the use of religion within his state, which promotes religious fundamentalism. The government has built mosques and religious schools, changed the education system to include more instruction in Islam, and politicians and national leaders frequently use religious language to garner support. The Turkish government is acting as though Islam is an official religion and supporting it publicly. For example, when the Turkish president says that Muslims discovered America, before Columbus did (the Vikings discovered it long before anyone else), by saying that Columbus saw a mosque in what is now Cuba, that is the head of state for a secular nation promoting Islam. He is not saying the Turkish people or Turkey discovered America, he is saying Muslims did it. These invasions of religion into the responsibilities of government flies in the face of the purpose of secularism. But it’s working. Turkey is nearly 99% majority Muslim. That is an incredibly high percentage of people that are religious, so it’s something all politicians can appeal to. The move away from secularism for Turkey is a calculated populist move – pairing religion with populism is extremely effective. What better way to appeal to the common person than with a common religion? We can see how well it works by looking at election results. Erdogan’s own party, the AKP, has consistently won elections with large majorities for nearly 20 years. Erdogan isn’t just a religious authoritarian, he’s a populist that uses religion to fuel his populism. But Turkey’s populist leader isn’t just pro-Islam, he is also anti-Christian. Outside of the Muslim majority, the next largest religious denominations are Christian, which make up around 0.2% of the population. According to a US watchdog, Christians in Turkey are facing increased religious persecution. This is just another example of the authoritarian populist Erdogan’s government getting involved in religion and overstepping its traditionally secular authority.

If Turkey is to return to the secular society envisioned by Ataturk nearly a hundred years ago, something must be done. The government’s involvement in religion as well as the rhetoric used by politicians and leaders like Erdogan must be stopped if Turkey is to regain its position as a secular and democratic leader in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. A military coup may not be the ideal answer, but this trend will only continue if the power of populists like Erdogan are left unchecked.

 

Works Cited

Ackerman, Elliot. “Atatürk Versus Erdogan: Turkey’s Long Struggle.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 26 Oct. 2017, http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/ataturk-versus-erdogan-turkeys-long-struggle.

Bekdil, Burak. “Pillars of Turkey’s Islamization: Schools, Mosques, and Prisons.” Middle East Forum, 27 Sept. 2016, http://www.meforum.org/6315/pillars-of-islamization-in-turkey.

Butler, Daren. “With More Islamic Schooling, Erdogan Aims to Reshape Turkey.” Reuters, Reuters, 25 Jan. 2018, http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/turkey-erdogan-education/.

“Christians in Turkey Face Increased Persecution – U.S. Watchdog.” Ahval, 24 July 2019, ahvalnews.com/freedom-religion/christians-turkey-face-increased-persecution-us-watchdog.

“Erdogan Hits Back at Ridicule of Claim Muslims Discovered America.” The Guardian, Agence France-Presse, 18 Nov. 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/18/erdogan-ridicule-muslims-discovered-america.

Raja, Raza Habib. “Is Turkey Transforming into a Fundamentalist Religious State?” The Express Tribune Blogs, 19 Apr. 2017, blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/48916/is-turkey-transforming-into-a-fundamentalist-religious-state/.

 

Populism: The Political Chameleon

Discussing the similarities and differences of how populism plays out in different contexts is a little tricky. By this week, we seem to have come to a consensus about the pragmatic and fluid nature of populism. Therefore, despite some key similarities, any given populist movement will adapt to the environment it has been planted in. The fluidity of populist movements is highlighted in the interview with Jan Werner Mueller, and the articles by Zack Beauchamp and Ina Schmidt.

In the “Dangers of Populism” interview, Mueller uses the term “real democracy” that leads to the question being raised, do realists believe in “real democracy”? Mueller explains that populists believe that they do support “real democracy.” This idea can be interpreted as both a similarity and a difference of how populism plays out. The similarity would be that populist movements believe they are supporting true democracy, the difference is that the definition and reactions can differ between regions, movements, and time periods.

The Beauchamp article summarizes last week’s discussion nicely: “everyone and everything that’s non-native – that is, alien – is threatening.” While Europe’s anti-migrant sentiments focus mainly on Muslims, there was also resistance against migrants from East Europe (in West Europe). While East Europeans are sometimes included into the “European group,” when they came in large numbers to the Western Europe, they received similar hostility to what non-Europeans would experience. This ties into our discussions of the “other” as a whole. The “other” can change and has changed through history.

Quick side note on globalization: while it has become a reality and has promoted easier movement of people across the world, it has clearly been met with fierce opposition (that is not unique to Europe). The reality of globalization seems to have failed in making humans accepting of diverse others. Instead, it seems to have pitted the “us” and “them” ever more against each other.

Going back to the differences and similarities of how populism plays out, the Schmidt article uses a different definition of populism. The definition presented seems more like a description of similarities of how populist movements play out rather than a definition of populism. Going back to earlier discussions, the basic definition of populism is that it speaks on behalf of ordinary people, and these people stand in opposition of the elite who block the achievement of popular political goals. Of course, the “people” is a fluid term that can take on whatever form is most convenient. However, this term allows for populism to be used for good (ex. Environmental populism). Schmidt however, defined populism as “a policy that appears to act in close connection with the people and uses their emotions, fears, and prejudices for its own purposes.” While not wrong, I think it narrows the definition too much. Either way, the other elements of populism discussed in the Schmidt article appear to make sense. Furthermore, most of these elements are also fluid and can be applied differently in different environments.

On a final note, Schmidt describes that populist movements can result from crises, when “whole groups of a society lose their orientation and values, are scared of the future and have their fears channeled by strong leaders into a certain direction.” This links nicely to the definition of fascism that Paxton outlined.