Introduction

Hey everyone!

I’m Felix, a fourth-year student in EURUS. Though the program of course covers Europe and Russia as a whole, my focus has been mostly on Germany. In that same vein, I’m very passionate in regards to languages, especially German and Hungarian. I usually find myself dabbling in other languages every once in a while though…

Outside of school, I usually find myself gaming or climbing. I usually try to find a few occasions throughout the year to escape outdoors and climb in the rocks, though I’m usually confined to the gym. 

Looking forward to getting to know you all better throughout this course!

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.

Introducing me

Hi everyone!
I’m Jim Dagg. I’m the one with all the white hair.

After a very stimulating and satisfying career in high tech, I started working on a History degree back in the fall of 2019. Going back to school was – and still is! – the most exciting part of my retirement plan.

 I have fourth year standing now, but as I’m taking only two courses per semester, I will be at this until 2024: I’m in no rush. I love being a student, so after that… who knows?!

I’m happily married, with two grown and launched children – who are older than most of you! I play soccer and pickleball (try it!). I enjoy building/renovation projects, as well as gardening.

Fascism and Populism: Some Differences

The origin of fascism takes place in Benito Mussolini’s Italy is in a time of confusion, anger and fear which was used by the future leader of this movement to rise to the top. One point that the author Robert Paxton makes in his introductory chapter of The Anatomy of Fascism that is very interesting is that fascism is not exactly what the popular opinion thinks of it. It is seen as evil, anti-Semitic, and aggressive. While it looks to be true in appearance, Paxton describes it more the culmination of violence, radicalism and contradiction. It should also be note that this movement also feed on misinformation and propaganda.

While looking at Cas Muddle’s text, Populism in Europe: An Illiberal Democratic Response to Undemocratic Liberalism, it can be compared closely to fascism. Key ideas like “power to the people” of antagonizing the elite classes of society seems to be shared, but they are developed differently. While radical goals and ideas are the starting zones, the means to make themselves heard is much more violent for the fascist. It is in the nature of the movement to be more on the offensive and to present a certain discipline. They try to have more of a military culture while populism is looking more like a mob sometimes. Furthermore, a distinction that Muddle explains is that ideology in populism is most of the time secondary; it’s the leader of the movement that impregnates his group with it. On the contrary, fascism is built on the far-right axis even though experts sometime argue on details like the anti capitalist and anti bourgeoisie’s fascism political point of view.

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.

Introduction post

Hello everyone,

My name is Louis and I am a fourth-year student in a History major. I find 17-20th century Europe to be quite interesting and took a lot of classes that turned around that continent. The Khans of Mongolia are also a subject that captivate me as they conquered and ruled Asia and parts of Europe for hundreds of years. I enjoy reading a lot for school, but also fantasy novels. It is my first semester on campus so I am excited to get this year going!

Introduction

Hi everyone! My name is Megan MacRae and I am a fourth-year History and Law student. Even though I am coming to the end of my degree, I have yet to technically ‘narrow down’ my specific interest in History. However, I do particularly enjoy the history of brewing (beer), pre-colonial African history, and Indigenous history.

When I am not studying, running various clubs at Carleton, or working at the Beer Store, I choose to spend my time reading, finding new coffee shops to try, and hanging out with my boyfriend’s cats, Peter and Nico! I am also a Residence Fellow here at Carleton this year so I am predicting quite a busy, but exciting, final year of my Undergraduate Degree!

I am looking forward to informative conversations and exciting interactions with you all over the semester!

Cheers!

Chapter 1: Defining Terms

By: Hannah Long

In general we as humans love to categorize and give things labels, it is an ability that allows us to recognize patterns and features that are collectively shared. In a political sense it allows us to come to an agreement on what characteristics a specific ideology should have and how those who adhere to it are expected to behave. This becomes all the more crucial when analyzing stronger political views that influence governance more deeply.

While, the importance of differentiating between terms such as authoritarian, populist, and fascist should be clear cut, that is farther from the actual truth. In this week’s readings, I realized how simply defining any given political sphere is a complex mix between our own personal opinions as well as textbook definitions. As the word populist was thrown around so much in 2019, Brubaker explained how it’s not just a lazy journalistic cliché (Brubaker, 2019), but rather as a result of the growing link between media and politics. As many governments have become more direct in their responses, making the word more common in ideological discourse.

I found Brubaker’s points provide a very clear discussion of populism as both a term and ongoing phenomena that has and is still a hot topic due what he describes as the perfect storm of political and social issues happening all at the same time. Likewise, Paxton discussed the rise of fascism in the twentieth century as a label to differentiate itself from the pack (Paxton, 3). The term itself is almost so analyzed and discussed that the set of characteristics that make up the word fascist can never really be shaken from it, or mistaken for another political ideology unlike populism has been and maybe will be for a time to come.

With populist having become the new controversial label many seek to avoid, I wonder if in the coming years we will see a trend of using different words and ideological spheres to define such a broad approach.

Rogers Brubaker, “Why Populism?” NUPI Podcast (51 minutes).

Robert Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism (New York, 2004), pp 3-23.

Nupi. “Podcast: Why Populism? Why Here? Why Now?” NUPI. Norsk Utenrikspolitisk Institutt. https://www.nupi.no/en/news/podcast-why-populism-why-here-why-now.

Introduction!

Hello everyone! (I saw people posting pictures so here is me and my dad in Scilla Calabria)

My name is Francesco (one of the students that was late to class last week) and this is my introduction. I am a fourth year student at Carleton with a major in history and a minor in archeology as I stated last class. My interests are primarily centered on ancient history (focused on the history of societies that thrived in the Mediterranean, such as Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Persia) although, I also have a large interest in physics courses that discuss planetary astronomy. I am very excited to take this class because it seems like a great place to challenge my issues with social anxiety that I have never really gotten over.

Looking forward to the year!

Introduction

Hello class! My name is Aleksander and I am a third-year MA student at the Institute of European, Russian, and Eurasian studies. My research interest is 20th century Russian cultural history, but I am also very keen to learn about other histories to study issues and topics through other disciplinary lenses. Populism and Authoritarianism are two ideologies which are unfortunately becoming increasingly salient in our political and cultural climate. I have learned about them in other European history courses as topics. However, I have never taken a course dedicated to their study that analyzes them from a transnational perspective, which is why I am looking forward to doing so in this course!