What is fascism and what is populism? What are their connections in history and theory, and how should we address their significant differences? What does it mean when pundits call Donald Trump a fascist, or label as populist politicians who span left and right such as Hugo Chávez, Juan Perón, Rodrigo Duterte, and Marine Le Pen? Federico Finchelstein, one of the leading scholars of fascist and populist ideologies, synthesizes their history in order to answer these questions and offer a thoughtful perspective on how we might apply the concepts today. While they belong to the same history and are often conflated, fascism and populism actually represent distinct political and historical trajectories. Drawing on an expansive history of transnational fascism and postwar populist movements, Finchelstein gives us insightful new ways to think about the state of democracy and political culture on a global scale.
Introduction: Thinking Fascism and Populism in Terms of the Past
1. What Is Fascism in History?
2. What Is Populism in History?
3. Populism between Democracy and Dictatorship
Epilogue: Populism Recharged
Federico Finchelstein is Professor of History at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College in New York City. He is the author of several books, including Transatlantic Fascism and The Ideological Origins of the Dirty War. He contributes to major American, European, and Latin American media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, Mediapart, Politico, Clarin, Nexos, and Folha de S.Paulo.
“Timely, accessible, and essential reading. Federico Finchelstein examines modern populism in historical and global perspective, explaining its relationship to fascism and its different manifestations around the world. He expertly reminds us how vital history is for understanding the present and how important it is to look beyond our own borders to get come to grips with local phenomena. Written in the context of Trump’s rise to power, From Fascism to Populism in History challenges the idea of US exceptionalism and provides us with concrete analytical tools to better understand contemporary politics and society.”—Tanya Harmer, author of Allende’s Chile and the Inter-American Cold War
“At a time when the social sciences seem to be at a loss to explain the revival of the darker political movements of the twentieth century, Federico Finchelstein provides a broad and engaging panorama. He shows that precise historical knowledge is essential to understand the present and avoid simplistic explanations.”—Pablo Piccato, author of A History of Infamy: Crime, Truth, and Justice in Mexico
“An original, creative, and bold work that will be debated by scholars for decades to come.”—Carlos de la Torre, author of Populist Seduction in Latin America
“Populism is not a regime of its own and has a family resemblance to political systems that are opposites, like democracy and fascism. In this fascinating book, Federico Finchelstein shows with historical erudition and theoretical insight how populism’s long, globally connected history combines the national, transnational, and supranational, and how populism can (and did) blur the borders separating democracy and fascism. To understand today’s rebirth of populism is, in fact, to comprehend the history of its adoption and reformulation over time. From Peronism to LePenism to Trumpism, populism’s growth and specific features, which are contextual and thus never identical, point toward a political transformation that changes the tenor of democratic public opinion and, when in power, the functioning of institutions in ways that are less tolerant and more authoritarian.”—Nadia Urbinati, author of Representative Democracy: Principles and Genealogy
“Federico Finchelstein’s book is perhaps the best recent analysis of a phenomenon that is at the core of our century’s political history. It is an outstanding study—forceful, profound, and erudite—of the rebirth of populism and the return of fascism in forms well adapted to our time. Thanks to Finchelstein’s exemplary scholarship, the reader learns that history matters, that ideas matter, and that there is no society, not even the great democracy located ‘north of the Rio Grande’ that is immune to the dangers usually associated with Europe and South America.”—Zeev Sternhell, author of The Birth of Fascist Ideology: From Cultural Rebellion to Political Revolution