Why populism is not fascism


It is a mistake to conflate populism and fascism: populism is a symptom of democracy in trouble, while fascism and other revolutionary movements are the consequence of democracy in crisis, argues Sheri Berman, Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University.

But the more important difference between today’s right-wing extremists and yesterday’s fascists is the larger context. As great as contemporary problems are, and as angry as many citizens may be, the West is simply not facing anything approaching the upheaval of the interwar period, she writes for Foreign Affairs:

In the United States and western Europe, at least, democracy and democratic norms have deep roots, and contemporary governments have proved nowhere near as inept as their predecessors in the 1920s and 1930s. Moreover, democratic procedures and institutions, welfare states, political parties, and robust civil societies continue to provide citizens with myriad ways of voicing their concerns, influencing political outcomes, and getting their needs met.

But if governments do not do more to address the many social and economic problems the United States and Europe currently face, if mainstream politicians and parties don’t do a better job reaching out to all citizens, then the West could quickly find itself moving from the former to the latter, adds Berman, a contributor to the National Endowment for Democracy’s Journal of Democracy.


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