Carlos de la Torre and Enrique Peruzzotti
The Latin American historical experience with populist regimes as well as the theoretical reflections produced by Latin Americanists are particularly relevant not just for determining the nature of a very contested political concept but also for understanding the logic of populism in government and the threats it poses to liberal democratic regimes. Populism in government or the attempt at stabilizing a populist regime is no novelty for Latin America, a continent where populism has been a constant presence in politics since the 1930s. Along with their inclusionary impulse, those experiences left a long-lasting troublesome institutional and cultural legacy of political polarization, weak institutions, and recurrent authoritarianism. Populism made a comeback in several countries during the novel democratic period, largely due to the severe crisis that many of the democratic regimes encountered. Inspired by radical democratic ideals, contemporary populism actively engaged in a politics of regime transformation.
More than any time in over 50 years, Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign provoked a serious discussion of the threat of fascism at the level of presidential politics. During the campaign, it was above all Trump’s scapegoating of immigrants that gave rise to the conversation about fascism—first tying Mexicans to crime, drugs and rape, and then doubling down on Muslims. Since the inauguration, observers’ fears of fascism have expanded to include the Trump administration’s wholesale subversion of democratic norms and its affinity with the illiberal, or authoritarian, international zeitgeist. However, the more accurate historical analogy to the current moment is not the rise of fascism in the wake of World War I. but to what Poulantzas, Organski and Bottomore outlined as fascistogenic conditions. It behooves us to consider what transpired in the transition from the early twentieth century blossoming of “othering” nationalism to the rise of fascism.
Federico Finchelstein and Nadia Urbinati
Populism became the name of a form of government after the demise of Fascism. As a political form located between constitutional government and dictatorship, it displays family resemblances with opposite political systems, like liberal democracy and fascism. Today, populism grows within both democratizing and fully democratic societies although it takes its most mature riling profile in representative democracies, which are its real target. Historically, it used representation to construct a holistic image of the people that a leader promised to bring into power at the cost of downplaying pluralism and humiliating political and cultural minorities, thus twisting democratic procedures and institutions in ways that stretched it to democracy’s extreme borders. One of the core arguments of this article is that populism is a transfiguration of representative democracy that attempts once in government to reshape the democratic fundamentals, from the people and the majority principles to elections.
The diffusion of both nationalism and populism is the symptom of a crisis in European democracies. The convergence of nationalist ideology and populist rhetoric is the major challenge that the European Union faces today and can be effectively countered by developing the political project of a truly democratic and supranational union. In this article, I will first outline the distinctive features of nationalism and populism. I will then analyse the major factors fostering the rise of national populism in the European Union countries, and I will conclude by discussing its more effective alternative.