This is What Democracy Looks Like? New Populisms and Fascisms in Europe and the U.S.

History 100U

Summer 2018
First 6 Week Session
107 GPBB (Genetics & Plant Biology)
Day & Time: 
MTuWTh, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. | May 21–June 29
Class Number: 

This course has been approved to satisfy an upper division requirement for the Political Science major.

Populism, xenophobia, fascism, anti-Semitism, and neo-Nazism have become prominent features of contemporary democratic politics in the U.S. and Western Europe, most notably since 2016. But populism has a longer history and its definition is elusive. Our main course goals are first, to put the startling events of the last year, chief among them the electoral victory of Donald Trump, into a 20th century comparative historical context, and second, to employ the tools of political theory to gain clarity about the relationship of populism, democracy and fascism. We approach this challenge by examining the similarities and differences between today’s right-wing (or authoritarian) populists with the fascist movements and regimes (including Nazi Germany) of mid-20th century Europe. Students will consider questions such as: Is there a unitary definition of populism, or are left and right-wing populisms more different than alike? Does populism have the potential to deepen democracy or only to disrupt or threaten its survival? To what extent does the steep rise in economic inequality since the late 1970s explain the widespread disgust and loss of trust in liberal democratic institutions? Is the electoral triumph of Trump and growing visibility of the “alt-Right” the outcome of deep strands of white supremacy and racial panic in American history? Or are Trumpism’s roots shallower and more traceable to a recent transnational “populist moment”? Interactive lecture with readings in European and American history, recent journalism and commentary, documentary films, videos.

 If you are a Political Science student and you have questions about your particular situation, please consult with Suzanne McDermott or Efrat Cidon.