Throughout his academic career, Federico Finchelstein has mined the history of fascism and populism, authoring five books on the Dirty Wars, the Holocaust, and the Jewish experience in Latin America and Europe.
Now, Finchelstein is turning his attention to the United States—a country where Donald Trump, the demagogic, dictator-praising real estate mogul, is campaigning to be the next president.
Over the last year, Finchelstein, chair of the History Department at The New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College, has become the media’s go-to authority on the often populist (and sometimes fascistic) tone of Trump’s candidacy. Thus far, he’s been interviewed by Politico, CNN, and The New York Times, among other publications.
Finchelstein also recently took his expertise to Germany—a country dealing with its own resurgence in rightwing populism—for a wide-ranging lecture at Dresden Technical University.
“My lecture was on the fascist origins of populism and how this fascist genealogy connects to past and current populist leaders and movements, especially on the right, including Donald Trump in the United States, Marine Le Pen in France and the Pegida movement in Germany,” he says. “It was a privilege to discuss these issues at Dresden Technical University where some of the foremost experts on the new German and European right teach such as Professor Hans Vorlander.”
Finchelstein explains populism as “a post-fascist formation that straddles democracy and more dictatorial forms.”
“All in all, and as result of its post-war rejection of fascist violence and its engagement with democratic forms, populism presents an authoritarian understanding of democracy that especially on its right wing variants stresses racism, xenophobia and anti-migratory thinking and combines these anti-democratic forms with anti-political denunciations of the elites,” he says. “Populism rejects pluralism and presents a unitary notion of the people as an homogeneous majority. There is no important role for minorities in populism and the result is that democracy is undermined or even challenged from within.”