Interrogating the Present

Scholars and other experts on historical fascism, populism and right-wing authoritarianism are increasingly commenting on contemporary political developments in essays and opinion pieces. This section collects writings of this genre. It is organized thematically, with (at present) a heavy focus on the US American political scene. As of this writing, it includes mainly writings through 2016. We are working to bring it up to date and will continue to update it frequently, and we also will expand our coverage of other regions of the world.

The syllabus includes materials that should be useful for discussion, debate, and critique. Inclusion of an item does not indicate NFS’s endorsement of the author’s analysis or opinion.



Augstein, Jakob. “Trump beim Namen nennen.” Der Spiegel. 17 November 2016.

Berman, Sheri. “Donald Trump isn’t a fascist.” Vox. 3 January 2017.

Byrnes, Mark. “Trump isn’t a fascist. He has fascist instincts.” History News Network. 24 May 2016.

“Ken Burns: Trump is using Nazi Playbook.” CNN.

“Spicer apologizes for Hitler comparison.” CNN.

Fogu, Claudio. "The Two Faces of Fascism." "ZapLab" on Zapruder World: An International Journal for the History of Social Conflict (ISSN: 2385-1171). 5 September 2017.

De Grazia, Victoria. “Many Call Trump a Fascist. 100 days in, is he just a Republican?” The Guardian. 30 April 2017.

De Grazia highlights the differences in the first 100 days of the Trump presidency with those of his German and Italian counter-parts from the 1920s and 1930s.  

Eley, Geoff. “Is Trump a Fascist?” The New Fascism Syllabus. 21 November 2016.

“Trump Comparison with Hitler” -- An interview with Neil Gregor. Dan Snow’s History Hit Podcast. 17 May 2017.

Herf, Jeffrey. “Is Donald Trump a Fascist?” The American Interest. 7 March 2017.

Humphreys, Justin. “Fascism in America?” Public Seminar. 17 January 2017.

Kinsley, Michael. “Donald Trump is actually a fascist.” The Washington Post. 9 December 2016.

This article can be read in tandem with the Pearl interview with Isabel Hull (see below); Kinsley argues quite the opposite - that a very recognizable agenda has emerged from Trump’s campaign, “in the sense of somebody who sincerely believes that the toxic combination of strong government and strong corporations should run the nation and the world.”

McDougall, James. “No, this isn’t the 1930s - but yes, this is fascism.” The Conversation. 16 November 2016.

Nagorski, Andrew. "Nazi Violence Through American Eyes." The Atlantic, March 13, 2013.

Pearl, Mike. “We Asked a Fascism Expert if Donald Trump is a Fascist.” Vice. 5 December 2016.

This article features an interview with Cornell University’s Isabel Hull, which focuses on placing Trump and his politics on the sliding scale between Republican and Fascist. Hull argues that Trump is “not principled enough to be a Fascist,” and points to the emergence of a discrepancy in American conservatism, especially in relation to the Republican Party.

Salmon, Christian. “Trump, fascism, and the construction of ‘the people’: An Interview with Judith Butler.” Verso Books Blog. 29 December 2016.

Schauer, Jeff. “Trump’s fascism poses existential threat.” California Mwananchi. 26 November 2016.

Steigmann-Gall, Richard. “One expert says yes, Donald Trump is a fascist. And it’s not just Trump.” The Huffington Post. 18 July 2016.

—————. “If Trump really is a fascist, what would a Trump presidency look like?” The Huffington Post. 25 July 2016.

—————. “What the American Left doesn’t understand about fascism.” The Huffington Post. 7 October 2016.

Tucker, Jeffrey. “Waking up to the reality of Fascism.” Foundation for Economic Education. 9 December 2016.

Mintzker, Yair. “Donald Trump’s Ancient Régime.” Project Syndicate. June 1 2017.

This article sees Trump as a modern Louix-XIV (rather than an embodiment of the Fascism of the 1930s.


Bell, David A. “Donald Trump Is Making the Great Man Theory of History Great Again.” Foreign Policy. 12 January 2017.

Ben-Ghiat, Ruth. “Trump is following the authoritarian handbook.” CNN. 17 January 2017.

MacWilliams, Matthew. “That one weird trait that predicts whether you’re a Trump supporter.” Politico Magazine. 17 January 2016.

Macwilliams, Matthew. "Who Decides When the Party Doesn’t? Authoritarian Voters and the Rise of Donald Trump." Political Science and Politics 49:4 (October 2016): 716-721.

Robinson, Nick. “Authoritarian Democracy: A Playbook.” Dissent Magazine. 14 November 2016.

Rosenberg, Paul. “The moral foundations of fascism: Warring psychological theories struggle to make sense of Hitler, Mussolini and you-know-who.” Salon. 4 December 2016.

Ross, Alex. “The Frankfurt School knew Trump was coming.” The New Yorker. 5 December 2016.

A cultural commentary from The New Yorker exploring the perspectives of Adorno, Mann, Horkheimer, and other émigrés in the context of our contemporary [social] media dominated political scene.

Taub, Amanda. “The rise of American authoritarianism.” Vox. 1 March 2016.

This article discusses the correlation between Trump’s campaign and the rise of authoritarianism in America. This piece also seeks to define American authoritarianism, its workings, and what it can explain about contemporary American politics.


“The New Nationalism.” The Economist. 17 November 2016.

Ash, Timothy Garton. “Populists are out to divide use. They must be stopped.” The Guardian. 11 November 2016.

Balibar, Etienne. “Populism and Counter-Populism in the Atlantic Mirror.” openDemocracy. 2 January 2017.

[From link]: “There are three major lessons for we Europeans in the US presidential elections. They necessarily lead us towards the imagining of a transnational counter-populism.”

Beauchamp, Zack. “An Expert on the European Far Right explains the growing influence of anti- immigrant politics.” Vox. 31 May 2016.

D’Eramo, Marco. “Populism and the New Oligarchy.” Translated by Gregory Elliott. The New Left Review 82 (2013).

D’Eramo argues: “In short, as the label [of populism] comes to be applied to the most diverse movements, the phenomenon itself has become increasingly elusive. It would be easier to list what has not been defined as populist. At the same time, as we shall see, the social category from which it has been derived historically, ‘the people’, has all but vanished from political discourse. This essay will offer an explanatory hypothesis for the trajectories of both ‘populism’ and ‘the people’ [...]”

Finchelstein, Federico and Pablo Piccato. “Trump’s macho populism.” openDemocracy. 3 October 2016.

Habermas, Jurgen. “For a democratic polarisation: How to pull the ground from under right-wing populists.” Social Europe. 17 November 2016.

Mouffe, Chantal. “The populist moment.” democraciaAbierta (la seccion latina de openDemocracy). 21 November 2016.

Mudde, Cas, “The Trump Phenomenon and the European Populist Right.” The Washington Post. 26 August 2015.

Müller, Jan-Werner. “Capitalism in One Family.” London Review of Books 38:21 (1 December 2016): 10-14.

—————. “Trump, Erdoǧan, Farage: The attractions of populism for politicians, the dangers for democracy.” The Guardian. 2 September 2016.

This article argues for the need to explore and define what populism truly is, and the ways in which in manifests - especially in our contemporary age. Müller argues “The conventional wisdom that populists want to bring politics closer to the people or even clamour for direct democracy could not be more mistaken. They do say that they are the only ones who care for the “people’s will”, but they are hardly interested in an open-ended, bottom-up process where citizens debate policy issues. What populists take to be the people’s real will is derived from what they stipulate to be the real people.”

Sierakowski, Sławomir. “The Five Lessons of Populist Rule.” Project Syndicate. 2 January 2017.

This article reviews the first year of populist rule in Poland before Trump’s inauguration as POTUS on January 20th. Sierakowski writes “the liberals were wrong. [The Law and Justice Party] (PiS) has transformed itself from an ideological nullity into a party that has managed to introduce shocking changes with record speed and efficiency. Other countries currently anticipating populist rule should take note of its key hallmarks.” He argues that those who choose to resist populism must come to terms with the fact that the “truth is not enough.”

Tamás, G. M. "The Mystery of Populism is Finally Unveilled." openDemocracy: Free Thinking for the World. February 24, 2017.

Williams, Rowan. “A nervous breakdown in the body politic.” New Statesman. 1 May 2016.

Crisis of Neo-Liberalism / Liberal Democracy

Derber, Charles. “Facing Down Trump's Demagoguery: Lessons From Weimar Germany.” Truth-out. 22 July 2016.

Evans, Richard. “Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra review – Globalization is Rebounding on us.” The Guardian. 25 January 2017.

Isaac, Jeffrey C. “How Hannah Arendt’s classic work on totalitarianism illuminates today’s America.” The Washington Post. 17 December 2016.

A brief overview of Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, arguing that because we currently live in dark times, Arendt’s work can speak powerfully to our present moment. Even if these dark times are different, or perhaps less dark (or “differently dark”), Origins can raise a set of fundamental questions about how tyranny can arise, and “the dangerous forms of inhumanity to which it can lead.”

Levitsky, Steven and Daniel Ziblatt. “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The New York Times. 16 December 2016.

The title says it all - this piece explores the ever-important question of whether or not the election of Donald Trump as president is a threat to American democracy. Levitsky and Ziblatt argue “The risk we face, then, is not merely a president with illiberal proclivities — it is the election of such a president when the guardrails protecting American democracy are no longer as secure.”

Mazower, Mark. “Ideas that fed the beast of fascism flourish today.” Financial Times. 6 November, 2016.

Mbembe, Achille. “The Age of humanism is ending.” Mail & Guardian. 22 December 2016.

This argues that, as the result of the emergence of new media, sublimation is no longer necessary, thus resulting in the dislocation from language. Mbembe demonstrates that the dislocation of language and sublimation from form and meaning can explain the growing anti-humanist sentiment that “goes hand in hand with a general contempt for democracy.”

Meyerson, Harold. “Bernie, Hillary, and the Ghost of Ernst Thalmann.” The American Prospect. 13 July 2016.

Runciman, David. “Is this how democracy ends?” London Review of Books 38:23 (1 December 2016): 5-6.

Snyder, Timothy. “Him.” Slate. 18 November 2016.

Weitz, Eric D. “Weimar Germany and Donald Trump.” Tablet. 18 July 2016.

Cultural Studies Frameworks

Grossberg, Lawrence. “There Are No Guarantees in History: A Cultural Studies Perspective on the Current Crisis.” Truthout. 1 January 2017.

Moyd, Michelle and Yuliya Komska. “Trump's redundant, 'post-literate' way of speaking is changing our language.” Business Insider. 17 January 2017.

Prieto, Ana. “Carlo Ginzburg and the Trials of Microhistory.” Verso Books Blog. 15 December 2016.

An interview with Carlo Ginzburg on the subject of “post-truth” politics in the wake of the Brexit vote and Trump’s presidential victory.

Teitelbaum, Benjamin. “Labeling right in the age of Trump.” Oxford University Press Blog. 13 January 2017.

Civil Society: Coordination and Resistance

Grossberg, Lawrence. “There Are No Guarantees in History: A Cultural Studies Perspective on the Current Crisis.” Truthout. 1 January 2017.

Moyd, Michelle and Yuliya Komska. “Trump's redundant, 'post-literate' way of speaking is changing our language.” Business Insider. 17 January 2017.

Prieto, Ana. “Carlo Ginzburg and the Trials of Microhistory.” Verso Books Blog. 15 December 2016.

An interview with Carlo Ginzburg on the subject of “post-truth” politics in the wake of the Brexit vote and Trump’s presidential victory.

Teitelbaum, Benjamin. “Labeling right in the age of Trump.” Oxford University Press Blog. 13 January 2017.

Related Movements Outside the United States


Bucer, Maria. Remembering Romanian Fascism; Worrying About America. Losing Our Moral Compass Between Past and Future.  Public Seminar, New School for Social Research, September 3, 2017.

Faiola, Anthony and Stephanie Kirchner. “In Germany, the language of Nazism is no longer buried in the past.” The Washington Post. 9 December 2016.

Nowak, Marysia and Becky Branford. “France Elections: What makes Marine le Pen far right?” BBC News. 12 January 2017.


The Former Yugoslavia:

Buric, Fedja. "Niceness is the Face of EvilUSA Today, April 17, 2017.

Buric, Fedja. "Trums Not Hitler, He's Mussolini. How GOP anti-intellectualism created a modern fascist movement in America" Salon March 3 2016

Bakoc, Jovo. Right Wing Nationalism in Serbia. Berlin: Friederich Ebert Stiftung, 2011.

Listhaug, Ola; Sabrina P. Ramet, Dragana Dulić, eds., Civic and Uncivic Values: Serbia in the Post-Milošević EraBudapest; New York: Central European University Press, 2011.

Aljko, Ivana. When Fascist Right-wingers Take Over the Arts: Croatia as a Cautionary Tale, Haaretz September 10, 2017.

Hedges, Chris. Fascists Reborn as Croatia's Founding Fathers, New York Times April 12, 1997.

International Crisis Group, Bosnia’s Dangerous Tango: Islam and Nationalism, Europe Briefing (70), 26 February 2013



Gambetti, Zeynep. “Ankara’s war on peace.” openDemocracy. 17 October 2016.

Tugal, Cihan. “Turkey coup aftermath: between neo-fascism and Bonapartism.” openDemocracy. 18 July 2016.


Debates on "Islamofascism":

Die Welt Des Islams 52:3-4 (2012). A special issue on "Islamofascism" (in English).

Eskow, Richard (RJ). “Hitchens’ Weak Defense of ‘Islamo-Fascism.’” Huffington Post. 23 October 2007.

Hitchens, Christopher. “Defending Islamofascism.” Slate. 22 October 2007.

Laqueur, Walter. “The Origins of Fascism: Islamic Fascism, Islamophobia, Antisemitism.” OUPblog. 25 October 2006.

Safire, William. “Islamofascism.” The New York Times. 1 October 2006.

Tuğal, Cihan. The Fall of the Turkish Model: How the Arab Uprisings Brought Down Islamic Liberalism. London: Verso, 2016. 

What Is Islamofascism? 31 August 2006.Wien, Peter. “Nationalism, Communism, and Fascism in the Modern Middle East.” Ottoman History Podcast. 3 December 2016.



Ophir, Adi. "From Occupy to the Occupation: Indeterminate Temporariness," Tikkun 31/4 (2016) pp. 30-33.

Segev, Tom, "Netanyahu's fairytale about Hitler and the mufti is the last thing we need," The Guardian 21 October 2015.


South Asia:

Menon, Dilip M. “The Emperor's new khadi: Understanding Narendra Modi's monarchical frame of history.” 17 January 2017.

Additional Resources

“Trump 101.” Chronicle of Higher Education. 19 June 2016.

Connolly, N.D.B. and Keisha N. Blain. “Trump Syllabus 2.0.” Public Books. 8 June 2016.

Crawford, Nyron and Matt Wray. “Trump Syllabus 3.0.” Public Books. 24 January 2017.

Blum-Ross. “Ethnographic approaches to understanding Trump/Brexit/new rise of conservatism.”

A collection of materials suggested by anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists and others in response to question of what we should read/discuss in light of the victories of both Donald Trump in the US and the Brexit campaign in the UK.

Gust, Onni. “The Brexit Syllabus: British History for Brexiters.” History Workshop. 5 September 2016.