The Echo of the Past
The systems of social, cultural and political currents of the interwar period (1919-38) -- and its economic depression; played out as the world newly had started to recover from its vast human losses and enormous material devastations after World War I (1914-18). This unstable upheaval revealed and nurtured the growth of a violent populism and nationalism in the world; which ultimately triggered World War II (1939-45). This war constituted a great tragedy and disaster for humanity. Though different historical epochs and contexts might have different systemic outcomes: As a result, contemporary trends of national populism might take another path, than the violent national populism that swept across the world in the interwar period. The growth of national populism is typically nurtured by periods of great upheavals or unstable societal systems; such as vast flows of immigrants, the trends towards a weakening of the nation states and increased unemployment, hot conflicts in the world, strong cultural, ethnic and religious differences, economic crisis, political unrest, and social and economic inequality. The unstable systems of the interwar period forecasted World War II: What will our contemporary national populism forecast? What can we learn from the echo of the past? And ultimately; how challenging or even dangerous might todays national populism be for the conflict situation in our world? We need to be aware of the potential dangers of the reoccurring national populism. This national populism may lead to either negative or positive societal system changes, based on the range and depth of societal problems or conflicts it is rooted in; and its historical anchoring, what kind of nationalism it is embedded in; hence the type of national populism it becomes, and is played out in our society. We have stepped into a new historical epoch. Will the 21th century be the start of the age of national populism? Or, will this period, most likely; be a temporary reaction to system instability, before our societal system again regains its balance? To prevent nostalgia to win over renewal; aggression to win over reconciliation; and elites to win over people; this should be of our concern: To prohibit further human catastrophes from happening, we need to start scrutinizing national populism in a neutral and objective manner without bias, and also start analysing national populism in a more comprehensive way as a not so surprisingly reaction to complex and unstable societal systems or upheavals (it has happened before). The assertions, questions and hypothesis stated in this introduction also needs to be analysed more deeply. But in this essay the task is to access these challenges from a systemic approach, such as by empirically mapping out the various purposes behind national populism and the different systemic contexts and drivers of the interwar or interbellum's national populism compared to contemporary national populism. This will be followed by a clarifying conclusion, and a rather uplifting epilogue and encouragement to humanity. To achieve this the concept of populism; its theoretical foundations; and populisms evident links to nationalism, must first be clarified.
Populism and nationalism
The concept of populism and its theoretical foundations
To approach national populism as a notion, this theoretical section will start by mapping out the contours of the concept of populism and its theoretical foundations. Populism can be dated back to the 1860-70s, and is therefore a quite a new phenomenon, in historical terms. There is, however, a major concern among scientist who apply populism as a notion in their scientific works:
"Populism is a concept applied to a wide range of political movements and actors across the globe. There is, at the same time, considerable confusion about the attributes and manifestation of populism, as well as its impact on democracy" (Abts and van Kessel 2015, p. 609).
This sitation by Abst and van Kessel (2015) states that the most fundamental problems to our notion of populism; is its thoroughly blurry or fuzzy appliance in contemporary scientific literature on populism and of its nature as a collective term. This theoretical part will therefore aim at discussing the boundaries for its scientific appliance, by analysing its different functions and political capacity. This process will hopefully result in the creation of a functional understanding of the concept of populism and narrow down its appliance. Abst and van Kessel (2015) narrows down populism to be regarded as a political concept, and discuss this concept in context of its impact on democracy, by introducing its historical origins: They trace populism's origin back to Russian modern populism (1860-70s), were its core idea was that authentic wisdom was found in the common people (Abst and van Kessel 2015; Taggert 2000). In the American populist movement, however; a democratic promise to its people was given to present its common will. This populist movement was founded in the 1880s and was described by its contrasting division of the common people or the silent majority; opposed to a corrupt elite: The elite was characterized by low moral values and by not being concerned by or ignoring the common peoples interest, values and needs (Abst and van Kessel 2015: 609; Abst and Rummens 2007, p. 409; Goodwyn 1976). In the mid-twentieth century Latin American populism, however, a new function was added to the repertoire; nation-building under a charismatic and centralized leadership (Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 609). During the 1980s the concept of populism, however, went through a phase were the appliance of the term became more blurry and fuzzy and the name "populist" was given to a wide range of politicians with fundamentally different leader styles, traits, intentions and relations to the common people, such as the Latin American Collor, Mendem, Chavez and Obrador; and Haider, Le Pen, Wilders and Dewinter in Western Europe; Hanson in Australia; Buchanan, Perot, Manning and Trump in the United States and Canada; and Meciar, Milosevic, Lukashenko and Orban in the post-communist states (Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 609). In contemporary politics, populism shows yet another turn towards nationalism: Media's observations wants us to pay particularly attention to populism's evident relations to nationalism, such as in Trump's, Hofer's and Le Pen's politics. Their national populism is described by the media as a "new" nationalistic wave within our populistic framework (The Economist 2016, p. 1). Though, history, such as the interwar period, has shown us that populism, which draws on nationalism, is not at all a new phenomenon, in political terms. Instead of a "new nationalism" (The Economist 2016, p. 1), we are rather experiencing a recurring phenomenon within our contemporary societal system. This vast trend is explicitly observed, expressed and documented by scientists and journalists. These kind of trends towards increased nationalism are typically seen in times of refractions, such as in the great upheavals of the interwar period or in our contemporary societal systems. Taken together; the media's and the scientist's contributions on observing and revealing this comprehensive trend and the historical attributes of populism, have made great contributions to our contemporary understanding of the notion of national populism, as an increasingly challenging and emerging phenomenon and movement within our societal systems. In the next theoretical section nationalism will be defined. This will sort out the hybrid notion of nationalism and populism: National populism. But, now, let’s turn our curiosity towards our contemporary scientific discoveries on the emerging populist movement within our societal system.
This populist movement builds on its historical origins and cuts through a wide range of societal areas such as politics, culture, religion, economy and in many ways also penetrate various social phenomenon’s in our society -- as well as it is effected by these areas. The wide range of areas which populism has impact on and is affected by, is what makes it fundamentally challenging to define a narrow and functional definition of populism. To achieve this, the concept of populism in this essay, will be regarded as an political concept (as in Abst and van Kessel's essay), although other societal areas is taken into account, when necessary for understanding its functional appliance. The different conceptualizations of populism are constituted by three different functions, according to Abst and van Kessel (2015, p. 609): Political mobilization, a way of communication and by its typical organization. Populism defined by the process of mobilizing voters rely on a particularly simplistic and fixed rhetorical ways of mobilizing voters, such as suggesting simplistic societal solutions to complex societal challenges, to win votes. This basic way of communicating appeals to the common sense of the ordinary people. The people's voices is regarded as being transparent to the leader mediating it (Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 610). This phenomenon of communicating is possible, because the people is regarded as one homogeneous body or unit, which permits a direct way of mediating, connecting to, presenting or proclaiming the common people's will (Abst and van Kessel 2015). They are opposed to the centralized power of the established elites. This societal dichotomy of two homogeneous bodies suggests a highly simplified or fictional view on society. Our different societies are highly complex and diverse, so are the people and the elites, and their needs, interests and opinions. However, the common people; us, is characterized as a unit of horizontal, localized and dispersed power. The people whom belongs to this collective mass have similar national characteristics, such as preferably citizens with a common language, religion, culture and heritage, rather than immigrants, outsiders and other minorities. The common people are set up against them who consists of the established power of corporate elites, media, intellectuals, bankers, EU technocrats and politicians (Wills 2015, p. 188):
"[I]t is argued that populism revolves around a central antagonistic relationship between 'the people' and 'the elite'. Populism is an "appeal to 'the people' against both the established structure of power and the dominant ideas and values of society" (Abst and van Kessel 2015: 609; Canovan 1999, p. 3). The establishment is attached for its privileges, its corruption, for its lack of accountability to the people. Elites are accused of representing only their own interests and of being alienated from the real interests, values and opinions of the common man" (Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 610).
In this way, populism counteracts with established power structures, existing and dominating ideas and values of the society and centralized power configurations. Populism as an ideology, argues that the established elites or mainstream politicians fails to connect with its people’s real lives, emotions, interests and values. However, this understanding of the people as one homogeneous body, is not concerned by different social groups diverse needs and it dismisses the fact that citizens of a country on the contrary is rather heterogeneous and compound. Neither does it explain what kind of identity this homogeneous body consists of. This makes it questionable for its charismatic leader to mediate its common will. It still stands steady on its arguments that the citizens of its nation or nation state is homogenous, and that populism must be understood as an attempt to restore popular sovereignty to its homogeneous body of people (Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 610): "Popular sovereignty evolves around the idea that political systems should be based on the rule of the people and their consent mediated through the centralized power of their political leaders. Populism as an organization, relies on this unified block of common people, led by a charismatic leader, who have the gifts of mediating the wisdom of their people by presenting them, as opposed to representing them, through a so-called leader-mass linkage". Müller (2016), approach to defining the concept of populism is related to populism's leader-mass linkage. His definition surely leaves out many (mis)understandings from popular parlance: "Populists believe that they alone speak in the people's name and that their political opponents are illegitimate" (Müller 2016; in Østerud 2016, p. 1). These different functions and understandings of populism discussed in this theoretical section makes it possible to narrow down populism to one functional and parent definition:
"Populism relies on the existence of two contrasting and separate homogeneous bodies, whom are in conflict: The ordinary people; "us" ; who express a dispersed, localized and horizontal power in protest, as opposed to a degraded elite with centralized power; "them". Populism favours the expression of the politics of the rule of the people by consent, mediated through a political leader who identify himself or herself as the only legitimate leader to communicate the people's popular sovereignty".
Populism as a political framework; consisting of these two bodies, is regarded as a so-called thin-centred ideology, because of its simplistic dichotomy and views on society (Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 609), and for its lack of accountability to its citizens of immigrants, minorities and outsiders. This ideology does not give an comprehensive vision of our society, such as bringing up suggestions on complex societal economic restructuring, e.g. Trump who has throughout his career, according to Frontline (2016), been acting more as a promoter and a salesman rather than a director. But it is in the overall effort during the actual presidency, a president surrounded by his or her carefully selected team, can show their real contribution and implement the bigness of their promises – or show their lack of moral virtues towards all their citizens. The populist’s political content is however very often unclear or not elaborated. It also may fail to protect the democratic rights of its immigrants, minorities and outsiders in its nation states or nations, who does not belong to its homogenous body of citizens, and therefore is not mediated through its charismatic leader.
To summarize this theoretical section on populism, Stanley (2011, p. 257) however states that all forms of populism evolves around at least three of these following five core concepts of populism:
- The existence of two homogeneous units of analysis: 'the people' and 'the elite'.
- The anatgonistic relationship between the people and the elite.
- The idea of popular sovereignty.
- The positive valorisation of 'the people' and denigration of 'the elite'.
In addition to Stanley's four core concepts, the people and its charismatic leader often identifies a counterpart in a conflict, they whom does not belong to the homogeneous body of the people or are friends of the people and therefore is the enemy (P2 2016). This friend-enemy dichotomy has emerged as a distrust of mainstream politicians and as a resolution of the right-left axis in contemporary politics (P2 Norway 2016). In this way, and very simplified, populism consists of a Schmittean 'friend-enemy' division between the common people versus the elite and the people's counterparts (Stanley 2011: 257). According to Mudde (2007; in Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 610) populism as a collective term, can be found on the radical right-wing, as well as neoliberal populists and as social populists. This essay will, however, concentrate on the violent growth of national populism on the right wing, by drawing on two contrasting types of nationalism and the term nation. This diverse and controversial national populism might pose a challenge to democratic values and rights and societal system stability. The growth of national populism is by scientists, who are devoted to system theory, analysed as one of six megatrends or currents in our global society according to Schot (2016).
The joint key to a comprehensive systemic understanding of national populism must at least provide a definition of national populism as one of six megatrends, and this notions systemic drivers and contexts, and what driving forces it counteracts with. National populism is among six "[m]egatrends [which] are large, transformative global forces that impact everyone on the planet" (EY 2015). According to Schot (2016) these megatrends interacts with each other and might reinforce or counteract with each other. Among these six contemporary megatrends are unemployment, economic and social inequality, sustainability, urbanism, individualism and nationalism as a reaction to the weakening of the nation state (Schot 2016). These positive and negative megatrends flow back and forth like the tide in our societal system and are driven by underlying systemic drivers (which will be defined bellow in this theoretical section). This brief essay will argue that the currents of national populism is a reaction to the violent upheavals or unstable systems we are experiencing, which currently sweeps across our contemporary global society. At the moment of transition from one techno-economic paradigm to another, great conflicts or violent upheavals may appear. Perez (2010, p. 189) defines a techno-economic paradigm as "a best practice model for the most effective ways of using the new technologies within and beyond the new industries" of the novel techno-economic paradigm. In times of transition changes happens rapidly. Although our global society always is in a phase of change and adaption, in the moment of transition from one techno-economic paradigm to another, changes happens more rapidly. These rapid changes may take form of turmoil and tensions, turbulences, instabilities, unrest and disunity, conflicts and unease. At the same time these violent upheavals also contribute to groundbreaking possibilities for radical changes within our global societal systems in form of technological revolutions. These groundbreaking possibilities consists of great spaces of opportunities to seize knowledge on radical innovations and master the new technologies of the novel techno-economic paradigms (Perez 2010, p. 190). The techno-economic paradigm created co-evolve with historical conditions and affects the behaviour of political, social, cultural and economic currents in our global society, and their idiosyncrasy. The negative megatrends in shape of great societal turbulence are particularly evident in times of refractions. Populism, which draws on nationalism is typically nurtured by these times of refractions and argue that they want to reinforce the nation state and restore the popular sovereignty of their national homogeneous body of people. Nationalism has, however, throughout the centuries, and is still highly causing, violent challenges to our contemporary nation states; its existence, its political configurations and constitutions, its security for all citizens across the world, and also for our global societal system stability. Nationalism is therefore a highly politically controversial and potent notion with inherently negative and positive connotations (Østerud 1994). Nationalism is not just a powerful political weapon but is also utilized to achieve specific purposes by politicians or political movements (Østerud 1994, p. 9). The meaning embedded in this term depends strongly on which of two rival camps whom you belong to: Its followers or its opponents (Østerud 1994, p. 9). Østerud (1994, p. 9) argues that its various meaning depends on who you are, where you come from and how you identify yourself as a human being in a global world. Contemporary nationalism can therefore be understood as both identity politics and cultural politics (P2 2016). While identity politics can be defined as
"a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics", cultural politics can be defined as the "set of attitudes, beliefs and sentiments that give order and meaning to a political process and which provide the underlying assumptions and rules that govern behaviour in the political system" (Internet 1 2016).
The complex identity politics and diverse cultural politics or politics of emotions embodied in contemporary populism, which draws on nationalism, reveals hugely different contents of meaning for various people. It defines what kind of identity and set of cultural rules, norms and beliefs, which constitutes each citizen political conduct in a political system and also guides each individuals’ understandings of nationalism according to Østerud (1994):
"Some people embodies concepts of patriotism, freedom struggle, community, high ideals - that it is worth dying for, in their understanding of the term nationalism, while for others nationalism is associated with a deadly virus that spreads, mass psychosis and irrational violence" (Østerud 1994, p. 10).
After World War II, however, these connotations have changed in most Western and Northern European countries in favour of negative connotations of the parent notion, such as political aggression, xenophobia, military expansion, and discrimination of minorities (Østerud 1994, p. 10). In Norway, these negative connotations, has resulted in attempts of replacing the term nationalism with the more positive or neutral term; det nasjonale (the national), according Østerud (1994, p. 10). Østerud (1994, p. 10) argues that the purpose of this diversion manoeuvre was to associate this "new" term with patriotic national traditions, events and phenomenon’s, such as the Wergeland’s tradition, the constitution celebration, the resistance movement and children’s parades – a nationalism to be proud of. But for others this has not succeeded; the strongly negative associations still lingered (Østerud 1994, p. 10). Among these positive and negative connotations Østerud (1994, p. 15) has succeeded in creating a neutral and objective definition on nationalisms' core:
"Nationalism is a doctrine of independence and self-event of a collective, a nation. If we know what the nation is, we have half the key to nationalism. The second half is doctrinal motive power, the driving forces and historical conditions that give the national idea strength".
The first key to nationalism; suggests that once the vast complexity of the nation is defined and the challenges in sorting out the diversity of national identity is set, the rivalry on who whom belongs to the nation starts, and what kind of nation-building, national solidarity and collective this nationalism suggests to reinforce the nation or the nation state. Though, this rivalry is complicated to sort out, because for scientist who analyse the notions of nationalism, there is as with populism, quite a few challenges to define the borders of this notion and related terms necessary to understand the parent notion, and; it simultaneously cuts across the right-left axis in contemporary politics. This confusion and ambiguity are what makes nationalism such an explosive political weapon, with both hidden and obvious agendas -- its diverse and contrasting messages and intentions attacks from multiple political directions and at multiple geographical scales. There is however also a great challenge to define the nation, as a homogeneous collective, in a global world with continuously more diverse and heterogeneously composition of citizens. Each country's composition of people are becoming highly complex, compound and comprehensive. It is therefore a need to define the notion of the term nation to understand nationalism as a foundation for populism.
The second key to understanding nationalism; its doctrinal power, relies on an identification of its driving forces or systemic drivers and how these systemic drivers are embedded in historically anchored events, traditions and phenomenon’s, which reinforce trends towards nationalism. To make a systemic approach in understanding national populism there is, however, also fundamental to understand the systemic context, or what is nurturing the resurgence of national populism, and of which systemic forces it counteracts with. But this theoretical part will focus on the systemic drivers or the doctrinal motive power. (The different systemic contexts or historical conditions of the interwar period and the contemporary systemic context will be discussed in the empirical section).
Systemic drivers / Doctrinal motive power...
What it counteracts with: As a result of the systemic drivers hidden behind vast contemporary currents or megatrends, such as the long-term historical trends towards secularization or this centuries increased qualitative globalization and pluralism, there are strong currents in cultural, social, political, religious and economic areas towards nationalism; revealing as a vast resurgence of cultural, ethnic and religious currents of national distinctiveness globally and a quest for identity among individuals globally (individualism). This joint resurgence is putting pressure on our global society of political systems and counteracts with pluralistic values, capitalism and globalization. Populism is understood by Müller (2016) as the opposite to pluralism, because it does not address the diverse cultural identity within its homogeneous body of people or an integration of its elites (Morgenbladet 2016). While the strong trends towards individualism and national distinctiveness counteracts with pluralism and globalization, the strong trends towards unemployment and social and economic inequality has led to a national populistic counteraction or distrust of mainstream politicians and of capitalism and a vast feeling of social and economic injustice among national populistic voters (Bosacki 2006; in Todorov 2016). Capitalism and politicians may have failed to allocate resources nationally and globally (P2 2016). This feeling of injustice, homogenization of national distinctiveness caused by globalization, unemployment, and feeling of top-down political pressure of pluralism, which have been necessary to accommodate increased flows of immigrants, has resulted in vast trends towards nationalism and populism across the world.
This brings us towards to two very contrasting notions on nationalism, which populism draws on. Most contemporary scientists will however argue that populism brings only negative contributions to our society and political systems; particularly populism based on ethnic or cultural nationalism. But, the fact is that populism draws on two very contrasting notions of nationalism, which constitutes our world's diverse societal systems: Civic nationalism and ethnic or cultural nationalism (Østerud 1994). The fundamental differences in the world between countries based on civic nationalism and ethnic or cultural nationalism, is its parent attitudes towards inclusiveness or exclusiveness (Internet 2 2016): Countries based on civic nationalism, tends to be far more democratic, inclusive and peaceful, than those based on ethnic nationalism. But in reality these two very contrasting types of nationalism are overlapping (Internet 2 2016). Ethnic nationalism, is present in immigration policies and laws in; Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and Turkey, and laws on citizenship in; Germany, Philippines and Greece (Internett 2 2016). This might imply that the concept of ethnic nationalism is constituted in laws and policies, even in western democratic countries, although they are more perceived as being based on civic nationalism (Internet 2 2016). These different policies and laws may result in different growth environment for emerging milieus of radical right-wing national populism based on the country of origin and these countries attitudes towards parent inclusiveness, and; the character of its democratic governance or its lack of existing democratic values and rights. The author suggests that exclusiveness creates a 'negative' ethnic or cultural nationalism; based on racism, aggressive behaviour, zero-sum games and plays on historic "ideals" and nostalgia (The Economist 2016 p. 1). 'Negative' nationalism or ethnic nationalism may be a symptom of, and simultaneous extend phases of systemic societal instability. This instability may result in aggression, turmoil and tension, inequality, conflicts and polarization, segregation, disunity, war and racism (The Economist 2016). Imperialism, colonialization, armed conflicts such as civil wars and military interventions are examples of what ethnic nationalism may result in. Ethnic nationalism creates a negative foundation for populism and results in a negative national populism. 'Positive' civic nationalism, on the other hand, is characterized by reconciliation, freedom, equality and citizens uniting on universal values. Citizens inspired by civic nationalism may, in this way gather around common values and achieve greater things together than alone (The Economist 2016). These kind of civic society citizens may even build, rebuild, or strengthen their nation states, in form of expressing their inclusiveness, freedom, patriotism, renewal and by being forward-looking. This civic nationalism can create a "positive" foundation for populism, which results in a positive national populism, which potentially may unite the world around universal values and enhance positive system changes (Rovella 2016, p. 1), -- such as peace and stability in the world.
At its best, populism which draws on nationalism therefore reinforce societal renewal and forward-looking ideas, universal values, such as freedom, equality, mutual respect and conciliation, at its worst it gluttons in nostalgia, historical "ideals", anti-immigration attitudes and aggression (The Economist 2016, p. 1). The former version might reinforce societal progress and innovation, global societal stability and peace. Fundamental principles of economic growth and innovation thrive in political stable systems, such as solidly embedded democracies, but crumbles under unstable political regimes or unstable societal systems. The latter version of national populism might complicate integrative diplomatic solutions, which might serve as a foundation for global societal stability, further political and economic innovations that can enhance global economic growth and prosperity. It may cause tension and turmoil, disunity and war. Taken together; populism which draws on ethnic or cultural nationalism creates a negative national populism, which enforces societal instability, and it counteracts with populism which draws on civic nationalism. The latter may create a positive national populism and empower societal stability. Though, populism which draws on nationalism, is a concept easy to manipulate by politicians:
"Nationalism is a slippery concept, which is why politicians find it so easy to manipulate. At its best, it unites the country around common values to accomplish things that people could never manage alone. This “civic nationalism” is conciliatory and forward-looking—the nationalism of the Peace Corps, say, or Canada’s inclusive patriotism or German support for the home team as hosts of the 2006 World Cup. Civic nationalism appeals to universal values, such as freedom and equality. It contrasts with “ethnic nationalism”, which is zero-sum, aggressive and nostalgic and which draws on race or history to set the nation apart. In its darkest hour in the first half of the 20th century ethnic nationalism led to war" (The Economist 2016, p. 1).
The World War II and many of todays armed conflicts shows what populism based on etnic nationalism have caused. Historical epochs dominated by ethnic nationalism is typically more unstable and aggressive and may result in human tragedies in the world, even though it's not war in your backyard. In periods of less societal instability or in solidly embedded democracies, national populism will rather take the shape of civic populism and renew or rebuild our global societies. This fundamentally negative and positive contrast between these yet closely related types of nationalism, which national populism draws on, is what makes this populism nurtured by nationalism such a "slippery concept". Both strategies towards engaging voters rely on inciting and connecting to people’s emotions. This makes it easy for leading politicians, whom understand the power of these two concepts, to gain power by manoeuvring in the landscape of the notions positive and negative connotations, such as Trump did in the US presidential election. This landscape of identity and politics of emotions is also familiar to Le Pen representing National Front; the far right-wing national populistic candidate, for the French presidential election, in spring 2017. Manoeuvring through this emotional landscape is also typical for the far right-wing and extreme candidate Norbert Hofer in the presidential election in Austria 4th of December 2016, with his campaign "Für Östrreich mit Hertz und Seele" (For Austria with Heart and Soul). All these national populist's politics consists of identity politics and cultural politics or politics of emotions. The radical right-wing politician’s national populism include all five of the academic understandings of the concepts of populism. The other Austrian candidate; whom belongs to green centre left; van der Bellen's campaign, however, wanted his citizens to rather vote for "Vernunft statt Extreme" (Reason rather than extreme). In this election reason won. The battle for identity politics and politics of emotions that seems to form a stark contrast to reason, continues. But is this distinction to simplified? It surely is, because
Müller stressed that the sharp distinction between reason and emotion are misleading. There may be good reasons why many are angry when they are marginalized and threatened by unemployment and falling wages. Many can explain rationally why they vote for protest parties. (Müller 2016 in Østerud 2016, p. 1).
It is therefore more rightful to analyse national populism characterized by strongly negative and positive connotations, which draws on both emotion and reason. When people are marginalized and unemployed, they want change, a change they mean they have not experienced by voting for mainstream politician intentions. To understand the core of this highly contrasting and ambiguous national populistic politics, we need to make a systemic turn by comparing the interwar or interbellum's populism and the contemporary populism as expressions of complex societal systems, with rather different contexts: The old model of national populism versus the new model of national populism, as well as analysing the counterarguments.
EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS: A COMPARISON
Contemporary National Populism versus Interbellum National Populism: Past and Current Nationalism
To analyse the systems of the interwar populism and contemporary populism closer, the core of this essay's empirical analysis will be a political analysis of our contemporary populism with the national populism that took root during the interwar period. The author will also argue for this statement: For a violent populism to emerge and become dominant in the world, it has to be embedded in ongoing historical conflicts; which has relevance to the contemporary conflict situation in the world, such as national populism embodied in identity politics and cultural politics (P2 2016). Formulated more outspoken; for a populistic wave; which draws on nationalism, to become challenging or even dangerous, it needs to be deeply historically rooted in an unsolved identity situation and cultural conflict, which contribute to unstable political systems and therefore an unstable societal system. To explore these assertions I will start with a joint analysis of the contextual differences and similarities of the two epochs of national populism, and then turn to two separate systemic analysis of national populisms challenges to contemporary democracies frameworks of rights and values, and end this empirical section with some words on the interwar period as a signal of war. To achieve this there is a fundamentally strong need to reveal the different systemic contexts, the megatrends or currents, and systemic drivers behind the interwar and contemporary societal systems. This challenge will take shape of a political analysis of the two areas of national populism and will therefore be discussed as potential threat to democracies and political system stability, which also may affect a global societal system stability. National populism's attributes exist, as mentioned in the theoretical section, in a vast contrasting "positive" and "negative" terrain of connotations. Politicians' actions, utterances and opinions may therefore seem rather unpredictable and ambiguous, and their appliance of the notion; national populism, in praxis among people may therefore also cause confusion in our societies. This is due to the fussy and blurry appliance of both the content of populism and nationalism in media, by scientists and in the political sphere. However, the symbiosis of both negative and positive connotations and functions of national populism, fuelled by both reason and emotions, is what gives the different variations of national populism, enormously diverse and contrasting impacts on our society, impacts which sometimes has proved to have catastrophic outcomes for humanity:
"As a form of horizontal political power, populism has been instrumental to legal, agrarian, and social reforms through the years. But it’s also played a starring role in the rise of demagogues and therefore some of the ugliest episodes in human history" (Rovella 2016, p. 1).
To explore these different roles and challenges national populism has played in our global society; both in the interwar and in contemporary politics, the author will now turn towards an analysis of the two epochs of national populisms' contextual differences and similarities.
A Contextual Comparison of Two Epochs of National Populism
Contemporary Nationalism – A threat to Democracy?
Contemporary national populism is a counteraction to capitalism, globalization, homogenization of distinctive national, ethnic, and cultural distinctiveness, and is an expression of anti-immigration, anti-pluralistic attitudes and individualism. This is caused by vast flows of immigrants, the trends towards a weakening of the nation states and increased unemployment, hot conflicts in the world, strong cultural, ethnic, and religious differences, economic crisis, political unrest, and social and economic inequality. These pending political challenges have great impact on the stability of our global community and have become embodied in most contemporary cultural, political, social, religious and social currents. According to Wallace-Wells (2016), the systemic trend observed by the media as a wave of nationalism and authoritarianism, currently sweeps across our global society and is seen both in democratic and less democratic countries in the world:
"Since the Arab Spring, nationalism and authoritarianism have been on the rise in both the largest and the freest countries, some of which have voted for more-autocratic leaders, and also in less democratic countries, where strongmen have strengthened their grips: in Egypt, the United Kingdom, Russia, India, Turkey, the Philippines, and China" (Wallace-Wells 2016, p. 1).
We are experiencing a protest or counteraction to pluralism, capitalism and globalization, because increased globalization, enabled by the Internet revolution, makes the citizens of our world more aware of and informed about economic and social inequality, unemployment and political unrest in their country and around the world:
"For the first time, people across the world have awakened politically and are becoming unusually active. They can be easily mobilised as they often share radical postulates. Note that the recent riots in Nepal, Bolivia, Kyrgyzstan, Africa and elsewhere have a very similar basis: populism, radicalism and a sense of deep social injustice. And that is what is new. People see how the other part of the world lives [...]. And they can see it thanks to the growing access to the mass media, especially to television and the Internet. This fever for news leads, unfortunately, to extremes and sometimes to bloodshed" (Bosacki 2006 in Todorov 2016).
In addition to increased flows of information, through television, media and internet and a deep sense of economic and social injustice, historically embedded cultural, ethnical and religious conflicts, is complicating and poses great challenges to societal stability of our democracies. At the same time, we are experiencing positive trends such as decreased poverty and economic growth in the world. The media on the other hand is purely focusing on the negative trends, therefore the media needs to take parts of the responsibility for spreading unnecessary fear, anxiety and despair in the world. This has ignited people's feelings of social and economic injustice, a reaction which, most likely, have nurtured the growth of a violent national populism in the world. According to an interview with professor and statistician; Rosling (2016), you can't trust the media when you try to gain knowledge and understand the contemporary societal situation in world: He claims that Media's worldview is wrong and its focus on poverty, war and conflicts is illegitimate and have been highly exaggerated. According to an interview with Rosling (2016), media is only showing us a small piece of the whole puzzle of which the world consists of. His knowledge is based on comprehensive statistics from the World Bank and UN. The media has however rightfully contributed to observing megatrends in the world such as increasing social and economic inequality, individualism, unemployment and the violent growth of nationalism globally. The fact is however that we are experiencing two negative and positive trends simultaneously in our global society, which makes the media's representations of the status of the world seem confusing, such as rise of democracies, successful peace negotiations, economic growth, decreasing poverty alongside; increased social and economic inequality, individualism, unemployment, and a global weakening of the nation states in form of threats to democracies in our world (P1 2016). Though, the media focus has been on the negative trends. But, the Factum is that when it comes to national populism, no matter how we flip the coin: National populism as a political movement globally and historically, has proved to cause significant challenges for the democracy as a functional political system. Now, this potential danger is about to unravel in the newly rooted democracies in Eastern Europe:
"Now the final, perhaps most fundamental, narrative risks unravelling. The supremacy of liberal democracy is rooted in the triumph of 1989: the liberation of Central Europe from the Kremlin’s authoritarianism; Václav Havel emerging from prison to become President in Prague Castle; the successful transition to democracy via European Union membership and the security blanket of Nato. Central Europe is the beacon for aspiring reformers across the world".
"In 2008, the World Bank published a report, “Unleashing Prosperity,” which concluded that the “Visegrád Four”—Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic—had created “stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities,” “functioning market economies” and had “the ability to take on and implement effectively the obligations of (EU) membership.” Yet today we are faced with a Hungary whose Prime Minister says he intends to build an “illiberal state,” a Czech President who attends anti-Muslim rallies with the far right and a Polish leadership that declares the media should do the government’s bidding. Throughout the region, the judiciary, media and civil society are under attack, while a newly belligerent Russia is looking to re-impose itself. What has gone wrong? What does it mean for the future of the EU and the continent’s security? What can and should be done?" (Shekhovtsov and Pomerantsev 2016, p. 1).
This brings us to how national populism as a parent notion is discussed in contemporary scientific literature on populism, as being a treat to democracy; by showing disdain for its 'checks and balances', or disregarding democratic values and rights (Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 611). These threats to democracies are already observed by the media in Eastern Europe but are also challenging for most democracies in our global world. On the other hand, national populism also has the ability to be a corrective and connecting to people's emotions (and reason) by including more radical or extreme opinions into the democratic frameworks. These are opinions not represented by mainstream politicians, and which should not be repressed (Mudde and Kaltwasser 2012, in Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 611). But, is this feasible within the framework of democracy? That is up to politicians and scientists within contemporary democracies to decide. The violent growth of national populism, as a fundamentally strong megatrend, observed by scientists and the media is effecting our global society of political systems and is particularly reflected in democracies and world societal instability: National populism may reflect the flaws and benefits of our democracies. Panizza states (2005, p. 30; in Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 611) states that populism is a "mirror in which democracy can contemplate itself". In this mirror Arditi (2005; in Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 611) contemplates on three possible states of challenges to the world's democracies: I. Populism as a mode of representativeness, II. populism as a symptom, and III. populism an underside and a negative impact on the democratic system itself (Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 611).
First, populism as a mode of representation, implies that populism may positively effect representativeness and have the ability to present segments of citizens, not represented by mainstream politicians. In this way populism may enhance representativeness within the frameworks of the democracy and serve as a corrective. On the other hand, they may fail to present the needs, interests and values of immigrants, minorities and outsiders, by disregarding diversity, tolerance and equality for all citizens, not just the common people. Populism as a mode of representativeness or corrective, discusses challenges to our democracies politicians ability to represent their diverse citizens interests, needs, emotions and opinions, also by including the views of those who are sceptical about increased immigration, cultural differences and terrorism. Cameron and Clegg (2010, p. 7, in Wills 2015, p. 188), six years before Brexit, declared that "centralization and top down control [in Great Brittain had] proved a failure". This sort of anti-politics is created when citizens are in disdain for their mainstream politicians and feel they are not being rightfully represented and need to protest (Wills 2015, p. 188). Wills (2015, p. 188), nevertheless, argues that the growing void between Great Britain’s politicians’ voters is expressed by disdain for the politicians centralized power. Brexit exemplifies how politicians had failed to connect to its people emotionally, such as the national populist indeed had accomplished. Power should have been be dispersed to people locally by giving them freedom and opportunities to test their capacity and potential political influence (Wills 2015, p. 189). When there is a growing void between the centralized power and the localized citizens, politicians might lose contact with their voters emotionally, and unrightful worldviews among their citizens might evolve. These voters will not listen to politicians’ reason. They rather belief there is an antagonistic relationship between the people versus the elite, although this is an ideological construction, which doesn’t represents the complexity of our diverse society. An optimistic view on populism argues that
"populism emerges when the political elite loses track of the popular will, or when 'constitutional' or 'liberal', as opposed to the 'democratic' or 'popular' pillar of democracy, is seen to become too dominant" (Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 611).
Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser (2012; in Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 611) however sums it up: "[P]opulism can be a corrective as well as a threat to Democracy. Taken together; they find one particularly positive and one particularly negative side to populism:
"Populist actors can, for instance, place issues on the agenda which have been ignored by the political establishment and give a voice to excluded sections of society. Yet especially in unconsolidated democracies, populism can also undermine liberal democratic institutions in view of its monist conception of society and disdain for 'checks and balances'" (Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2012; in Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 611).
Second; Meny and Surel (2002) however argues that populism as a symptom implies that populism is a sign that there is something wrong with our political system or societal model, because violent growth of national populism may be regarded as " a warning signal about defects, limits and weaknesses of representative systems" (Meny and Surel 2002, p. 17; in Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 611). More accurately, populism which draws on nationalism, is rather a signal of societal system upheavals, which causes political, economic, cultural, religious and social unrest. History has shown that these kinds of periods of societal instability typically have nurtured violent waves of national populism, such as in the interwar period. System reactions are natural and usually not dangerous. They are rather a signal of our society’s goings through phases of complex economic, social, cultural, political, and religious restructuring or reorientation. This causes system instability or vast societal upheavals. These kinds of changes might fill people with fear, anxiety and despair, feelings which should be considered, discussed and represented by politicians. This is not the case in most contemporary democracies. Most politicians avoid discussing controversial political issues, which causes citizens to worry about increased immigration, scepticism about cultural and religious differences, and anxieties of terrorism, in fear of being labelled "racist". This may result citizens increased and exaggerated emotional reactions. Civic populism, on the other hand, connect emotionally to its voters, and take these matters seriously.
Third; populism as a negative impact on society and the political system implies that national populism may destabilize our societal model by posing a threat to our democracy. Betz (2007, p. 4) argues that the populist notion of the society as divided into two separate homogeneous bodies is fictional and is incompatible with core democratic values, such as tolerance, equality, protection of minorities rights in form of not representing diversity and tolerance (in Abst and van Kessel 2015: 611). Pasquino (2008, p. 28; in Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 611) however argue that
"populism is often a sign of a poorly functioning democratic regime, [...], for instance due to its unrealizable promises, [which therefore] has a negative impact on the democratic framework itself". The most threatening form of populism to its liberal democratic values and rights, and therefore to its societal stability, is national populism, particularly based on ethnic nationalism. But what kind of threat or harm national populism may cause to societal stability relies on its character or type, discussed in the theoretical section. Abst and van Kessel (2015, p. 611) argues that in unconsolidated democracies or particularly vulnerable liberal democraties, national populism might pose a threat to its political system stability. In solidly embedded democracies national populists are either repressed (France and Belgium) or in collaboration with other political parties (Italy, Norway, Austria, Danmark and the Netherlands). In democracies with repressed right-wing national populism, the risk of populism taking unreasonable extreme forms is more potential: Well-functioning and solidly embedded democracies have the ability to moderate radical forms of national populism through its democratic frameworks, procedures and collaboration processes, by including it into its political configurations. The question is how tolerant should one be for the enemies of democratic rights and values itself? Let us remain this question open for potential curiosity and pondering, and instead move on to a forth challenge to contemporary democracies.
Forth; Arditi (2002; in Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 611) contemplates on three possible states of challenges to our world's democracies. In addition to Arditi's three states of challenges I would like to include three more challenges: IV State of moderation and/or radical extreme, V. State of dichotomy and VI. State of communication. As the fourth state I would like to add the battle of radical political utterances (national populism) versus more moderate utterances (mainstream politicians). Although the distinction of reason/emotion is an misleading simplification according to Müller (2016), it might be more accurate to divide between moderate mainstream politics versus radical and extreme politics of identity, culture and emotions: National populists might simultaneously play on their voters feelings or quest for identity, patriotism or cultural nostalgia, -- just as well as they play on people's fears or darker sides; such as disunity, polarization, segregation or racism; ethnic nationalism. But some populists also believe in populism based on civic nationalism; a forward-looking society based on agrarian social and legal reforms; in form of conciliation and inclusiveness – a horizontal, dispersed and localized power (Rovella 2016, p. 1). They are seriously concerned about highly relevant and complex pending political issues, other politicians do not discuss too deeply, such as challenges regarding cultural differences, immigration and terrorism. And, they can connect to their voters emotionally. But in its ultimate form, populism which draws on ethnic nationalism, might cause huge challenges to the existence of our nation states and the maintenance of their constitution, and by not taking into account the comprehensiveness of our contemporary societies need of stability and the continuation of our valuable heritage; democracies. These democracies represent most citizens and voters through its 'checks and balances' and its fundamental values and rights protects the fact that most societies are heterogeneous and comprehensive. This brings us to a fifth challenge for democracy.
Fifth; this challenge or threat to democracy is the highly simplification of society into a fictional dichotomy: A homogeneous body of people against an elite or counterparty in opposition. Most scientist would agree on the heterogeneity of citizens and countries in our world and therefore also nation states. The simplification of this division of society in two bodies might undermine the complexity of creative and innovative solutions needed to protect citizens diverse and often contrasting needs. All countries are quite heterogeneous (except e.g. Island), but to create nation states for all identities, ethnicities, cultures, or nations would result in a far too complex, fragmented, unreasonable, and faceted myriad set of nation states (Østerud 1994). This sort of national populism, which draws on ethnic nationalism, would cause huge challenges, complexity and enormous conflicts in retaining borders, maintaining reasonable national political configurations, national and international laws and rules and ultimately; the existence and feasibility of integrative global diplomatic solutions, and therefore global societal stability and security for all citizens of our world. This might undermine democracies values and rights. Many contemporary scientists may argue that national populism is incompatible with democracy, because it denies or does not respect the diversity and heterogeneity of its citizens (Abst and Rummens 2007, p. 4, in Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 611). The fact that national populisms fails on protecting citizens outside its unified and homogeneous block of people, may harm immigrants, minorities or outsiders rights and values, and fail in expressing tolerance and show equal respect to its diverse citizens: A core set of values and rights in liberal democracies. This may ultimately threat democratic values and rights, particularly in countries with vulnerable or newly established democracies, such as in Eastern Europe or Balkan. In newly established democracies national populism may have a great impact on societal stability, particularly if there is already a fundamental and unsolved societal and historically deeply rooted conflict, such as an ethnic, cultural and/or religious conflict, which is disuniting its democratic society. According to Abst and van Kessel (2015, p. 612); "freedom of expression is almost unlimited". Nevertheless, Abst and van Kessel (2015) further argues; all political parties [in democratic countries] are required to underwrite the fundamental values of freedom, equality, respect and tolerance". If these democratic rights and values are threatened; "the tolerance for the intolerant may be limited" (Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 612). The Paradox of tolerance is however thoroughly discussed in Popper's (2013) political philosophy where he utters his defence of open liberal democracies. This Paradox states: "Any movement that preaches intolerance and persecution must be outside of the law. As paradoxical it may seem defending tolerance requires to not tolerate the intolerant" (Popper 2013). In a review of Bollinger's (1986) work, Rosenfeld supports Popper's defence of liberal democracies: [T]olerance of the intolerant leads to intolerance" (Rosenfeld 1987, p. viii). The democratic frameworks, laws and procedures will therefore secure the future of our western liberal democracies. Rosenfeld (1987) use the Paradox of Tolerance to discuss the limits to extremist speech and communication in liberal western democracies.
Sixth, national populism's way of communicating in a simplistic way appeals to the ordinary people, but this way of communicating can also be misleading or deficient. In times of refractions or violent societal upheavals, the reality is increasingly comprehensive and complex. In these complex and comprehensive times simplistic solution are highly welcomed by the common man. It might feel redemptive, that there is simple solution to comprehensive societal challenges and conflicts, such as social and economic inequality, unemployment, political unrest, and vast cultural, ethnic and religious conflicts. But the fact is – this is not the case. Complex political issues need comprehensive solutions. Politicians who evoke people's emotions of unjust, by promising a quick fix, are explosive and might deceive their voters, but at least they have found a way of emotionally connecting to their citizens. Comprehensive challenges need to be simplified to evoke people emotionally, and their belief that the pending problems can be fixed, but at the same time not deceiving the reality of its complexity. To prevent distrust of politicians, anti-politics and indifference of political processes, power also has to be dispersed, localized and horizontal too – only this way of legitimating power within our political systems may contain our valuable heritage and the nature of our democracies. Politicians therefore needs to address societal comprehensiveness through representativity and conducting political power, by connecting to peoples reason – and emotions, by introducing them into the circle of power: A comprehensive political system subtly set for innovative political change.
The process of change, such as threats to global democracies, individualism, a weakening of the nation states, unemployment and economic and social inequality is, however, a natural reaction to system changes as a result of the enormous contemporary societal upheavals we are experiencing in the world: The Internet revolution is about to be replaced by another technological revolution. National populists emphasis on nostalgia and historical "ideals" may, however, not be the right way to go if one wants to be involved in further innovative progress and prosperity in the world and the upcoming technological revolution not yet revealed, a belief in renewal, forward-looking and inclusive society, however is. But, why should we prevent this resurgence of national populism we are experiencing if it is voted for by the people? Let’s turn our attention to the echo of the past or the interwar period for an explanation:
Interbellum National Populism – A signal of war
Nationalism Nurtured by Unstable Systems of Societal Upheavals
Instability is a phase a system enters before it reorients itself and takes a new shape. The political, social, cultural, and economic situation in the world prior to its societal systemic reorientation may forecast its new form. These kinds of unstable societal systems or upheavals have functioned as milestones for the development of societies throughout the centuries. A retrospective analysis, such as an analysis of the national populism of the interwar period, can in many ways be useful to prevent falling into the same catastrophic pitfalls as the interwar national populistic society did. It may serve as an example – to avoid war. This retrospective clearly tells us that populism based on ethnic or cultural nationalism, nurtured by historically embedded societal conflicts, is a dangerous combination for humanity. But, different historical epochs and contexts may, as mentioned in the introduction; have different systemic outcomes. Contemporary societal upheavals and national populism may therefore lead to either negative or positive societal system changes, based on the range and depth of societal problems or conflicts it is rooted in; its historical anchoring; what kind of nationalism it is embedded in; hence the type of populism it becomes, and is played out in our society (also mentioned in the introduction). But according to history, such as the interbellum national populism; we should be aware of the potential dangers when unwanted and negative systemic trends explicitly is shown in contemporary economic, social, political and cultural currents, in form of a national populism which draws on ethnic nationalism. Nevertheless, this is what the contemporary societal upheavals forecasts: Weather or not national populism will pose a threat to democracy, and therefore political stability, depends on how solid the existing democracy in each countries is embedded, prior to the impact of national populism. It also depends on whether the national populists are in collaboration with other political parties or repressed. In collaboration they might serve as a corrective and exists within the democratic frameworks, by presenting segments of the voters not represented by mainstream politicians. They will moderate themselves through collaboration with other political parties and express themselves within the rules of democracy's rather generous and unlimited expression of freedom (Abst and van Kessel 2015, p. 612). The tolerance for those intolerant are however not unlimited. They who threatens the democracy by showing lack of respect to its core pillars of values and rights may be confronted with its system of justice. The other option is to collaborate with other parties, in this case they may confirm to its 'checks and balances' rather than stretch towards unreasonable extremes. Repressed, they might move towards radical directions, and ultimately threat democratic rights and values. In worst case scenario, and in poorly embedded democracies, they might pose a threat to political stability, and therefore societal stability (e.g. Eastern Europe and Balkan). Be aware; if national populism by any chance is left unchecked, comes out of control or becomes to dominant globally; it might implode and cause enormous material damages and vast unreplaceable human losses: An enormous step back for our global societal systems and a violent catastrophe for humanity. Taken together: In contemporary solidly embedded democratic societies we are, most likely, experiencing a temporary reaction to unstable systems of societal upheavals, before our societal system reorients itself and regains its balance. What form our global society will take after this violent reorientation is still unsure. In these rough times of societal upheavals and instability, we must hold on to our core democratic values and rights: Freedom, equality, respect, and tolerance. To hold on to these vulnerable values and rights, the only feasible solution is to sort out our political disputes, on either argument for moderate politics or more radical political utterances, within the frameworks of our democracies. This must be achieved without compromising the pillars of values and rights so fundamental to the future existence of our democracies.
We are all human beings
The sitation from Rovella's article in the empirical section; about the positive and negative sides to populism, should inspire and encourage all citizens; and particularly politicians of the world to be inclusive, show empathy, act wisely and be cautious:
"As a form of horizontal political power, populism has been instrumental to legal, agrarian, and social reforms through the years. But it’s also played a starring role in the rise of demagogues and therefore some of the ugliest episodes in human history" (Rovella 2016: 1).
If a forward-looking renewal, reconciliation, and peace is our ultimate urge; we should rather open our mindsets and hearts to integrative and inclusive conflict solving diplomatic discussions; rather than hostility. We should not be carried away by complex conflicts which separates; the people; "us" against; "them"; the elites or a counterparty in a conflict. We should go easy on how we define people as either "us" or "them” and strive to be more socially including and become more tolerant. We share a joint history, although most of us belongs to different nation states or nations. Nevertheless; all humans should act, think and feel as one reconsolidating and diverse unit: If we can learn to act, think and feel as one humankind and rise above racism, aggression and nostalgia – world reconciliation, freedom and peace is within reach and not ultimately; World War III. Take a good look when approaching the source of the crisis and conflict; focus on universal values such as mutual respect, tolerance, freedom, equality and what we have in common, rather than the differences that distinguish us: We are all human beings.
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