Seminar: The Burden of our Times: Fascism? Populism? Neoliberalism?

The aim of this seminar is to assess whether the analytical tools of the past are adequate to identify and assess what we perceive as the revival of fascistic tendencies today. This is not to say that we are witnessing the re-emergence of fascism at the dawn of the 21st century. But we surely have a sense of how nationalist, populist, sexist, xenophobic, and provocative hate speech and conduct get the better of local and global progressive forces today.

The question is to determine whether we’ve made a full swing back into the 1920s and ‘30s. The answer is affirmative, if we assume that history can repeat itself. There are many signs that suggest that this is indeed the case: democratically elected political leaders in the United States, Hungary, Turkey, and India are resorting to populist tactics to undermine law and to meddle with the functioning of parliamentary systems. Fear and resentment of culturally or religiously distinctive “others” nurture the demand for heavy-handed action from governments. Progressive values are being overturned, if not totally debunked. Millions of immigrants, refugees, and stateless people are being refused recognition as rights-bearing human beings by polities that pride themselves on upholding basic rights. If we assume, however, that history cannot repeat itself in an identical way, the question concerning whether we are regressing would call for a more nuanced answer. The world today is not the same as in 1920s. The advances in technology that mediatize populist discourse in real time across the globe were unthinkable in the interwar period. More importantly, a single mode of production now dominates economies worldwide, transforming class structures and resource distribution schemes in unparalleled ways.

The questions this seminar brings up for discussion are the following:

  • How to identify the new forms of fascism that may be emerging from contemporary social conditions?
  • How processes of neoliberal capitalist accumulation relate to growing insecurity, xenophobia and discrimination?
  • How perspectives from the South may inform those from the North and vice versa?
  • How to resist the unprecedented forms of domination and violence in today’s world?


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