Weekend Reading 08/04/2017

Justin Collier's picture

H-Nationalism’s Weekend Reading series highlights recent and thought-provoking reviews, blog posts, brief articles, and op-eds.  Have something to say about something you read?  Feel free to respond here or contact David Prior (prior@mail.h-net.msu.edu) and Justin Collier (collierjustin@gmail.com) about writing a blogpost. Follow us on Twitter @HNationalism.


Dear All,

Politico has a piece on the role of the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont in Catalonia’s government bid for independence. Fair Observer published an article on the Catalan and Scottish bid for independence.

The Diplomat has a story on the push to install a tank on the  Jawaharlal Nehru University (JHU) campus in Delhi to commemorate soldiers who died in the Indo-Pak war. Swarajya has a post that argues that the best way to fully understand nationalism in India is to examine India’s colonial past. CBC News has an article on how the recent standoff between China and India is partly fueled by nationalism.

The Week has an op-ed asserting that there is a battle between President Trump and "Trumpism." The Washington Post has an op-ed highlighting the link between anti-liberalism and White nationalism. The Week has an op-ed discussing the strength and importance of White nationalists in the Trump administration. Politico has an article examining the meaning behind accusations of “Cosmopolitan bias” made by Trump adviser Stephen Miller toward a CNN reporter. Newsweek has a story about a new go-to website for White nationalists.

The Guardian has an op-ed that argues that the critically acclaimed movie Dunkirk whitewashes history with its lack of diversity.

News Herald has an op-ed on the 50th anniversary of a speech given by French President Charles de Gaulle in Montreal and the durability of nationalism in Quebec.

Reuters has a story on the threat posed to Muslims in Myanmar by Buddhist nationalists.

The Hill has a blog post on the relationship between President Trump and the rise of Polish populism.

The Ghana News Agency has a piece on recent comments made by an administrator at the University of Ghana about the need for nationalism to end ethnic conflicts in the country.

The Globalist has a piece discussing how nationalism is East Asia’s biggest challenge.

LSE's European Politics and Policy blog has a short point from Tjitske Akerman, arguing that the biggest threat to democracy is not populism, but an authoritarian nationalism.



For H-Nationalism, Marshall C. Eakin reviews Gregg Bocketti’s book Invention of the Beautiful Game: Football and the Making of Modern Brazil (2016, University Press of Florida), which looks into how Brazilian nationalists made use of football as a means to shape and reshape their nation.  

For the National, Kapil Komireddi reviews Ian Campbell’s book The Addis Ababa Massacre: Italy's National Shame (2017, Hurst), which reconstructed the Fascist massacre of residents of Addis Ababa in the Italian-occupied Ethiopia in February 1937.   



Emmanuel Dalle Mulle, Shota Kincha, Kit Man, and Justin Collier


Dear All,

My name is Nicholas James and I’m a MSc student in comparative politics. I’ve decided to begin making weekly commentaries on the Weekend Reading series to fill in some of the egregious free time which I’ve been faced with recently. After a discussion with some of H-Nationalism’s editors, we decided that the best avenue for these commentaries would be as direct replies to the original posts. These commentaries are meant to comment on general themes extracted from the week and so will cover 1-5 of the articles. They are purely for auxiliary reading and represent my own views and understandings. Feel free to reply to me here, on twitter @nicholasdjames, or on my H-Net profile.


The intersection between populism and nationalism has been the subject of several articles this week. Mostly these articles have focused on the role of populism and/or nationalism in promoting illiberal democracy. Both academia and the broader media have begun to search for ways to define and explain the populist/nationalist outgrowth that has been (re)appearing in Europe. I’ve found that much of the dialogue has confusedly approached the topics at hand by either attributing this illiberal malaise as a part of one phenomenon or the other, seldom both. However, I think it’s quite clear that these phenomena are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, often act in tandem.

Tjitske Akkerman wrote a piece which states that authoritarian nationalism is the real threat to liberal democracy in Europe and that populism takes a tertiary or quaternary level of threat. She lays out three reasons why populism isn’t a total threat:

1.) Populism isn’t a core political ideology

2.) Not all populism is anti-democratic;

3.) Populism isn’t the only illiberal force in European politics.

My problem with this characterization is that it follows an argumentative logic which downplays the role of peripheral ideologies in dragging mainstream opinions and politics to an ideological pole. In democracies parties compete for voters and create an ideological spectrum which participants can place their votes on. This act of creation oftentimes opens ideological space for competing parties to occupy. When sizeable portions of the electorate begin to sway towards a pole, other parties may compensate and move with them. Akkerman neglects this common element of political dynamism when she says, “the pressure on liberal democracies is not restricted to populist parties. Policy proposals and legislative initiatives that are in tension with or defy fundamental freedoms are also coming from mainstream parties.” Mainstream parties can adopt populist ideologies in favor of clinging onto more votes—which makes populism part of the issue.

(Here is Kai Arzheimer for further reading on radical-right voting ID and reasons as to why voters are swayed).

Hungary, a country which has electoral programming and politics like Poland (and, according to Kitschelt, is rather similar to Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands), may serve as a prime example for why this aspect of populist voting can be dangerous from the lens of programmatic competition. Fidesz, a Christian democrat party, was pulled down and to the far-right concurrent with a rise in populist nationalism. It isn’t coincidental that Fidesz made audacious illiberal jumps after the 2010 election where the populist-nationalist Jobbik took 16% of the vote. In fact, Jobbik gains match an ideological slippage to the radical far-right for Fidesz and Viktor Orban. So, populism may not be a core ideology but it can certainly influence how some parties act and even legitimizes illiberal actions.

Boduszynski and Carpenter point out that social discontent in the wide undercurrent of society is often masked by functioning democratic institutions and economies. If this discontent isn’t nourished back into something positive it can express itself in populist tendencies. When these tendencies latch onto something as salient as economic fear of immigration, illiberal policies begin to be built and legitimized through nationalism. For instance, policies or attempted policies might take form as something which supposedly empowers national participants and strips power from those excluded from the nation. The trade off, however, are policies which are inherently illiberal. Recent anti-Islam and anti-migrant rhetoric coming from Poland’s PiS echoes this.

Populism and nationalism act in tandem and influence each other—economic fears of increased immigration often couple with extreme far-right ethnic xenophobia which is not limited to immigrants. Last year, I conducted a study on far-right violence directed against Hungarian Roma and compared this data to Jobbik vote share per voting district. What I found was that, with more expressed support of Jobbik, there were more violent attacks on Roma. Xenophobia and its narrative against the non-national Other combines with economic insecurities and woes into a positive feedback loop. Ethnic minorities, even if they are native, become the victims. Xenophobia often takes shape as anti-elite, anti-cosmopolitan, and pro-nation (read: ethnic) and it isn’t limited to outright violence either, it’s expressed in the media and by the government at large. For instance, Orban’s campaign against CEU and George Soros straddles anti-Semitism and anti-cosmopolitanism—ethnic nationalism and populism.

In sum, Akkerman is sort of right. Populism is not a threat if left in a vacuum—it’s only threatening if combined with brooding nationalism which creates a deadly duo of economic fears and ethnic xenophobia; or in other words, the combination found in Europe and America right now. The danger to liberal democracy does not exist solely in nationalism or populism but in how both phenomena use and are used by each other.