Defensive Nationalism: explaining the rise of populism and fascism in the 21st century

Defensive Nationalism: explaining the rise of populism and fascism in the 21st century

Daphne Halikiopoulou sits down with Beth Rabinowitz to discuss her new book, Defensive Nationalism: explaining the rise of populism and fascism in the 21st century, published with Oxford University Press. As ever, we’ll be live on Facebook and YouTube, with members receiving an invite to join on Zoom.


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About Defensive Nationalism

Why have atavistic political ideologies taken hold in the most technologically advanced societies? Defensive Nationalism argues that the irrationalism and hatred that marked the early 20th is recurring in the 21st centuries, and for the same reasons. Combining Karl Polanyi’s concept of the “double movement” with Joseph Schumpeter’s theory of innovation, the book traces how the explosive politics of both eras stem from the very technological changes that brought humankind to its highest levels of sophistication. In the mid-19th century, it was railroads, steam ships, automated printing presses, and telegraphy; in the mid-20th century, turbo jets, container ships, satellites, and computers. These magical modern innovations seemed to hold the promise of global peace and prosperity. But the mid-century liberal trust in international cooperation was quickly eclipsed by something much darker. The new economies of speed and scale created by the Industrial and Digital Revolutions dislodged the moorings of societies. Countries were made vulnerable to global economic crises, existing systems of production were uprooted, mass migrations accelerated, and uniquely modern forms of mass media threatened the social and political order. These same changes also produced never-before-seen modes of international terrorism—anarchist bombings and assassinations in the late-eighteen hundreds, and Islamist suicide bombings and beheadings in the late-nineteen hundreds. Political actors were able to capitalize on the growing disorientation and fear. Nations began to turn inward as left-wing populist and right-wing proto-fascist movements took hold across the United States and Europe. An era of “defensive nationalism” had commenced.

About Beth Rabinowitz

Beth is Associate Professor of Political Science at Rutgers. Her research interests cross a number of areas, including political institutions, political leadership, comparative political economy, nationalism and ethnic conflict, military institutionalization, decentralization, and state building.

A diverse set of experiences have shaped her approach to research. In the early 1990s I backpacked around Africa for sixteen months. She was most affected by my experiences in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), where she spent three months in the interior and witnessed some of the effects of a failed State. She saw highways that had decayed into mud traps, banks with no currency, and an economy so decimated that urban workers were forced to ‘return’ to the bush to grow crops to sell in Kinshasa with no knowledge of how to live do so. She found myself asking: How could a State just crumble away? She wanted to understand how to place what I had seen: what was ‘African,’ what was ‘colonial heritage,’ and what was ‘neo-imperialism.’ When she began graduate studies at the University of Chicago, she found myself drawn to all courses on Africa.

Her extensive travels and exposure to different disciplines (with my undergraduate studies in philosophy and my interdisciplinary Masters studies) solidified my conviction that the evolution of political systems must be understood in terms of the cultural and institutional contexts in which they develop. However, as my knowledge of African politics evolved, I came to see that institutional analyses were not effectively accounting for different political outcomes in the region. I have since tried to develop an approach that draws upon both historical institutionalism as well as analyses of leadership and agency.

About Daphne Halikiopoulou

Daphne Halikiopoulou is Chair in Comparative Politics at the University of York, having previously been Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Reading. She gained her PhD from LSE (2007) where she also worked as a Fellow in Comparative Politics (2009-2012).

Daphne is interested in party politics and voting behaviour with a focus on the far right, populism and nationalism in Europe. She is the author of Understanding right-wing populism and what to do about it (with Tim Vlandas), The Golden Dawn’s ‘Nationalist Solution’: explaining the rise of the far right in Greece (with Sofia Vasilopoulou) and numerous articles on European far right parties. Her research appears in the European Journal of Political ResearchWest European Politics, Journal of Common Market StudiesEuropean Political Science ReviewJournal of Ethnic and Migration StudiesGovernment and Opposition, Environmental Politics and Nations and Nationalism among others. Her article ‘Risks, Costs and Labour Markets: Explaining Cross-National Patterns of Far-Right Party Success in European Parliament Elections’ (with Tim Vlandas) has been awarded Best Paper from the American Political Science Association (APSA).