by Fabio Wolkenstein
One of the more interesting political developments in contemporary Europe is the migration of the language that has originally been used to describe what Europe is. This language has migrated from the vocabulary of centre-right politicians, who were committed to unifying Europe and creating a more humane political order on the continent, to the speeches and campaigns of nativists, nationalists and ultraconservatives.
The idea of “Christian Europe”
Consider to start with the notion of Abendland, which may be translated as “occident” or, more accurately, “Christian West.” In the immediate post-war era, the term had been a shorthand for Europe in the predominantly Catholic Christian-democratic milieu whose political representatives played a central role in the post-war unification of Europe; indeed, the “founding fathers” of European integration, Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schuman and Alcide De Gasperi, were convinced that – as De Gasperi put it in a 1954 speech – “Christianity lies at the origin of … European civilisation.”
By Christianity was primarily meant a common European cultural heritage. De Gasperi, an Italian educated in Vienna around 1900, whose first political job was in the Imperial Council of Austria-Hungary, spoke of a “shared ethical vision that fosters the inviolability and responsibility of the human person with its ferment of evangelic brotherhood, its cult of law inherited from the ancients, its cult of beauty refined through the centuries, and its will for truth and justice sharpened by an experience stretching over more than a thousand years.”
All of this, many Christian Democratic leaders thought, demarcates Europe from the superficial consumerism of the United States – however welcome the help of the American allies was after WW2 – and, even more importantly, the materialist totalitarianism of the Soviet Union. Europe is culturally distinctive, and that distinctiveness must be affirmed and preserved to unite the continent at avoid a renewed descent into chaos.
This image of Europe figured prominently in the Christian Democrats’ early election campaigns. In 1946, a campaign poster of the newly-founded Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) featured the slogan “Rettet die abendländische Kultur” – “Save abendländische culture.” The poster boasts a bright depiction of the allegorical figure Ecclesia from Bamberg Cathedral, which is meant to represent the superiority of the Church. And Ecclesia faces the logo of the SED, the East German Communist Party, which was founded the same year.
The message was clear: a democracy “rooted in the Christian-abendländisch worldview, in Christian natural law, in the principles of Christian ethics,” as Adenauer himself put it in a famous speech at the University of Cologne, had to be cultivated and defended against so-called “materialist” worldviews that represented nothing less than the negation of Christian principles, and by extension the negation of moral truth. In Adenauer’s view, Europe was “only possible” if the different peoples of Europe came together to contribute not only economically to recovering from the war, but also culturally to “abendländisch thinking, poetry.”
This idea of Europe also resonated with General Charles De Gaulle, who served as the first French president after the founding of the Fifth Republic, and who became a natural ally for Adenauer and German Catholic Christian Democrats. De Gaulle certainly had a more nation-centric vision of European integration than Adenauer, and he resisted the idea that supranational institutions should play a central role in the integration processes – but he likewise envisioned a concert of European peoples that shared a common Christian civilisation. These nations should, in De Gaulle’s words, become “an extension of each other,” and their shared cultural roots should facilitate this process.
The Italian historian Rosario Forlenza aptly summarised De Gaulle’s views on Europe as follows: “When le général famously spoke of a Europe ‘from the Atlantic to the Urals’ he was in fact conjuring up, quite in line with the Abendland tradition, a continental western European bloc based on a Franco-German entente that could stand on its own both militarily and politically: a Europe independent from the United States and Russia.” In his memoirs, moreover, De Gaulle asserted that the European nations have “the same Christian origins and the same way of life, linked to one another since time immemorial by countless ties of thought, art, science, politics and trade.” No wonder many Christian Democrats saw Gaullism as “a kind of Christian Democracy without Christ.”
European integration from shared culture to markets
However, those political leaders who conceived Europe as a cultural entity were gradually disappearing. De Gasperi died already in 1954, Adenauer died in 1967, and De Gaulle resigned his presidency in 1969 and died one year later. Robert Schuman, the other famous Christian Democratic “founding father,” who has been put on the path to sainthood by Pope Francis in June 2021, died in 1963. Replacing them were younger and more pragmatic political leaders, many of whom believed that free trade was better able to bring the nations of Europe closer to each other than shared cultural roots.
Culture was not considered irrelevant, to be sure – this is why hardly anyone considered admitting a Muslim country like Turkey to the European Communities. But the idea of a Christian Europe whose member countries shared a distinctive heritage, which performed the important function of unifying an earlier generation of centre-right politicians, was gradually superseded by the much less concrete notion of “freedom” as a sort of telos of European integration. Already in the late 1970s, powerful conservative leaders such as Helmut Kohl and Margaret Thatcher converged on the vision that European integration should secure freedom. “Freedom instead of socialism” was the CDU’s 1976 election slogan, which was quite different from “Save abendländische culture” in 1946. Socialism remained the primary enemy – but it should be fought with free markets, not Christian ethics and natural law, as Adenauer believed.
Importantly, foregrounding the notion of freedom and de-emphasising thick conceptions of a shared European culture also facilitated the gradual expansion of the pan-European network of conservative parties from the mid-1970s onwards. Transnationally-minded Realpolitiker like Kohl realised already in the mid-1970s that integrating “Christian democratic and conservative traditions and parties” from non-Catholic countries into the European People’s Party and related transnational organisations was crucial to avoid political marginalisation in the constantly expanding European Communities. And many new potential allies, perhaps most notably Scandinavian conservative parties who obviously had no Catholic pedigree, would have shrunk from the idea of joining a Christian Abendland modelled in the image of Charlemagne’s empire.
The re-emergence of the language of Christian Europe
At any rate, while the language of a Europe defined by shared culture gradually disappeared from the vocabulary of centre-right politicians, decades later it re-appeared elsewhere. It was adopted by political actors who are often categorised as “right-wing populists” – more accurately, we might call them nativists, nationalists and ultraconservatives. These sorts of political movements have discovered and re-purposed the culturalist narrative of a “Christian Europe.”
In the German-speaking world, even the notion of Abendland made a comeback on the right fringes. The Alternative für Deutschland (or AfD), Germany’s moderately successful hard-right party, commits itself in its main party manifesto to the “preservation” of “abendländisch Christian culture.” The closely related anti-immigrant movement PEGIDA even has Abendland in its name: the acronym stands for “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamicisation of the Abendland.” The Austrian Freedom Party, one of the more long-standing ultraconservative nationalist parties in Europe, used the Slogan “Abendland in Christenhand,” meaning “Abendland in the hands of Christians” in the 2009 European Elections.
Even more striking are the increasing appeals to the idea of Christian Europe that resound in Central and Eastern Europe. The political imaginaries of the likes of Viktor Orbán – the pugnacious Hungarian prime minister who has transformed Hungary into an “illiberal democracy” – and Jarosław Kaczyński and his Polish Law and Justice party, are defined by an understanding of Europe as a culturally Christian sphere. And they claim to preserve and defend this Europe, especially against the superficial, culturally corrosive social liberalism of the West, which they consider a major threat to its shared values and traditions.
Orbán even seeks to link the notion of Christian Europe to the ideological tradition of Christian Democracy. Not only has he repeatedly called for a “Christian Democratic renaissance” that should involve a return to the values and ideas of the post-war era. In February 2020, when the European People’s Party – the European alliance of Christian Democratic parties – seemed increasingly willing to expel Orbán’s party Fidesz due to the undemocratic developments in Hungary, he even drafted a three-page memorandum for the European Christian Democrats.
In this memorandum, a most remarkable document for anyone interested in political ideologies, he listed all the sort of things that Christian Democrats “originally” stood for – from being “anti-communist” and “pro-subsidiarity” to being “committed representatives … of the Christian family model and the matrimony of one man and one woman.” However, he added, “We have created an impression that we are afraid to declare and openly accept who we are and what we want, as if we were afraid of losing our share of governmental authority because of ourselves.” To save itself, and to save Europe, a return to the ideological roots of Christian Democracy is needed; or so Orbán argued.
In sum, the language of Europe as a thick cultural community, the idea of a Christian Europe, and indeed some core elements of the ideology of Christian Democracy itself – all this has migrated to other sectors of the political spectrum and to Eastern Europe. Ideas and concepts that after WWII were part of the centre-right’s ideological repertoire are now used by nativists and ultraconservative nationalists, and used in order to justify their exclusivist Christian identity politics.
Note that the Eastern European parties and politicians who today reach for the narrative of Christian Europe stand for a broader backlash against the previously-hegemonic, unequivocally market-liberal and pro-Western forces that made many Western European centre-right leaders enthusiastically support Eastern Enlargement in the early 2000s. For the Polish Law and Justice party not only rejects liberal views about same sex-marriage, abortion, etc.; several of its redistributive policies also mark “a rupture with neoliberal orthodoxy,” and thus a departure from the policies of the business-friendly, pro-EU Civic Platform government of Donald Tusk, which Kaczyński’s party replaced in 2015. In Orbán’s Hungary, free-market policies have largely remained in place – especially when Orbán and his cronies profited from them – yet the recent “renationalisation of the pension system [and] significantly increased spending on active labour market policies … point towards an increasing … role of the state in social protection.”
Understanding the migration of language
One interesting interpretation of this development frames it in terms of a revolt of Eastern – and indeed Western – European nativists and nationalists against a perceived imperative to be culturally liberal and anti-nationalist. Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes perceptively note that “[t]he ultimate revenge of the Central and East European populists against Western liberalism is not merely to reject the ‘imitation imperative’, but to invert it. We are the real Europeans, Orbán and Kaczyński claim, and if the West wants to save itself, it will have to imitate the East.”
While there is much to be learned from this analysis, another reading of the eastward and rightward migration of culturalist understandings of Europe is available. This starts from the observation that talking about Europe as a geographical space defined by a deeply rooted common culture implies talking also about where Europe ends, where its cultural borders lie. Recall that the Europe envisaged by the Christian Democratic “founding fathers” and by De Gaulle was a much smaller, more limited entity than today’s European Union with its 27 member states. They believed, for example, that there were profound cultural differences between the abendländisch, predominantly Catholic Europe and Protestant Britain and Scandinavia. De Gaulle was in fact fervently opposed to admitting Britain to the European Communities and famously vetoed Britain’s applications to join in 1963 and 1967.
If talking about Europe in cultural terms necessarily involves talking about cultural boundaries, then it is perhaps not surprising that today’s nativists, nationalists and ultraconservatives came to endorse a culturalist understanding of Europe. After all, these are virtually the only political actors who indulge in talking about borders and attribute utmost importance to problematising and politicising cultural difference. Seen in this light, it is only natural that the once-innocuous notion that Europe has, as it were, “cultural borders” finds a home with them.
Revisiting the question of European culture
One need not endorse the political projects of Viktor Orbán, Jarosław Kaczyński and their allies to acknowledge that the questions they confront us with merit attention. What is Europe, if it is an entity defined by shared culture? And, by extension, where does Europe end? Not only those who simply do not want to leave it up to nativists, nationalists and ultraconservatives to define what Europe is, culturally speaking, will need to ponder these questions. Where Europe ends is also a highly pertinent issue in current European geopolitics, and interestingly, it seems as though key EU figures are gradually converging on a position that structurally resembles a view that was prominent on the centre-right in the post-war era – without linking it to narratives about shared culture.
Indeed, with the Von der Leyen Commission’s commitment to “strategic autonomy” and the objective to ascertain European sovereignty over China, the original Christian Democratic and Gaullist theme of Europe as independent “third” global power has returned with a vengeance – just that independence today means independence from the United States and China, not the United States and Soviet Russia (though Russia remains a menacing presence). However, whereas De Gaulle and Christian Democratic “Gaullists” saw Europe’s Christian origins and a shared way of life as the backbone of geopolitical autonomy, the President of the Commission limits herself to mentioning the “unique single market and social market economy, a position as the world’s first trading superpower and the world’s second currency” as the sort of things that make Europe distinctive.
Much like earlier pragmatically-minded politicians, then, von der Leyen mostly speaks the language of markets – and of moral universalism: “We must always continue to call out human rights abuses,” she routinely insists with an eye to China. But it is doubtful whether human rights talk or free market ideology are sufficient to render plausible claims to “strategic autonomy.” Being by definition boundary-insensitive and global in outlook, they are little able to furnish a convincing argument for why Europe should be more autonomous.
Perhaps the notion of “strategic autonomy” is actually much more about a shared European “way of life” than present EU leaders, unlike their post-war predecessors, are willing to admit. Why else would von der Leyen also want to appoint a “vice president for protecting our European way of life,” whilst describing China as “systemic rival” and even cautiously expressing uncertainty about the ally-credentials of post-Trump America? Here, the twin questions of European culture and where Europe ends, come into view again. And it seems by all means worthwhile to speak more about that – without adopting the narrow and exclusionary narratives of Orbán and Kaczyński or wishing for a return to post-war Christian Democracy or Gaullism.
 Cited in Rosario Forlenza, ‘The Politics of the Abendland: Christian Democracy and the Idea of Europe after the Second World War’, Contemporary European History 26(2) (2017), 269.
 Konrad Adenauer, (1946) Rede in der Aula der Universität zu Köln, 24 March 1946. Available at https://www.konrad-adenauer.de/quellen/reden/1946-03-24-uni-koeln, accessed 15 May 2020.
 Forlenza, ‘The Politics of the Abendland’, 270.
 Charles de Gaulle, Memoirs of Hope: Renewal and Endeavor (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1971), 171.
 Ronald J. Granieri, ‘Politics in C Minor: The CDU/CSU between Germany and Europe since the Secular Sixties’, Central European History 42(1) (2009), 18.
 Josef Hien and Fabio Wolkenstein, ‘Where Does Europe End? Christian Democracy and the Expansion of Europe’, Journal of Common Market Studies (forthcoming).
 Martin Steber, Die Hüter der Begriffe: Politische Sprachen des Konservativen in Großbritannien und der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1945-1980 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017), 410-422.
 Wolfram Kaiser, Christian Democracy and the Origins of European Union (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 316.
 Alternative für Deutschland, Programm für Deutschland (2016) Available at https://cdn.afd.tools/wp-content/uploads/sites/111/2018/01/Programm_AfD_Druck_Online_190118.pdf, accessed 16 September 2020.
 Cabinet Office of the Hungarian Prime Minister, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at a conference held in memory of Helmut Kohl (16 June 2018), Available at: http://www.miniszterelnok.hu/prime-minister-viktor-orbans-speech-at-a-conference-held-in-memory-of-helmut-kohl/, accessed 10 June 2020.
 Fidesz, Memorandum on the State of the European People’s Party, February 2020.
 Olivier Roy, Is Europe Christian? (London: Hurst, 2019), 118-214.
 Gavin Rae, ‘In the Polish Mirror’, New Left Review 124 (July/Aug 2020), 99.
 Dorothee Bohle and Béla Greskovits, ‘Politicising embedded neoliberalism: continuity and change in Hungary’s development model’, West European Politics, 1072.
 Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes, ‘Imitation and its Discontents’, Journal of Democracy 29(3) (2018), 127.
 Jolyon Howorth, Europe and Biden: Towards a New Transatlantic Pact? (Brussels: Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, 2021).
 Speech by President von der Leyen at the EU Ambassadors’ Conference 2020, 10 November 2020. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/SPEECH_20_2064, accessed 22 June 2021.
 As Quinn Slobodian convincingly argues, free market ideology ultimately seeks to achieve a global market with minimal governmental regulations, see Quinn Slobodian, Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018).
by Anuradha Sajjanhar
As in most liberal democracies, India’s national political parties work to gain the support of constituencies with competing and often contradictory perspectives on expertise, science, religion, democratic processes, and the value of politics itself. Political leaders, then, have to address and/or embody a web of competing antipathies and anxieties. While attacking left and liberal academics, universities, and the press, the current, Hindu-nationalist Indian government is building new institutions to provide authority to its particular historically-grounded, nationalist discourse. The ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and its grassroots paramilitary organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have a long history of sustained Hindu nationalist ideology. Certain scholars see the BJP moving further to the centre through its embrace of globalisation and development. Others argue that such a mainstream economic stance has only served to make the party’s ethno-centric nationalism more palatable. By oscillating between moderation and polarisation, the BJP’s ethno-nationalist views have become more normalised. They have effectively moved the centre of political gravity further to the right. Periods of moderation have allowed for democratic coalition building and wider resonance. At the same time, periods of polarisation have led to further anti-Muslim, Hindu majoritarian radicalisation.
This two-pronged dynamic is also present in the Hindu Right’s cultivation of intellectuals, which is what my research is about. Over the last five to ten years, the BJP has been discrediting, attacking, and replacing left-liberal intellectuals. In response, alternative “right-wing” intellectuals have built a cultural infrastructure to legitimate their Hindutva ideology. At the same time, technical experts associated with the government and its politics project the image of apolitical moderation and economic pragmatism.
The wide-ranging roles of intellectuals in social and political transformation beg fundamental questions: Who counts as an intellectual and why? How do particular forms of expertise gain prominence and persist through politico-economic conjunctures? How is intellectual legitimacy redefined in new political hegemonies? I examine the creation of an intellectual policy network, interrogating the key role of think tanks as generative proselytisers. Indian think tanks are still in their early stages, but have proliferated over the last decade. While some are explicit about their political and ideological leanings, others claim neutrality, yet pursue their agenda through coded language and resonant historical nationalist narratives. Their key is to effect a change in thinking by normalising it. Six years before winning the election in 2014, India’s Hindu-nationalist party, the BJP, put together its own network of policy experts from networks closely affiliated to the party. In a national newspaper, the former vice-president of the BJP described this as an intentional shift: from “being action-oriented to solidifying its ideological underpinnings in a policy framework”. When the BJP came to power in 2014, people based in these think tanks filled key positions in the central government. The BJP has since been circulating dominant ideas of Hindu supremacy through regional parties, grassroots political organisations, and civil society organisations.
The BJP’s ideas do not necessarily emerge from think tank intellectuals (as opposed to local leaders/groups), but the think tanks have the authority to articulate and legitimate Hindu nationalism within a seemingly technocratic policy framework. As primarily elite organisations in a vast and diversely impoverished country, a study of Indian think tanks begs several questions about the nature of knowledge dissemination. Primarily, it leads us to ask whether knowledge produced in relatively narrow elite circles seeps through to a popular consciousness; and, indeed, if not, what purpose it serves in understanding ideological transformation. While think tanks have become an established part of policy making in the US and Europe, Indian think tanks are still in their early stages. The last decade, however, has seen a wider professionalisation of the policy research space. In this vein, think tanks have been mushrooming over the last decade, making India the country with the second largest number of think tanks in the world (second only to the US). As evident from the graph below, while there were approximately 100 think tanks in 2008, they rose to more than 500 in 2018. The number of think tanks briefly dropped in 2014—soon after Modi was elected, the BJP government cracked down on civil society organisations with foreign funding—but has risen dramatically between 2016 and 2018.
Fig. 1: Data on the rise of Indian think tanks from Think Tank Initiative (University of Pennsylvania)
There are broadly three types of think tanks that are considered to have a seat at the decision-making table: 1) government-funded/affiliated to Ministries; 2) privately-funded; 3) think tanks attached to political parties (these may not identify themselves as think tanks but serve the purpose of external research-based advisors). I do not claim a causal relationship between elite think tanks and popular consciousness, nor try to assert the primacy of top-down channels of political mobilisation above others. Many scholars have shown that the BJP–RSS network, for example, functions both from bottom-up forms of mobilisation and relies on grassroots intellectuals, as well as more recent technological forms of top-down party organisation (particularly through social media and the NaMo app, an app that allows the BJP’s top leadership to directly communicate with its workers and supporters). While the RSS and the BJP instil a more hierarchical and disciplinary party structure than the Congress party, the RSS has a strong grassroots base that also works independent of the BJP’s political elite.
It is important to note that what I am calling the “right-wing” in India is not only Hindu nationalists—the BJP and its supporters are not a coherent, unified group. In fact, the internal strands of the organisations in this network have vastly differing ideological roots (or, rather, where different strands of the BJP’s current ideology lean towards): it encompasses socially liberal libertarians; social and economic conservatives; firm believers in central governance and welfare for the “common man”; proponents of de-centralisation; followers of a World Bank inspired “good governance” where the state facilitates the growth of the economy; believers in a universal Hindu unity; strict adherers to the hierarchical Hindu traditionalism of the caste system; foreign policy hawks; principled sceptics of “the West”; and champions of global economic participation. Yet somehow, they all form part of the BJP–RSS support network. Mohan Bhagwat, the leader of the RSS, has tried to bridge these contradictions through a unified hegemonic discourse. In a column entitled “We may be on the cusp of an entitled Hindu consensus” from September 2018, conversative intellectual Swapan Dasgupta writes of Bhagwat:
“It is to the credit of Bhagwat that he had the sagacity and the self-confidence to be the much-needed revisionist and clarify the terms of the RSS engagement with 21st century India...Hindutva as an ideal has been maintained but made non-doctrinaire to embrace three unexceptionable principles: patriotism, respect for the past and ancestry, and cultural pride. This, coupled with categorical assertions that different modes of worship and different lifestyles does not exclude people from the Hindu Rashtra, is important in reforging the RSS to confront the challenges of an India more exposed to economic growth and global influences than ever before. There is a difference between conservative and reactionary and Bhagwat spelt it out bluntly. Bhagwat has, in effect, tried to convert Hindu nationalism from being a contested ideological preoccupation to becoming India’s new common sense.”
As Dasgupta lucidly attests, the project of the BJP encompasses not just political or economic power; rather, it attempts to wage ideological struggle at the heart of morality and common sense. There is no single coherent ideology, but different ideological intentions being played out on different fronts. While it is, at this point, difficult to see the pieces fitting together cohesively, the BJP is making an attempt to set up a larger ideological narrative under which these divergent ideas sit: fabricating a new understanding of belonging to the nation. This determines not just who belongs, but how they belong, and what is expected in terms of conduct to properly belong to the nation.
I find two variants of the BJP’s attempts at building a new common sense through their think tanks: actively political and actively a-political. In doing so, I follow Reddy’s call to pay close attention to the different ‘vernaculars’ of Hindutva politics and anti-politics. Due to the elite centralisation of policy making culture in New Delhi, and the relatively recent prominence of think tanks, their internal mechanisms have thus far been difficult to access. As such, these significant organisations of knowledge-production and -dissemination have escaped scholarly analysis. I fill this gap by examining the BJP’s attempt to build centres of elite, traditional intellectuals of their own through think tanks, media outlets, policy conventions, and conferences by bringing together a variety of elite stakeholders in government and civil society. Some scholars have characterised the BJP’s think tanks as institutions of ‘soft Hindutva’, that is, organisations that avoid overt association with the BJP and Hindu nationalist linkages but pursue a diffuse Hindutva agenda (what Anderson calls ‘neo-Hindutva’) nevertheless. I build on these preliminary observations to examine internal conversations within these think tanks about their outward positioning, their articulation of their mission, and their outreach techniques.
The double-sidedness of Hindutva acts as a framework for understanding the BJP’s wide-ranging strategy, but also to add to a comprehension of political legitimacy and the modern incarnation of ethno-nationalism in an era defined by secular liberalism. The BJP’s two most prominent think tanks (India Foundation and Chanakya Institute), show how the think tanks negotiate a fine balance between projecting a respectable religious conservatism along with an aggressive Hindu majoritarianism. These seemingly contradictory discourses become Hindutva’s strength. They allow it to function as a force that projects aggressive majoritarianism, while simultaneously claiming an anti-political ‘neutral’ face of civilisational purity and inter-religious inclusion. While some notions of ideology understand it as a systematic and coherent body of ideas, Hodge’s concept of ‘ideological complexes’ suggests that contradiction is key to how ideology achieves its effects. As Stuart Hall has shown, dominant and preferred meanings tend to interact with negotiated and oppositional meanings in a continual struggle. Thus, as Hindutva becomes a mediating political discourse, it may risk incoherence, yet defines the terms through which the socio-political world is discussed.
The BJP’s think tanks, then, attempt to legitimise its ideas and policies by building a base of both seemingly-apolitical expertise and what they call ‘politically interventionist’ intellectuals. Neo-Hindutva can thus be both explicitly political and anti-political at the same time: advocating for political interventionism while eschewing politics and forging an apolitical route towards cultural transformation. However, contrary to critical scholarship that tends to subsume claims of apolitical motivation within forms of false-consciousness or backdoor-politics, I note that several researchers at these organisations do genuinely see themselves as conducting apolitical, academic research. Rather than wilful ignorance, their acknowledgement of the organisation’s underlying ideology understands the heavy religious organisational undertones as more cultural than political. This distinction takes the cultural and religious parts of Hindutva ‘out of’ politics, allowing it to be practiced and consumed as a generalisable national ethos.
 Nistula Hebbar, “At Mid-Term, Modi’s BJP on Cusp of Change.” The Hindu. The Hindu, June 12, 2017. https://www.thehindu.com/thread/politics-and-policy/at-mid-term-modis-bjp-on-cusp-of-change/article18966137.ece
 Anuradha Sajjanhar, “The New Experts: Populism, Technocracy, and the Politics of Expertise in Contemporary India”, Journal of Contemporary Asia (forthcoming 2021).
 Deepa S. Reddy, “What Is Neo- about Neo-Hindutva?” Contemporary Southeast Asia 26, no. 4 (October 2, 2018): 483–90.
 Edward Anderson and Arkotong Longkumer. “‘Neo-Hindutva’: Evolving Forms, Spaces, and Expressions of Hindu Nationalism.” Contemporary Southeast Asia 26, no. 4 (October 2, 2018): 371–77.
 Stuart Hall, “Encoding/decoding.” Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks 16676 (2001).
by Stefan Pedersen
The idea that adherents of neoliberalism desire world government is an old misunderstanding. In recent years this mistaken notion has been promoted by populists such as former President Donald Trump who in one of his most ideology and world order oriented speeches to the UN General Assembly made the ‘ideology of globalism’ and global governance seem diametrically opposed to his preferred ‘doctrine of patriotism’ and national sovereignty.
Though it is not nominally a given that Trump and others with similar nationalist inclinations are specifically talking about neoliberalism when this supposed major contemporary ideological cleavage comes up, there should be little doubt among students of global governance that this is effectively what is being claimed when neoliberalism has been the hegemonic ideology in global governance circles at least since the Cold War ended. In addition, the terms ‘globalism’ and ‘globalists’ have been connected to early and present-day neoliberals in several influential studies over the last few decades. Noteworthy examples in this regard are here initially Manfred B. Steger’s many works treating neoliberalism as the hegemonic form of ‘globalism’—albeit not the only one. Then, Or Rosenboim notes how neoliberal theorists actively played a role in ‘the emergence of globalism’ in the 1930s and 1940s—and she also sees neoliberalism as one of several streams of thought advocating ‘globalism’ in the sense of variations over the theme of establishing some kind of global order. Finally, and most consequentially for the way neoliberalism is presently understood, Quinn Slobodian has in his Globalists (2018) convincingly and in detail argued that the early neoliberals operated with an agenda aiming for global control of the workings of the world economy that subsequent ideological fellow travellers had to a certain extent managed to establish through legislative and international institutional inroads by the mid-1990s.
Those at the forefront of studying neoliberalism today, such as Slobodian, has provided us with a multitude of insights into neoliberalism’s multifaceted development and present configuration. For instance by further confirming how the neoliberals have prioritised establishing ‘world law’ over a ‘world state’. But on one front there seems to be a paucity in the record—and that is when it comes to how the neoliberals originally arrived at this stance and what it actually meant in world order terms in comparison to the then extant alternatives.
What most scholars have thought happened in world order terms during neoliberalism’s formative period has had a tendency to be derived from an intense scrutiny of the period that spanned from the Colloque Walter Lippmann in 1938 to the foundation of the Mont Pèlerin Society (MPS) in 1947. Significant here is what was said by the various ‘early neoliberals’ who attended these monumental events in this formative period for the neoliberal ideology. But as Hagen Schulz-Forberg has now sensibly argued, if the Colloque Walter Lippmann represents the birth of neoliberalism, then that birth will have been ‘preceded by pregnancy’.
The years of importance for the earliest development of neoliberal thought does therefore not exclusively include the 1938–1947 period but also the about two decades of intellectual gestation that preceded that final sprint leading up to the formation of the MPS. Considering the span of the careers of some of the primary actors here, such as Walter Lippmann—who the eponymous Colloque in 1938 was held in honour of—and Ludwig von Mises, this brings us back to their earlier writings during the First World War. We can therefore say that the neoliberalism whose core tenets were broadly agreed upon in the late 1940s was the fruit of debates that spanned the entire period 1914 to 1947. This was also a time when considerable intellectual effort was put into thinking about world order, first concerning the shape of the League of Nations and then the shape of what ought to replace the League of Nations once this organisation had revealed itself to be dysfunctional for ensuring peace among mankind.
World politically, the temporal span from 1914 to 1947 also takes us from the realisation that imperialist nationalism needs to be tamed or excised, brought first to the fore by the occurrence of the Great War itself, to the understanding that a ‘Cold War’ had begun in 1947—an expression not coincidentally popularised by Lippmann, who was a journalist and an avid commentator on foreign affairs, and in 1947 published a book with the title The Cold War that was a compilation of articles he had recently written. Lippmann, as perhaps the premier American foreign policy commentator of the time and associate of centrally placed early neoliberals such as Friedrich von Hayek, is the key to unlocking the world order dimension that neoliberalism ended up incorporating by the end of the 1940s.
The world order dimension
To get a handle on this argument it is important to note that neoliberalism, like all other major political ideologies, can be understood as composed of a series of conceptual dimensions. Since neoliberalism is considered the ideology behind the process of economic globalisation that gained truly global reach once the Cold War ended, it is naturally its economic dimension that has been the key focus. And to understand how this works, we can think of the number of ideologies with party political representation that by the 1990s had put neoliberalism’s economic dimension into the economic slot Keynesianism once occupied. This practically happened across the board, with Thatcher and the Conservatives and Reagan and the Republicans spearheading a change in policy later also followed up by Clinton and the Democrats and Blair and the Labour Party—and this was repeated throughout the world.
Thinking here in terms of an ideally articulated neoliberalism, rather than the compromised versions that appear once the ideology is made to fit some party political program in the real world of political practice, neoliberalism should be understood as a multi-dimensional ideology in its own right that also contains a ‘world order dimension’ of great significance. Every ideology contains what is at least an implicit world order dimension. But since today’s nation-state centric world order has existed unchallenged longer than most can remember, it is commonly assumed that all political ideologies are designed to function in the state system. Conservatism, liberalism, and socialism, we know best in their national garb. Stalinism is a form of communism made to suit the world of nation-states with its focus on achieving ‘socialism in one country’. Every ideology that is made to function within the nationalist and statist parameters of the current world order share the same basic ‘world order dimension’.
The early neoliberals ended up deviating from traditional nationalist conceptions while recognising—with Marx and Trotsky—that a world economy had become a feature of reality. The Trotskyist solution to dealing with a novel world economy was to aim to subsume the entire world under the command and control of a communist regime that would also lead politically. The neoliberals worked from the same premise, that there was now a world economy, but with a different set of aims. They wanted to free the economy—meaning those who benefitted from mastering it through their entrepreneurial skills. That meant avoiding at all cost that some force powerful enough to subsume the world economy to a different set of political interests arose—be they for instance communist, democratic socialist, social liberal, or humanist (and in our day we can add ‘ecological’ to that list). This was in part achieved through taking a strong anti-totalitarian stance, deriding both fascism and communism. But there was a greater Westernised threat to a world order suited to neoliberal interests: a world democracy, where the free people of the world could elect a socialist world party into power.
A world democracy, as someone as versed in cosmopolitan theory as Mises well knew, was not really compatible with a world of nation-states. It would have to involve what we can call a ‘cosmopolitan world order dimension’ that is incompatible with the nation-state sovereignty that forms the foundation of the extant system of states. Mises had once thought this an ideal solution himself, since to him cosmopolitanism was compatible with ‘liberalism’ and ensuring world peace. But it gradually dawned on both Mises and Hayek that a paradigm shift in the world order dimension subscribed to by the democratic populations on the planet could spell doom for the institution of the neoliberal economic agenda they were in the process of planning in detail. A world government, though still desirable if its only function would be to ensure the free working of the world economy, was an all too risky proposition if it were to be democratically elected. The simple reason for this was that the neoliberal agenda was understood to be not inherently popular but elitist, or for the few rather than the many. Popular politics in the 1930s and 1940s, especially as fascism, Nazism, isolationism, and other right-wing varieties lost their pull, was becoming more and more social democratic or liberal in a manner that we today would perhaps better recognise as ‘democratic socialist’.
The neoliberals therefore thought it would be better if the rules for running the world economy were simply made expertly and separated from the political rules that parties elected into power could alter according to the volatile demands of diverse voting publics. This neat separation would have the benefit of blocking socialist reforms from having severe world economic effects even if socialists were to be elected into power in key nation-states. What this meant in world order terms was that neoliberalism needed to be both economically ‘globalist’ or universalist, so that the world economy could operate on neoliberal principles, and politically nationalist, so that controlling the world economy as a whole would not be subject to popular desires. The possibility of just such a separation was aired by Mises already in 1919. But due to the insecurity surrounding the question of what would replace the ailing League of Nations, a question which became steadily more acute as world politics converged on the course that led to World War II throughout the 1930s, there was always also the chance that the masses would start to demand the more comprehensive political solution to the world’s problems that world federalism offered. The neoliberals therefore also had to address this contingency—while finding ways to argue against it without sounding too illiberal. However, as the Second World War entered the phase where Allied victory seemed certain while its leaders seemed eager to water down any plans for a permanent organisation to keep the peace, the neoliberals understood that the old plans could be reinstated. Lippmann is an apt example of a neoliberal theorist who helped see to it that things developed this way.
Walter Lippmann's crusade against One Worldism
Lippmann had a long history of engagement with issues relating to diplomacy and grand strategy that made him the foreign policy wonk in the group of early neoliberals. In 1918, Lippmann had been the brain behind no less than eight of Wilson’s historic ‘Fourteen Points’ that laid down the American terms for the peace to come after the end of the First World War. From this time on, Lippmann was a very well-connected American journalist and intellectual, whose close connections in Washington D.C. included all sitting Presidents from Wilson to Lyndon B. Johnson. Even after his formal retirement from the Washington D. C. circuit, Nixon sought the old Lippmann’s advice too. Lippmann was no neutral observer, and is for instance known to have sided for Harry Truman against Henry A. Wallace in the crucial contest for the Vice Presidency that preceded President Roosevelt’s last nomination. This calculated action is evidence that Lippmann, in accordance with early neoliberal tenets, preferred Truman’s anti-progressive agenda of replacing the ‘New Dealers’ Roosevelt had earlier put in place—New Dealers such as Wallace—with ‘Wall Streeters’ in his cabinet.
What is less often pointed out here is that Lippmann, through favouring Truman over Wallace, also would have made it clear that he was siding against the ‘One Worldism’ that Wallace and others who had thought long and hard about a desirable world order advocated. Lippmann, who instead appealed to a ‘realism’ that rested ‘on a hard calculation of the “national interest”’ was at this point ‘distressed by’ the ‘one world euphoria’ which was then a prevalent feature of post-war planning in idealist circles. The world federalism that was espoused by the idealists of the day seemed entirely impractical to Lippmann, who himself can be counted amongst the ‘classical realists’ in international relations theory—even if his ‘original contributions to realist theory were ultimately modest’. In contrast, Lippmann towards the end of World War II instead offered up a ‘formula for great-power cooperation’ that he thought of as ‘a realistic alternative both to bankrupt isolationism and wishful universalism’. What all this goes to show is that Lippmann, in his capacity within early neoliberal circles as an authority on matters of foreign policy and world order, would have further strengthened the neoliberal insight that the state-system was crucial to neoliberalism.
Reading the contemporaneous works of Mises and Hayek—which in the case of Mises spans nearly the entire 1914–1947 period—this is indeed what seems to have happened towards the end of this formative era for neoliberalism. Mises and Hayek were both markedly more open to idealist forms of world federalism in the early to late 1930s than what they ended up being towards the end of the war and in the late 1940s. This was likely part in response to Lippmann’s realist influence, supported by the general course of events, with the founding of the United Nations and the early signs of the Cold War developing, and part in response to a growing realisation that the world order that was most desirable from a neoliberal standpoint ought to be ‘many worldist’ in its construction rather than based on genuine One Worldism.
Mises and Hayek stands out as the most centrally placed early neoliberals who were willing to engage with the world order debate that ran concurrently to the formative neoliberal debate. Lippmann was not the only early neoliberal sceptical to One Worldism—the claim has indeed been made that the early neoliberals taken under one were all ‘acutely aware that nation-states were here to stay’. But in the world order discourse of the time, there were two distinctly different approaches to what was then viewed as the desirable and necessary goal of creating ‘a world-wide legal order’—and these two were either ‘law-by-compact-of-nations’ or a ‘complete world government that will include and sanction a world-wide legal order’. It is debateable if even those who subscribed to the former approach really believed that ‘nation-states were here to stay’ as the League of Nations order wound up around them and the Third Reich and then Imperial Japan swallowed most nations in their surrounding areas. It was also not a certainty that the United States or the Soviet Union, who each straddled the globe from the perspective of their respective capitals at war’s end, would let go of the new lands they now commanded. For a while, both Mises and Hayek supported some form or other of world federalism to ensure that basic security could be installed worldwide—with Mises advocating world government and Hayek favouring a federation of capitalist nations.
What laid the dreams of a world order for all humanity to rest was the lack of trust among the Allied nations that established the United Nations in 1945—which led to veto power being granted to the permanent members of the Security Council. This effectively made humanity’s further progress hostage to the whims of the leaders of the nations that won World War II, here primarily the conflicting interests of the new superpowers. Any remnant of hope for a quick remedy to this stalemate then disappeared completely as the Cold War started to escalate and the McCarthyite Red Scare kicked in. This made cosmopolitan advocates of a humane world order appear dangerously close to proponents of Internationalism in the United States and conversely led their Soviet equivalents to be seen as potential capitalist class-traitors there. The neoliberals had before this crisis point was reached and the world order debate was ended in its present iteration already disowned their prior engagement with figuring out what form a desirable world order people would willingly sign up to should take.
Divide et impera
Sometime between the beginning of the Second World War in Europe in 1939 and its end in 1945, both Hayek and Mises seem to have come to the same conclusion—supported by Lippmann’s insights and arguments—that world government would more likely than not be anathema to the primary goal of neoliberalism: creating a world economy where entrepreneurs could let their fortunes bloom unimpeded by negative government intervention. The reason for this was straightforward enough. Any world federation that in principle would be acceptable to the Western nations, first and foremost in 1945 the United States, Britain, and France, would have to be democratic. And an elected world government would at this time more likely than not be socialist, eager to install a Keynesian version of a global New Deal. This represented the worst of all worlds for the neoliberals—the least desirable scenario. One Worldism therefore had to be countered—with Lippmann’s ‘realism’ and communist smears. Subsequently, the whole program for a world government had to be kept discredited—which is achieved simply enough by letting the present world order run on auto-pilot, since its political default position is to uphold national sovereignty, nationalism, and the division of humanity into a myriad of designated national peoples with their own territorial states.
We are in the end faced with a peculiar world order dimension in neoliberalism that is anti-globalist in political terms but globalist in economic terms—insofar as we understand ‘globalist’ to be a synonym for universalist, which is of course how it is understood by nationalist politicians today who use the term to convey the opposite of the nationalism they themselves seek to promote. The paradox is therefore that the neoliberal ‘globalists’ are against the creation of a democratically functioning planetary polity or world government, especially if one understands ‘world government’ to be the legitimate government of a world republic or planetary federation ruled by representatives elected into power by the global populace in free and fair elections—that therefore also would end up being multi-ideological.
Pluralist cosmopolitan democracy embodied in a world parliament is not the goal, or even one of the goals that adherents of neoliberalism aim for. Instead it is something neoliberals fear, and that is a very different proposition from the nationalists’ misconceived portrayal. Another great misunderstanding today, one that follows from the misconception that the neoliberals want genuine world government, is that the neoliberals would abhor nationalism. Today, this leads many on both the left and right to think that neoliberalism can be effectively countered with a turn to nationalism—on the assumption that nationalism is the opposite of neoliberal globalism and therefore incompatible with it. But that is not the case. The neoliberals instead rely on nationalism to keep democracy tamed and irrelevant, at a scale too small for it to exercise effective control over the world economy’s neoliberal ruleset—which continues to send the spoils of economic activity towards Hayek’s idealised ‘entrepreneurs’.
Global democracy, stripped of nationalist division, is what the early neoliberals truly feared. We can today imagine what for instance a democratic socialist world government able and willing to enforce global taxation could do to the profit margins of high finance, multi-national corporations, global extractive industries, and the high net worth of individuals that currently are allowed to keep their money outside of democratic reach in offshore accounts, and see why the prospect of an elected world government became repulsive to neoliberals.
The big question today is therefore, when will we see an ideological movement for instituting exactly the kind of world government in the interest of humanity in general that would work properly to counter the neoliberal agenda? Any number of ideological projects could be global in scope, whether we are talking about prioritising liberal global democracy, economic solidarity, the ecological preservation of the biosphere, or enabling the future flourishing of human civilisation through intertwining all these three ideological strands into a cohesive and holistic planetary cosmopolitanism or planetarism that would be both post-nationalistic and post-neoliberal in principle. The left and green parties of today are clearly not there yet—but they will at some point have to realise that neoliberalism and nationalism are two sides of the same coin—the two ideologies reinforce each other and should therefore be countered as one.
 Stephen Gill. ‘European Governance and New Constitutionalism: Economic and Monetary Union and Alternatives to Disciplinary Neoliberalism in Europe’, New Political Economy, 3 (1), 1998, pp. 5–26.
 Manfred B. Steger. Globalisms: The Great Ideological Struggle of the Twenty-First Century. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009.
 Or Rosenboim. The Emergence of Globalism. Visions of World Order in Britain and the United States, 1939-1950. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017.
 Quinn Slobodian. Globalists. The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018.
 Slobodian. Ibid., p. 272.
 See for instance: Philip Mirowski and Dieter Plehwe, eds. The Road from Mont Pèlerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.
 Hagen Schulz-Forberg. ‘Embedded Early Neoliberalism: Transnational Origins of the Agenda of Liberalism Reconsidered’, in Dieter Plehwe, Quinn Slobodian and Philip Mirowski, eds. Nine Lives of Neoliberalism. London: Verso, pp. 169-196.
 Glenda Sluga. Internationalism in the Age of Nationalism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.
 Ronald Steel. Walter Lippmann and the American Century. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1980, p. 445.
 ‘Liberal’ in the American sense of supporting (the left-wing of) the Democratic party.
 Ludwig von Mises, Nation, State, and Economy: Contributions to the Politics and History of
Our Time. New York: New York University Press, 1983.
 Steel, Ibid., pp. 134–135.
 Steel, Ibid.
 Steel, Ibid., p. 589.
 John C. Culver and John Hyde. American Dreamer. A Life of Henry A. Wallace. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001, p. 342.
 John Nichols. The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party. The Enduring Legacy of Henry A. Wallace’s Antifascist, Antiracist Politics. London: Verso, 2020, pp. 109–110.
 Culver and Hyde, Ibid., pp. 402–418; and; Steel, Ibid., p. 407.
 Steel, Ibid., pp. 404–406.
 William E. Scheuerman. The Realist Case for Global Reform. Cambridge: Polity, 2011, p. 6.
 Steel, Ibid., p. 406.
 This development is detailed in the article that this text is a companion piece to.
 Schulz-Forberg, Ibid., p. 194.
 Gray L. Dorsey. ‘Two Objective Bases for a World-Wide Legal Order’, in F.S.C Northrop, ed. Ideological Differences and World Order. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1949, pp. 442–474.
 Also detailed in the article that this text is a companion piece to.
 Gilbert Jonas. One Shining Moment: A Short History of the American Student World Federalist Movement 1942-1953. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.com, Inc. 2001.
by Tejas Parasher
It is difficult to overstate just how much of a watershed moment the immediate aftermath of WWI was for modern democracy. No previous global crisis had revealed on such a scale the self-destructiveness and the fundamental unsustainability—political, economic, and military—of the European states-system. Writing from London in 1917, the British economist John Hobson predicted the rise of new movements which would increasingly seek to disentangle democracy from the military-industrial state; as a result of the war, Hobson argued, “not only the spirit but the very forms of popular self-government have suffered violation.” The war had made clear in stark terms the ever-present possibilities of autocracy and violence underneath the veneer of democracy in modern states.
Hobson’s observation proved prescient. The months after November 1918 witnessed a proliferation of political experiments, ranging from the council communism of the Spartacus League in Berlin to pluralism and guild socialism in Britain, France, and the United States, bringing together political and legal thinkers like Rosa Luxemburg, Léon Duguit, Harold Laski, and G.D.H. Cole. Though distinct in their respective ideologies, these movements were all propelled by disillusionment with the representative, parliamentary republics created in Western Europe through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
That diagnosis was not restricted to pacifists and democrats. Carl Schmitt asserted confidently in The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy (1923) that nineteenth-century liberal models of representative government inherited from John Stuart Mill and François Guizot had outlived their usefulness in a new age of mass politics, and only remained standing “through sheer mechanical perseverance as an empty apparatus.”
But how the problem that Schmitt called “the crisis of parliamentary democracy” was perceived beyond Europe and North America after 1918 still remains a largely untold story. In recent years, historians have uncovered the depth of interaction between subject peoples in the colonial world and the various political ideologies and institutional proposals circulating in Europe in the wake of the Great War. A notable example is Susan Pedersen’s exemplary study of petitions submitted to the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission by groups in the Middle East, the South Pacific, and south-western and eastern Africa, demanding political independence from imperial rule. A much less examined aspect of this period, though, is the orientation of anti-colonial thinkers and leaders towards the critiques of nation-state sovereignty and representative democracy consuming European political thought of the time. To put it differently, how were Hobson and Schmitt’s diagnoses of the post-WWI situation understood in Bombay or Cairo, instead of in London or Berlin? The point of such an inquiry is both to provide a more global historiography of the early twentieth-century crisis of parliamentarism and to better understand the full range of political thought precipitated by the crisis.
My recent research explores these themes through an examination of the rise of a normative challenge to representative democracy, particularly its nineteenth-century parliamentary variant, within Indian political thought between 1918 and 1928. My focus is on a group of historians and philosophers based at the north Indian universities of Allahabad and Lucknow and at the southern University of Mysore. Identifying themselves as political pluralists, these writers turned to pre-modern Indian history to unearth forms of classical republicanism and participatory law-making. Their books, pamphlets, and draft constitutions contained the earliest theories of direct democracy as a tangible constitutional ideal in modern South Asia.
By the mid-1910s, there was an established, well-organised nationalist movement in the Crown Territories of British India. For three decades, the Indian National Congress (INC) had been lobbying for political and economic reform within the empire. Politically, the INC sought the introduction of a parliamentary system elected through adult suffrage, modelled on the settler colonies of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Parliamentarism was seen both as a distinctively English achievement and, as an arrangement wherein only representatives deliberated and legislated, as the most effective way of selecting members of an educated, urban elite to govern in the interests of the wider population.
Thus, between 1885 and 1915, Dadabhai Naoroji, a key figure in the evolution of Indian nationalism, repeatedly defined the Indian demand for self-rule (swaraj) as an extension of parliamentary principles established in England after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and imported to the satellite states of the Anglosphere by the late nineteenth century. Even as nationalist politics came to be divided between liberal and revolutionary camps from the first decade of the new century, the embrace of parliamentarism remained secure. For the revolutionary leader Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who constantly linked Indian nationalism with the struggles for Home Rule in Ireland and Egypt and was hailed by Lenin as a “democrat” in 1908, swaraj meant the election of members of political parties into self-governing representative institutions. For all the disagreement over tactics, early nationalist arguments in India converged on a view of popular self-government as an indirect electoral enterprise, exercised by a limited number of deputies on behalf of the citizenry.
From 1918, the nationalist attempt to mediate popular sovereignty through the established procedures of parliamentary representation provoked a reaction amongst a new group of writers who held a different understanding of swaraj. A key moment in the fracturing of the consensus around parliamentary government was the publication of Radhakumud Mookerji’s Local Government in Ancient India in 1919. Mookerji was born in rural Bengal in 1884 and trained as a historian at the University of Calcutta. The backdrop to his political formation was the upsurge of anti-British agitation in eastern India in 1905, known as the swadeshi movement, which highlighted to him the role of historical narratives in shaping anti-colonial nationalist politics. Radhakumud eventually settled at the University of Lucknow as Professor of Ancient Indian History.
Local Government in Ancient India was a strikingly presentist political book to have been written by an academic historian. Radhakumud challenged the Indian National Congress’ uncritical acceptance of parliamentary government. He insisted that WWI had made clear not only that parliamentary republics did not always express the full will of their people, but that representative institutions under the conditions of modern economic life, electioneering, and party politics could easily be co-opted by political and economic elites and interest groups. In seeking to transpose the nineteenth-century English system of electoral representation into India in the 1910s, the Congress was essentially introducing “self-rule from above,” leaving the power to make and amend law in the hands of a relatively small political class.
Radhakumud’s response was to turn to constitutional models from ancient and medieval South Asia. Relying on recent archival discoveries of Sanskrit and Pali-language treatises and archaeological inscriptions from southern India in the ninth and tenth centuries CE, Radhakumud made the claim that pre-modern Indian states had been elaborate federal structures consisting of semi-independent local jurisdictions overseen by a central monarchy. The jurisdictions themselves were governed by large citizens’ assemblies (sabha) consisting of adult house-holders; the sabha performed all legislative, executive, and judicial functions, and chose sub-committees for specialised functions on the basis of sortition.
Radhakumud was not the first modern Indian writer to give a republican re-interpretation of states which had frequently been denigrated in terms of either Oriental despotism or ungoverned anarchy, as in James Mill’s History of British India (1817). But Radhakumud was the first to consider a medieval federation of citizens’ assemblies as a viable political model for the twentieth century, as a real alternative to parliamentarism. Much to the chagrin of other historians, Radhakumud proposed that replicating a system of citizens’ assemblies provided a coherent model of direct democracy, much more participatory than the models of representative government espoused by the INC leadership.
Local Government in Ancient India went through two English editions in 1919 and 1920. Its core thesis was reproduced in a number of other Indian texts from the 1920s, including Brajendranath Seal’s Report on the Constitution of Mysore (1923), Radhakamal Mukerjee’s Democracies of the East (1923), and Beni Prasad’s A Few Suggestions on the Problem of the Indian Constitution (1928). Radhakamal Mukerjee’s Democracies of the East—from which I draw the title of this post—was the most detailed example of the genre. Radhakamal Mukerjee decried the nationalist acceptance of the English model of electoral representation, premised on suffrage, political parties, and parliamentary supremacy, as insufficiently democratic. Nationalist politics limited legislative sovereignty to “a certain small and well-defined class which packs and directs the assembly, and speaks in the name of the people.” Radhakamal accordingly presented the creation of directly democratic assemblies patterned on medieval Asian states as a way to overcome the structural hierarchies of sovereignty embedded within parliamentary government. As in Local Government in Ancient India, the reconstruction of pre-modern republicanism was a response to the perceived inability of parliamentary states to allow for wide political participation.
Democracies of the East framed its program of historical recovery as an attempt to avoid the fate of European parliamentary regimes during WWI—in particular the threat of unaccountable governance by a class of periodically elected political elites, the conversion of popular rule into the rule of a few. Indeed, Radhakamal Mukerjee saw his proposals as part of a wider trans-national backlash against statism and representative democracy between 1918 and 1923, praising movements such as syndicalism, pluralism, and guild socialism in Western Europe, the Middle East, East Asia, and beyond. Indian history was for him a repertoire of intellectual resources to aid these movements in the imagination of new democratic futures. He was especially drawn to the guild socialist G.D.H. Cole, aligning his own intellectual project with the latter’s attempts to revive medieval practices of self-management in associational life in lieu of electoral forms of labour politics. While there is no evidence that Democracies of the East was read in the British guild socialist circles around G.D.H. Cole, in the mid-1930s Radhakamal did travel to London to meet with Cole’s fellow pluralist Ernest Barker at the Institute of Sociology.
The Indian pluralists’ visions of participatory democracy remained academic experiments in the 1920s, never really taken up by political movements on the ground. By the late 1940s, the dominant constitutional paradigm in India came to be narrowed into a demand for sovereign statehood and parliamentary democracy. As John Dunn has argued, in such circumstances the mid-century transition from imperial rule was unable to be a truly transformative rupture with the state-form of representative democracy ubiquitous in Western Europe following the Second World War.
Given these subsequent developments, returning to the defeated democratic traditions emergent in the immediate aftermath of WWI in British India is an exercise of intellectual retrieval. It allows us to reconstruct the contours of a discourse and ideology at odds with the tradition of self-government which eventually triumphed with independence. The existence of the pluralist discourse indicates, above all, how the profound crisis of liberalism and modern democratic thinking that Carl Schmitt associated with the European 1920s was a global phenomenon stretching far beyond Europe.
In South Asia, these years were similarly an opening for thinkers to challenge the principles of representative government consolidated in the region’s political thought and practice by the 1910s—principles which, in the hands of nationalist leaders, would re-assert their dominance by the 1940s. The civilisational language that Indian pluralists adopted in their opposition to representative democracy—turning to an invented tradition of ‘Asian’ republicanism—was of course strikingly different from Schmitt or Hobson. Yet their turn to history was a response to similar underlying political dynamics, produced by a shared global moment of transformation and experimentation in theories of sovereignty and collective self-government.
 J.A. Hobson, Democracy after the War (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1917), 15.
 Carl Schmitt, The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy, trans. Ellen Kennedy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985), 21.
 Susan Pedersen, The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).
 Tejas Parasher, “Federalism, Representation, and Direct Democracy in 1920s India,” Modern Intellectual History (January 2021): 1-29. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/modern-intellectual-history/article/federalism-representation-and-direct-democracy-in-1920s-india/625B0116F57186A02ABE261B001012CE.
 Radhakumud Mookerji, Local Government in Ancient India, 1st ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1919).
 Radhakamal Mukerjee, Democracies of the East: A Study in Comparative Politics (London: P.S. King & Son, 1923), 356.
 Mukerjee, Democracies of the East, 340-41. Also see G.D.H. Cole, Self-Government in Industry (London: G. Bell and Sons Ltd., 1918).
 Radhakamal Mukerjee, India: The Dawn of a New Era (An Autobiography) (New Delhi: Radha Publications, 1997), 166.
 John Dunn, Setting the People Free: The Story of Democracy, 2nd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019), 154.
by Katrine Fangen
Over the past two decades, negative images of Muslims and Islam have become widespread throughout Europe and North America. Many of the images represent Islam (and particularly male Muslims) as a threat, as can be seen in the portrayal of Muslims as potential terrorists, as rapefugees (rapist refugees), or as patriarchal and misogynistic. In addition, worries are expressed about Muslims becoming ‘too many’ in number, leading to the gradual decline of the national population (defined as non-Muslim). Although some of these images have a long history in Europe, and can be traced back to colonialism and Orientalism, research has identified a sharp increase in representations of Islam as a threat after 9/11, when ‘virtually all parties and formations on the radical right made the confrontation with Islam a central political issue’. Within more mainstream political parties, too, there have been calls for the acculturation of Muslims to ‘our way of life’. The ‘war on terror’ itself has been said to have contributed to the derogatory portrayal of Muslims. Other critical events during the past two decades have also contributed to the threat-image of Islam, including Turkey’s EU application, which led to a ‘Europe versus Islam’ discourse, and the civil war in Syria, which triggered discussion on the securitisation of borders both in the aftermath of the war and during the preceding ‘refugee crisis’.
Terms like ‘Islamisation’ and ‘Eurabia’ point to concerns that Islam is slowly but significantly taking hold in European societies and replacing the Christian-Occidental values on which those societies were built. Related fears include demographic visions of a white population slowly dying out and the idea that Muslims with large families will take over through what those concerned see as a form of demographic warfare. Belief in such a scenario, which was popularised by the author Bat Ye’or, is shared by many different anti-Islamic actors.
Defining the concept
There is little agreement on what might be the best term for capturing generalising and negative attitudes towards Muslims and Islam. Many academics prefer the notion of ‘Islamophobia’. First used by two Muslim authors at the end of World War I, this term was introduced into the social sciences by Edward Said in 1985, and grew significantly in popularity after it was used in a 1997 report from the Runnymede Trust. According to that report, what characterises Islamophobia are its closed views on Islam as static and monolithic, as an inferior ‘other’ and separate from the West, and as a manipulative enemy. Erik Bleich’s definition of Islamophobia as ‘indiscriminate negative attitudes or emotions directed at Islam or Muslims’ is also very useful, as it captures the importance of strong negative emotions in anti-Islamic discourse. The term ‘anti-Islamic’, however, also highlights the role of strong negative emotions, and furthermore avoids any association with a psychological diagnosis that might be involved in use of the suffix ‘-phobia’. In this term, the prefix ‘anti-’ points to a sort of antagonism, or even aversion, which is important, since what is being designated here is more than mere criticism of religion. For the purpose of this article, then, I will use the term ‘anti-Islamic’, which is defined here as referring to groups or actors who advocate policies to restrict Islamic immigration or the practice of the Muslim faith, and to ‘the framing of Islam as a homogeneous, totalitarian ideology that threatens Western civilisation’.
What characterises anti-Islamic actors?
Anti-Islamic actors are opposed to Islam in itself and often hold that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim, as they think so-called moderate Muslims are only hiding their true intentions. They have in common the adoption of a strong stance against Muslim immigration and all forms of Islamic influence. What they identify as unwanted Islamic influence includes everything from the building of mosques to the use of Islamic clothing such as hijabs and, last but not least, all forms of special treatment. Anti-Islamic groups argue that Muslims do not fit into Western society, and stress that Islam as a religion preaches a fundamental hatred towards Western values and ways of life. Further, some of them hold that Muslim men are inherently dangerous and cannot ‘be taught how to behave’. The dislike of Islam and Muslims is so strong that it encompasses a whole range of negative emotions such as anger, fear, and aversion.
In political terms, strong anti-Muslim attitudes are often located on the far-right end of the political spectrum, although there are certainly instances of anti-Islam attitudes at the left or centre of politics too. One of the most prominent features of the far right is nativism, or the view that states should be inhabited exclusively by members of the relevant native group and that non-native persons and ideas are fundamentally threatening to the nation-state’s homogeneity. Members of the far right see fighting against those who ‘threaten’ a change in the beliefs and values of the nation as one of their main tasks. Typical for anti-Islamic actors is that it is first and foremost Muslims who are not defined as members of the native group (even when they are born in the country).
Different actors in the anti-Islamic movement
The many anti-Islamic groups that have arisen in different countries throughout Europe and North America since 2000 can be seen as constituting an anti-Islamic movement because of their shared anti-Islamic identity and rhetoric. There are many different types of actors in this movement—ranging from politicians or political parties, social movement organisations, and social media groups to individual actors (e.g. individuals writing in the comments sections of newspaper articles). There are connections between some of these actors, and even influence and collaboration across national borders, but there are also many actors who operate more or less on their own. Influence occurs, for example, through the reading of news on alternative media sites, some of which (e.g. Breitbart) are widely read across national borders, and such alternative news is spread widely on social media. An important feature of these alternative news sites is that they build a community of like-minded individuals, although these individuals are not members of a defined group. Further, anti-Islamic ideas and negative sentiments are also spread by the posting of internet memes in social media. Such memes contribute to a nasty form of humour and often dehumanisation of Muslims.
Influence is further seen in the fact that similar social movement organisations have emerged in many different countries, such as Stop Islamisation of America, Stop Islamisation of Europe, Stop Islamisation of Denmark, and Stop Islamisation of Norway. Similarly, the organisation Pegida, originally established in Germany, subsequently emerged in many other European countries. Even though many of the groups operate mostly in a national context, they obviously get inspiration from similar groups in other countries. This also holds for right-wing populist parties that have a strong anti-Islamic platform, whose intensive collaboration in recent years has led to the coining of the term ‘nationalist international’ to refer to them.
In addition, different actors espouse different degrees of extremeness, and the degree of extremeness may vary over time depending on the particular context in which it is expressed: In interviews with anti-Islamic actors, many reveal that they are far more extreme when writing posts on social media or in the comments sections of news outlets than they would be when speaking face-to-face with another person. It is from the internet sphere that far-right terrorists have gained inspiration and support for acts of terror they subsequently carried out. Therefore, the spread of anti-Islamic ideas through social media groups or more extreme internet platforms is far from just a possibly harmless online phenomenon. In Norway, a country that had previously seen very little terrorism, the last decade has witnessed both the worst violent attack on Norwegian soil since World War II and a later unsuccessful act of terror. On 22 July 2011, concern about the Islamisation of Europe motivated Anders Behring Breivik to detonate a bomb at the Norwegian government’s headquarters in Oslo, killing eight people, and to thereafter engage in a shooting rampage directed against adolescents attending a Labour Party youth camp, in which 69 people were killed. Philip Manshaus, who attempted to shoot Muslims at the Al-Noor Islamic Centre on 10 August 2019, was similarly inspired by anti-Islamist ideas. In other parts of the world, too, terror attacks have been motivated by anti-Muslim ideas (e.g. the Christchurch terror attack that Manshaus cited as a direct inspiration for his own failed terror attack). It is therefore vital that we keep track of the worldviews and mobilising potential of anti-Islamic groups, online and offline.
Leaders of anti-Islamic organisations
One important way of accessing what goes on in the mind of anti-Islamists is to interview them. Interviews with leaders of various anti-Islamic movement organisations have revealed that one of their main goals is to ‘reverse the Islamisation of society’. Social movements emerge as a reaction to something in society that certain actors think is intrinsically wrong and therefore needs to be changed. Even though the leaders of anti-Islamic groups share a nativist conception of what needs to be changed—that is, they believe that there are too many Muslims within their societies and that these Muslims threaten ‘national culture’ or ‘national values’—they differ in the degrees of extremism they espouse in relation to what needs to be done to address that issue.
The position of individuals and groups along the spectrum of extremism, however, can shift over time, and we have seen several examples of proponents of more moderate forms of anti-Islamism later moving on to more extreme standpoints—for example, Geert Wilders, who in the late 1990s was warning against the threat of Islamic terrorism and had a more national-liberal standpoint, but from 2005 onwards viewed Islam as the cause of ‘all sorts of problems’, demanded the full assimilation of Muslims and advocated a much more national-conservative form of anti-Islamism.
In addition to portraying Muslims as criminal and dangerous, those that suggest that Muslims are the cause of all sorts of problems often argue that Muslims do not contribute to society and instead represent a significant economic cost for the nation-state. According to this view, most Muslim immigrants are not refugees, but rather welfare tourists. Such attitudes form part of a broader discourse about immigrants as a burden on the welfare system, which, in Kymlicka’s terms, can be labelled ‘welfare chauvinism’.
The ‘solution’ put forward for the ‘problems’ identified above is often greater integration, or even assimilation, of Muslims. Another proposed ‘solution’ is a concern about national values, as well as human rights in general, along with an argument in favour of the voluntary return of Muslim immigrants. However, a more extreme variant is the view that Muslims should be forced to distance themselves from Islam or be deported, which implies a clear break with the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights (which specifies the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion). The most extreme variant is the call for extermination, as exemplified in the terror attack on the Christ Church mosque in New Zealand, when 51 people were killed.
Tracking anti-Islamic discussions on the Internet
Another way of studying anti-Islamic actors is to scrutinise the discussions taking place on various online platforms, which range from the more extreme sites in which actual violence has been planned and celebrated, such as 4chan, 8chan, and Telegram, to more moderate anti-Islamic social media groups. Even on mainstream social media such as Facebook, however, the discussion threads tend to be rather extreme—combining the use of anger, fear, and vomit emoticons with dehumanising words and metaphors, and even calls for violence.
The study of social media groups provides access to the ideas of individuals who have not necessarily taken the step of joining a defined anti-Islamist group. The memberships of anti-Islamist groups on social media may be much larger than those of social movement organisations. In Norway, for example, the number of anti-Islamists that meet up at demonstrations organised by groups such as Stop Islamisation of Norway (SIAN) is much smaller than the number of people taking part in social media groups supporting the same organisation. Indeed, it is a general trend that participation on the internet is stronger than actual participation in demonstrations: It is a much bigger step to actually attend a demonstration that might be met with a counter-demonstration than it is to participate in online groups. The Monday demonstrations in Dresden organised by the anti-Islamist organisation Pegida represent something of an atypical case in this context. At the height of their support, they succeeded in drawing large numbers of people, with 25,000 in January 2015 being the highest recorded attendance. Support for the organisation has since declined, however, and an interesting finding has been that although Pegida triggered more reactions in the form of likes and comments online the more radicalised content they published, public support for the group (in the form of people present at demonstrations) declined as the organisation became more radicalised. Accordingly, it seems that people are more willing to engage in extreme content in online settings than in public.
In my analysis of two anti-Islamic Facebook groups, it became evident that references to Muslims often involved the use of dehumanising, derogatory, and sexist words, expressions, images, and statements. In general, it was striking how central gendered arguments were in these anti-Islamic groups. In descriptions of the particular traits and characteristics of Muslim women, the terms used focused not just on their suppression, but also on their alleged stupidity (e.g. ‘ghost’, ‘Halloween costume’, etc.). In other words, these women were seen as passively accepting oppression and thus divested of agency. Similar de-agentification has been seen historically towards, among others, the uneducated working class. However, in contrast to a de-agentification found in the latter example through the use of passive language which obscure’s people’s agency, Muslim women in these Facebook groups were also dehumanised through the use of derogatory words. Alongside the images of oppressed Muslim women, however, there was also an image of Muslim women holding positions of power in politics, who were therefore targeted for hatred because they were thought to represent proof of ‘Islamisation by stealth’. We see here opposition both to the top and to the bottom—in other words, what Brubaker describes as vertical and horizontal opposition—both to the elite and to outside groups. Typically, outside groups are construed at the bottom by representing them as parasites or dangerous, and in any case unworthy of respect.
Muslim men, on the other hand, were characterised through the use of words that focused on how dangerous and discriminating they are to women. They were in general described as violent savages and as unable to learn how to behave. Such dehumanising forms of discourse can have very serious consequences for those concerned, since, in the words of Bandura, ‘once dehumanised, they are no longer viewed as persons with feelings, hopes, and concerns but as sub-human objects’. Group members used arguments about the dangers that Muslim men represented for women to justify the total exclusion of Muslims from access to Norway.
The way in which Muslim men and women are described in these Facebook groups is racist in the sense that Muslims are scorned both when they are seen as backwards because of their religious clothing or practice and when they are more secular and integrated and hold positions of power in society. In other words, no matter how Muslims behave, they will be scorned. Secular Muslims in positions of power are viewed only as evidence of Islamisation by stealth—that is, the gradual Islamisation of society. We can therefore say that discussants either implicitly or explicitly rely on the so-called Eurabia discourse, where even moderate Muslims are considered suspicious, as they are seen to be trying to incorporate Islam into Norwegian society in a disguised way.
The discussion threads analysed in my article on anti-Islamic Facebook groups are in line with the now-familiar and dominating narrative of Islam as the ‘other’, in which the main reason for being opposed to Islam is that it is associated with the oppression of women. Nevertheless, I found a paradoxical twist in that this representation of Islam as detrimental to gender equality was accompanied by highly sexist language, a feature not usually associated with being in favour of gender equality. Interestingly, the women in the two Facebook groups studied were as sexist in their vocabulary as the men. Such sexist rhetoric has obviously become jargon within these types of groups, where the intention is both to offend Muslims and to demarcate the gender-equal Norwegian in-group. As Brubaker has pointed out, provocative statements of such a nature represent a conscious opposition to political correctness. The approach is similar to what Gabriella Coleman has described as Trump’s style of ‘conspicuous rudeness, crude sexual references, and a general “bad boy” demeanour’ aimed at projecting ‘an image of authenticity’.
The seemingly humorous jargon used in the degrading of Muslims takes the form of what Sara Ahmed calls ‘the social production of disgust’ and reveals the centrality of emotions such as fear, anger, and contempt in anti-Islamic discourse. In the group members’ discussions, we see how humour is ‘used’ as a means of transgression, and how through such transgression the members create an online community culture in which they support and applaud each other’s anti-Islamic sentiments. Further research is needed into the importance of emotions, jargon, and humour in such anti-Islamic social media platforms, as this will provide an important window into the collective atmosphere of hatred and disdain that is created in such groups.
Anti-Islam in political parties
Within the political sphere, it is first and foremost right-wing populist parties that have propagated anti-Islamic sentiments. A characteristic shared by many right-wing populist parties in Europe is that they make use of cultural arguments against Muslim immigration, saying that Islam is alien to a given national culture or identity. The various right-wing populist parties differ, however, in terms of how extreme their standpoints are regarding their views on Muslims. Norway’s Progress Party is one of the more moderate of these parties, although some of its members have been associated with more discriminatory comments. In general, the Progress Party used culturalist arguments far more openly while in opposition than during the period in which it was part of the country’s coalition government. The same holds true for Siv Jensen, the leader of the party, who in 2009, some years before the party joined a government coalition, initially introduced the term ‘Islamisation by stealth’. At that point in time, she sounded a warning against what was perceived as the threat of Muslims becoming ‘too numerous’ and gaining too much power within Norway. The term ‘Islamisation by stealth’ refers to the idea that, unbeknownst to the population, society is slowly but surely becoming ‘Islamised’, while the Muslims involved in this process are hiding their true intentions. This line of thought is very much a replication of the main thesis of the Eurabia theory. It seems noteworthy that such a line of thought is shared both by members of the far right and by some (though not all) politicians of the right-wing populist Progress Party, which, as noted above, formed part of a coalition government in Norway just a few years ago. In its party programme, however, the Progress Party does not argue against Muslim immigration as such, but it does argue strongly in favour of providing help to refugees in the countries close to where they fled from, and that Norway should only accept quota refugees, not refugees in general.
There are some interesting differences between right-wing populist parties in Germany and Norway in terms of the types of argumentation against Islam they use. The German national-populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) argues that Islam itself is in conflict with the free democratic order. An analysis of the anti-Islamic argumentation in German radical right parties and organisations revealed the importance of gendered arguments against Muslim migration, as members of these groups see women’s rights as being threatened by the influx of Islam. These organisations legitimise their political aim of restricting immigration by referring to security measures held to be necessary because of the alleged threat emanating from male Muslims. Inherent in this argumentation is an ethno-nationalist view: German culture is presented as superior when it comes to women’s rights, while Islam and non-Western cultures are portrayed as primitive, misogynistic, patriarchal, and inferior. Here we see an important difference between liberal anti-Islamists and their more national-conservative counterparts: while the former may feel the need to maintain at least the appearance of neutrality on questions regarding ethnic identity, this is not the case for the latter.
References to Christianity here form part of a civilisationist argument about the backwardness of Islam, where the underlying argument is that Christian-Occidental culture is threatened by Islamisation. Evidently, what is at stake here is not belonging to Christianity in itself; rather, as Brubaker aptly puts it, the Christian identity is used as ‘a way of defining “us” in relation to “them”.... Crudely put, if they are Muslim, then we must in some sense be Christian.’ As argued by Brubaker, the rhetorical use these parties make of Christianity is cultural rather than religious; likewise, their support for women’s rights could similarly be seen as a cultural understanding rather than a feminist one. By presenting Muslims from non-Western cultures as a threat to non-Muslim women and values, anti-Islamic groups aim to prevent them from settling.
This blog is based on a summary of some of the findings from earlier articles in which I and various colleagues have looked at different kinds of anti-Islamic actors, ranging from social media groups and social movement organisations to political parties and individual politicians. Of course, there is a difference between political parties and anti-Islamic movement organisations, yet some ideas—such as the notion of ‘Islamisation’—have seen considerable diffusion among both types of groups. Indeed, as many researchers have pointed out, anti-Islamic ideas in general have spread quite widely since the turn of the millennium. One important distinction between anti-Islamic ideas and more moderate views that should be borne in mind is that, in the latter, distinct practices are for example criticised because they are considered patriarchal, whereas in the anti-Islamic viewpoint, no matter what they do, Muslims represent a dangerous Islamisation of society. In addition, distinctions can be made between various anti-Islamic actors in terms of what measures they regard as legitimate and what kinds of rhetoric and activism they promote. In general, we might say that what anti-Islamic ideas have in common is that that they do not take into account the huge variations in the ways in which Muslims live their lives and practise their faith. As a result, Muslims are targeted even when moderate.
The mainstreaming of anti-Islamic ideas takes place first and foremost on the internet, where scornful comments against Muslims and Islam have become so common that moderators have a hard time dealing with the problem. But this mainstreaming of anti-Islamist discourse is a problem not just because Muslims face hate speech on the internet: even though many anti-Islamist groups do not advocate or condone violence, their rhetoric potentially functions as a mobilising force for more extreme and violent actors.
 Edward Said (1978) Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books.
 Hans-Georg Betz (2007) Against the ‘green totalitarianism’: Anti-Islamic nativism in contemporary radical right-wing populism in Western Europe. In: Christiana Schori Liang (ed.) Europe for the Europeans: The Foreign and Security Policy of the Populist Radical Right. New York: Ashgate, pp. 33–54.
 Arun Kundnani (2007) Integrationism: The politics of anti-Muslim racism. Race & Class 48(4): 24–44.
 John Sides and Kimberley Gross (2013) Stereotypes of Muslims and support for the War on Terror. The Journal of Politics 75(3): 583–598. doi: 10.1017/s0022381613000388.
 Thomas Diez (2004) Europe’s others and the return of geopolitics. Cambridge Review of International Affairs 17(2): 319–335. doi: 10.1080/0955757042000245924.
 Stephen Zunes (2017) Europe’s refugee crisis, terrorism, and Islamophobia. Peace Review 29(1): 1–6. doi: 10.1080/10402659.2017.1272275.
 Bat Ye’or (2005) Eurabia: The Euro–Arab Axis. Cranbury, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.
 See AbdoolKarim Vakil (2009) Is the Islam in Islamophobia the same as the Islam in anti-Islam: Or, when is it Islamophobia time? e-cadernos CES 03. doi: 10.4000/eces.178.
 According to its website, Runnymede is the UK’s leading independent race-equality think-tank; see https://www.runnymedetrust.org/about.html.
 Chris Allen (2008) KISS Islamophobia (keeping it simple and stupid). In: Salman Sayyid and Abdool Karim Vakil (eds) Thinking Through Islamophobia: Global Perspectives. Symposium paper for the Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies, University of Leeds, pp. 30–33.
 Erik Bleich (2011) What is Islamophobia and how much is there? Theorizing and measuring an emerging comparative concept. American Behavioral Scientist 55(12): 1581–1600.
 Charles Miller (2017) Australia’s anti-Islam right in their own words: Text as data analysis of social media content. Australian Journal of Political Science 52(3): 383–401. doi: 10.1080/10361146.2017.1324561.
 Lars Erik Berntzen (2020) Liberal Roots of Far Right Activism: The Anti-Islamic Movement in the 21st Century. London: Routledge, on p. 11.
 Katrine Fangen (2020) Gendered images of us and them in anti-Islamic Facebook groups. Politics, Religion & Ideology 21(4): 451–468.
 Sara Farris (2017) In the Name of Women’s Rights: The Rise of Femonationalism. Durham. NC: Duke University Press.
 Cas Mudde (2016) On Extremism and Democracy in Europe. New York: Routledge, on p. 145.
 Lars Erik Berntzen and Sveinung Sandberg (2014) The collective nature of lone wolf terrorism: Anders Behring Breivik and the anti-Islamic social movement. Terrorism and Political Violence 26(5): 759–779.
 Manès Weisskircher and Lars-Erik Berntzen (2019) Remaining on the streets. Anti-Islamic PEGIDA mobilization and its relationship to far-right party politics. In: Manuela Caiani and Ondřej Císař (eds) Radical Right ‘Movement Parties’ in Europe. Abingdon, Routledge.
 Kemal Dervis and Caroline Conroy (2018) Nationalists of the world, unite? Brookings, 26 November; available at: https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/nationalists-of-the-world-unite/.
 Katrine Fangen and Carina Riborg Holter (2020) The battle for truth: How online newspaper commenters defend their censored expressions. Poetics 80. doi: 10.1016/j.poetic.2019.101423.
 The need to engage with anti-Islamic actors is potentially important also for deradicalising purposes. However, the path to deradicalisation is not ambiguous. For example, there have been examples of dialogue meetings between anti-Islamists and Muslims, where the anti-Islamists afterwards expressed that they were interested in building bridges to the extent that this could serve to diminish the Islamization of society. See Helle Svanevik (2020) Dialogmøte mellom SIAN og Muslimsk dialogforum. Dagsavisen, 31 October; available at: https://www.dagsavisen.no/fremtiden/dialogmotet-mellom-sian-og-muslimsk-dialogforum-terrorister-bygger-ikke-broer-de-sprenger-dem-1.1795089.
 My recent article with Maria Reite Nilsen was based on interviews with leaders of Stop Islamisation of Norway, the Norwegian branch of Pegida and Vigrid (the latter in reality now more a one-man entity than a group); see Katrine Fangen and Maria Reite Nilsen (2020) Variations within the Norwegian far right: From neo-Nazism to anti-Islamism. Journal of Political Ideologies. doi: 10.1080/13569317.2020.1796347. In addition, in the project on which I am currently working – ‘Reaching Out to Close the Border: The Transnationalisation of Anti-Immigration Movements in Europe (MAM)’, based at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) – we are a group of researchers interviewing different actors in what could loosely be seen as the anti-immigrant movement in Europe (or rather, we interview different anti-immigrant actors and see what forms of national and transnational collaboration and inspiration are involved in their activities). By talking with the actors themselves, we get closer to understanding the inner dynamics of their ideas.
 Koen Vossen (2011) Classifying Wilders: The ideological development of Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom. Politics 31(3): 179–189.
 Will Kymlicka (2015) Solidarity in diverse societies: Beyond neoliberal multiculturalism and welfare chauvinism. Comparative Migration Studies 3(17): 1–19.
 Fangen and Nilsen, Variations within the Norwegian far right.
 Fangen, Gendered images of us and them.
 Lars Erik Berntzen and Manés Weisskircher (2015) Anti-Islamic Pegida groups have spread beyond their German heartlands. LSE blogs, 17 June. Available at: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2015/06/17/the-anti-islamic-pegida-movement-is-making-progress-outside-of-its-german-heartlands/.
 Sebastian Stier, Lisa Posch, Arnim Bleier and Markus Strohmaier (2017) When populists become popular: Comparing Facebook use by the right-wing movement Pegida and German political parties. Information, Communication & Society, 20(9): 1365–88.
 Carsten Schwemmer (2019) Social media strategies of right-wing movements: The radicalization of Pegida. SocArXiv papers, 21 February. doi: 10.31235/osf.io/js73z.
 Fangen, Gendered images of us and them.
 Gabriella Modan and Katie Wells (2015) Capital Dilemma: Growth and Inequality in Washington. New York: Routledge.
 Rogers Brubaker (2017) Why populism?, Theory and Society, 46(5): 357–385, at p. 363. doi: 10.1007/s11186-017-9301-7.
 Albert Bandura (2002) Selective moral disengagement in the exercise of moral agency. Journal of Moral Education 31(2): 101–119.
 Brubaker, Why populism?, p. 367.
 Cited in Brubaker, Why populism?, p. 367.
 Michelle Hale Williams (2010) Can leopards change their spots? Between xenophobia and trans-ethnic populism among West European far right parties. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 16(1): 111–134. doi: 10.1080/13537110903583385.
 Katrine Fangen and Mari Vaage (2018) ‘The immigration problem’ and Norwegian right-wing politicians. New Political Science 40(3): 459–476. doi: 10.1080/07393148.2018.1487145.
 The Progress Party was part of a coalition government from September 2013 to January 2020.
 Possibly inspired by Robert Spencer’s (2008) book Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam Is Subverting America Without Guns or Bombs (Washington, DC: Regnery). Spencer is a leading member of the alt-right in the USA and was an organizer of the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, North Carolina, in August 2017.
 Wahlprogramm der Alternative für Deutschland für die Wahl zum Deutschen Bundestag am 24. September 2017 (Alternative for Germany, election program for the German bundestag election on Seotember 24th 2017), Available at: https://www.afd.de/wahlprogramm/.
 Katrine Fangen and Lisanne Lichtenberg (forthcoming) Gender and family rhetoric on the German far right. Patterns of Prejudice.
 Rogers Brubaker (2017) Between nationalism and civilizationism: The European populist moment in comparative perspective. Ethnic and Racial Studies 40(8): 1191–1226, on p. 1199.
 See Fangen, Gendered images of us and them; Fangen and Reite Nilsen, Variations within the Norwegian far right; Fangen and Vaage, The immigration problem; Fangen and Riborg Holter, The battle for truth; and Fangen and Lichtenberg, Gender and family rhetoric.
 Aurelien Mondon and Aaron Winter (2017) Articulations of Islamophobia: From the extreme to the mainstream? Ethnic and Racial Studies 40(13): 2151–2179. doi: 10.1080/01419870.2017.1312008.
 Kundnani, Integrationism.
by Jaakko Heiskanen
Political ideologies are collections of concepts, ideas, or principles that provide a blueprint for how a society should be organised. Liberalism, conservatism, and socialism—the three major political ideologies of the modern era—can all be understood in this way. In each case, it is possible to identify a set of core commitments that provides the basic template for ordering and governing society: liberalism is centred on the principles of individual liberty and equality before the law; conservatism is centred on the maintenance of order and the preservation of traditional social institutions; and socialism is centred on the public ownership of the means of production. Other modern ‘isms’ such as environmentalism and feminism can also be understood in this way: environmentalism is centred on ecological sustainability and respect toward nature, while feminism is centred on women’s rights and gender equality. Of course, each of these political ideologies allows for substantial diversity within their general framework; they provide broad schemas rather than precise rules. They can also be mixed and matched in various ways to produce a much wider array of specific ideological positions that any given individual might hold. But what all of them have in common is that they offer a blueprint that says something substantive about how society should be organised and governed. To borrow Harold Lasswell’s well-known formulation, they are all ideologies about politics: who gets what, when, how.
Nationalism and populism are often erroneously described as political ideologies. What sets nationalism and populism apart from the ideologies listed above is that they offer no substantive blueprint for the organisation and governance of society. Precisely for this reason, nationalism and populism are typically qualified as ‘thin’ or even ‘phantom’ ideologies that are parasitic on ‘full’ ideologies such as liberalism, conservatism, or socialism. Indeed, part of what makes nationalism and populism so difficult to define is their chameleonic quality, which allows them to appear across the political spectrum, from the far left to the far right, and in all manner of political regimes, from liberal democracies to authoritarian dictatorships.
The elusiveness of nationalism and populism has been exacerbated by the politicisation of the terminology in political and academic discourse alike. Typically, the terms ‘nationalism’ and ‘populism’ are deployed in a derogatory sense to describe the politics of others: they are the populists, they are the nationalists. But not always: history has also seen their sporadic use of these terms as positive self-designations. Relatively recent examples of this include Yael Tamir’s defence of a liberal nationalism and Chantal Mouffe’s call for a left-wing populism. As a result of all this terminological politicking, nationalism and populism invariably seem to divide into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ variants. In the liberal-centrist mainstream of political and academic discourse, for example, there exists a longstanding distinction between ‘civic’ and ‘ethnic’ nationalisms, where the former is idealised as inclusionary and egalitarian while the latter is denigrated as a dangerous and divisive degeneration thereof. In a similar vein, among certain left-leaning scholars and politicians, there has recently emerged a conceptual distinction between ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’ populisms, where the former is depicted as emancipatory and democratic while the latter is decried as racist and authoritarian. Neighbouring terms have also been drawn into these conceptual battles as a result of attempts to specify the positive or negative valence of nationalism or populism. The term ‘nationalism’, for instance, sounds exclusionary and dangerous when placed alongside ‘patriotism’, but inclusionary and unifying when compared to ‘racism’. All in all, definitions of nationalism and populism seem to reveal more about the commentator’s political stance than about the phenomena themselves.
The trick to making sense of nationalism and populism is to see their elusive and chameleonic quality not as a problem, but as a symptom of their political function. To this end, I propose a distinction between political ideologies and ideologies of the political. This distinction draws on the distinction between ‘politics’ and ‘the political’, which has become rather fashionable in recent years thanks to the work of Chantal Mouffe. Following Mouffe, ‘politics’ captures the concrete set of practices and institutions through which society is governed—or, in Lasswell’s terms, who gets what, when, how. In contrast, ‘the political’ refers to a fundamental and ineradicable antagonism or impossibility that is constitutive of human society as such. In Heideggerian terms, ‘politics’ is an ontic category whereas ‘the political’ is an ontological category. Hence, political ideologies such as liberalism, conservatism, and socialism are about guiding and legitimating the everyday practice of politics on the ontic level. In and of themselves, these political ideologies have little or nothing to say about the kind of political entity within which their core tenets are to be applied—this could be an ancient city-state, a modern nation-state, a futuristic world-state, a multinational empire, or something else entirely. In contrast, nationalism and populism are directly concerned with the ontological dimension of the political, that is, with the legitimation of the modern political order as such. And the central pillar of the modern political order is, of course, the modern state. Conceptualising nationalism and populism as ideologies of the political thus not only allows us to make sense of their constitutive ambiguity and to distinguish them from political ideologies, it also allows us to historicise these phenomena and to locate their origins in the advent of political modernity.
The central pillar of the modern political order is the modern state. There are two key features that differentiate the modern state from other forms of political organisation. The first is the reification of society and its projection as something separate from the state, as an alternate place from which the state can draw its legitimacy. The legitimacy of the modern state thus depends on its claim to represent a particular society, a particular group of people, the existence of which is taken to precede that of the state. This is the principle of popular sovereignty. The second and closely related key feature of the modern state is the emergence of a spatial disjuncture between government and society: the relatively small ruling elite and the mass of the common people are seen to exist on two distinct planes, whereby a gap of representation always separates the rulers from the ruled. This is the principle of political representation. Overall, therefore, the conceptual architecture of the modern state is composed of two closely interrelated yet conceptually distinct spatial boundaries: a ‘horizontal’ boundary between the inside and the outside of the state, and a ‘vertical’ boundary between the ruling elite and the common people. These two spatial distinctions constitute the basic ontological structure of the modern political order. And it is this ontological structure that gives rise to nationalism and populism as legitimating ideologies, that is, as ideologies of the political.
Nationalism relates to the horizontal boundary between the inside and the outside of the state: it is about the legitimacy of the state as a bounded territorial entity. To this end, nationalist ideology posits the existence of a nation as a bounded pre-political community that logically (if not always historically) precedes the existence of the state. Whether the identity of this national community is based on language, culture, geography, ethnicity, race, and/or something else, does not really matter here. In all cases, at the core of nationalism is the idea that the boundaries of the political unit should correspond to the boundaries of the national unit, no matter how this national unit is defined. Simply put, every state should represent a nation and every nation should have a state of its own. Within this general framework, nationalist ideology can take both ‘state-framed’ and ‘counter-state’ forms. State-framed nationalisms operate within existing states and underpin their legitimacy, whereas counter-state nationalisms aim at the reconfiguration of existing political boundaries, for example through secession or unification. Fundamentally, both forms of nationalism—state-framed and counter-state—revolve around the horizontal boundary between the inside and the outside of the state.
Populism relates to the vertical boundary between government and society: it is about the legitimacy of the ruling elite as the representatives of the people. If the ideal that drives nationalism is the equation of the nation with the state, then the ideal that drives populism is the equation of the people with the elite. At the heart of populism is thus the idea that the will of the people should be present in the place of power. Moreover, in the same way that nationalism splits into state-framed and counter-state variants, populism splits into ‘regime-framed’ and ‘counter-regime’ forms. Regime-framed populisms buttress the legitimacy of ruling elites by appealing directly to the people for legitimacy, while counter-regime populisms challenge the legitimacy of existing political regimes by claiming that they do not represent the will of the people. Fundamentally, both forms of populism—regime-framed and counter-regime—revolve around the vertical boundary between government and society.
Nationalism and populism emerge out of the ontological framework of political modernity, that is, out of the architecture of the political as such. This is why they are such chameleonic and contradictory phenomena. After all, as Mouffe reminds us, the concept of the political encapsulates a fundamental antagonism or impossibility that is constitutive of human society as such. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that nationalism and populism also revolve around a constitutive antagonism or impossibility. In the case of nationalism, at stake is the impossibility of determining the identity of the people qua nation through political means. To legitimate the territorial boundedness of the state, the identity of the people qua nation has to be given pre-politically, yet there exists no such pre-political community in nature: the pre-political community has to be politically constructed. The construction of the people qua nation is thus a never-ending political process of positing the existence of a pre-political community, while at the same time denying the political nature of this process. Similarly, in the case of populism, what is at stake is the impossibility of direct rule by the people: within the bifurcated architecture of the modern state, there exists an ineradicable gap of representation between the mass of the common people and the relatively small ruling elite that claims to govern on their behalf. The legitimacy of the ruling elite therefore depends on its political claim to embody the will of the people, which aims to short-circuit the spatial and conceptual disjuncture between government and society.
Both the nationalist and populist projects revolve around a constitutive antagonism or impossibility that can never be definitively resolved. This is why nationalism and populism continually turn against their own political creations. Precisely because the nation is not pre-given but has to be politically constructed as such by nationalists, the identity and boundaries of the nation always remains open to contestation by other nationalists. And precisely because the people are never directly present in government, but only re-presented therein through the political claims made by the populist ruling elite, the representativeness of this elite is always open to question by other populists. Ultimately, by precluding the emergence of a final political solution, it is the impossibility of the nationalist and populist projects that makes modern politics work.
In conclusion, thinking about nationalism and populism as ideologies of the political, rather than as political ideologies, helps us to better understand their historical origins and political functions. Instead of offering a substantive blueprint for organising and governing society, nationalism and populism are about legitimating the modern political arena as such. What this means is that nationalism and populism are much more pervasive in modern political theory and practice than has traditionally been recognised. The extreme phenomena to which the terms typically refer are just especially intense and polarised manifestations of two underlying political logics that are always-already at work. Following Michael Billig’s seminal work on ‘banal nationalism’, this constitutive function of nationalism in modern society and politics has become quite widely recognised. It is high time to complement this with a recognition of the equally prevalent role of ‘banal populism’ in modern politics. Significantly, this constitutive function of nationalism and populism also means that the two are, like conjoined twins, historically and structurally coupled to one another: it is possible to differentiate between them on a theoretical or conceptual level, but in practice nationalism and populism always come together.
 Harold Lasswell, Politics: Who Gets What, When, How (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1936).
 Michael Freeden, ‘Is Nationalism a Distinct Ideology?’, Political Studies 46(4) (1998), 748–65; Michael Freeden, ‘After the Brexit Referendum: Revisiting Populism as an Ideology’, Journal of Political Ideologies 22(1) (2017), 1–11; Cas Mudde, ‘The Populist Zeitgeist’, Government and Opposition 39(4) (2004), 542–63; Ben Stanley, ‘The Thin Ideology of Populism’, Journal of Political Ideologies 13(1) (2008), 95–110.
 Yael Tamir, Liberal Nationalism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993); Chantal Mouffe, For a Left Populism (London: Verso, 2018).
 David Brown, ‘Are There Good and Bad Nationalisms?’, Nations and Nationalism 5(2) (1999), 281–302; Rogers Brubaker, ‘The Manichean Myth: Rethinking the Distinction Between “Civic” and “Ethnic” Nationalism’, in Hanspeter Kriesi, Klaus Armingeon, Hannes Siegrist, and Andreas Wimmer (eds.), Nation and National Identity: The European Perspective (Chur: Rüegger, 1999), 55–72.
 Yannis Stavrakakis and Giorgos Katsambekis, ‘Left-Wing Populism in the European Periphery: The Case of SYRIZA’, Journal of Political Ideologies 19(2) (2014), 119–42; Jens Rydgren, ‘Radical Right-Wing Parties in Europe: What’s Populism Got to Do with It?’, Journal of Language and Politics 16(4) (2017), 485–96; Yannis Stavrakakis, Giorgos Katsambekis, Nikos Nikisianis, Alexandros Kioupkiolis, and Thomas Siomos, ‘Extreme Right-Wing Populism in Europe: Revisiting a Reified Association’, Critical Discourse Studies 14(4) (2017), 420–39.
 Chantal Mouffe, On the Political (Abingdon: Routledge, 2005).
 Rogers Brubaker, ‘Myths and Misconceptions in the Study of Nationalism’, in John A. Hall (ed.), The State of the Nation: Ernest Gellner and the Theory of Nationalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 300–1.
 Michael Billig, Banal Nationalism (London: Sage, 1995).