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Wisdom of Crowds

Aug 21, 2022

This week's episode features one of Twitter's more controversial figures: Jason Stanley, a professor of philosophy at Yale and author of How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them. In true Wisdom of Crowds fashion, we wanted a more measured and wide-ranging exchange of views than Twitter could provide, so we invited Stanley onto the podcast to discuss Trumpism and the Republican Party, the use of the word "fascism," and the dangers of an emerging fascist international.

While there were significant disagreements, our desire for more open and honest dialogue was richly rewarded. Stanley believes that the fascist mode of politics—a precursor to actual fascism—takes American form in Donald Trump and today's GOP. To what extent is Trumpism "legitimate"? Should federal prosecutors do all in their power put Trump away even if that imperils the legitimacy of our democracy? Under what conditions should a political party be banned for anti-democratic activity in the United States?

In Part 2 (available here for subscribers), we asked whether Stanley's definition of fascism included things that many would merely consider illiberal. How does diagnosing fascism work in Europe, where almost every country's notion of belonging is at least partly tied to ethnic origin? Are modern notions of citizenship compatible with a non-fascist political philosophy?

We also asked Stanley some more personal questions to close out the episode. Does he see his combative Twitter activity as separate from his academic work and his writing? What is the role of philosophers in the public sphere, and how would he like to be remembered in 200 years (or 50)?

Required Reading:

  • How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, by Jason Stanley (Amazon).
  • How Propaganda Works, by Jason Stanley (Amazon).
  • Jason’s 2015 article, “Democracy and the Demagogue,” where he describes the source of Trump’s appeal (The New York Times).
  • “American Fascism?” by Jason Stanley (El Pais).
  • “America is now in fascism’s legal phase,” by Jason Stanley (The Guardian).
  • The Newsweek story about Sam Harris’ controversial interview (Newsweek).
  • Emile: On Education, by Jean-Jacques Rosseau (Amazon).