Gerald M. Easter (Boston College)


From 15:15
to 16:45
From 15:15
to 16:45

Course Description:

The course is a comparative historical study of three distinct transnational political movements and authoritarian regime types: Socialism, Nationalism and Islamism. Each case is organized into three parts that stress ideas, actions, results: (1) Philosophers: the intellectual origins and ideological core concepts; (2) Rebels: the rise of revolutionary movements and political conflicts that brought radical adherents to power; (3) Tyrants: the nature of the particular authoritarian regimes that emerged from radical movements. The course will discuss the similarities that exist in all these movements, but also stress the considerable variation, such as reforming moderates versus radical extremists, and localism versus internationalism. Italy is featured in the course, especially in regard to “nationalism,” using the philosophical writings of Mazzini and the case of Mussolini’s fascist movement and regime. Italy is also used as a secondary case: first, as an example of the reform socialist trajectory since it once was a center of Eurocommunism; second, for the contemporary conflict between radical and reform Islam among European Muslims.

Course Outline:

--Introduction: What is Modern about Modern Politics? Intellectual and Social Roots of Modern Political Movements and Regimes

--Socialism: Ideology, Movements, Regimes
1) Class-based Ideology: Marx and Radical Socialism
2) Red Revolutionaries: Radical Socialism Comes to Power
3) Communist Authoritarianism: Radical Socialism in Power
4) Collapse of Communism: Identity Crisis of the ‘Left’

--Nationalism: Ideology, Movements, Regimes
5) Nation-based Ideology: Mazzini and Ultra-Nationalism
6) Ultra-Nationalists: Fascism Comes to Power
7) Nationalist Authoritarianism: Fascism in Power
8) Idols of the Tribes: Neo-Fascism and Far Right Revivals

--Islamism: Ideology, Movements, Regimes
9) Religion-based Ideology: Qutb and Fundamentalist Islam
10) Radical Imams: Fundamentalist Islam Comes to Power
11) Islamic Authoritarianism: Fundamentalist Islam in Power
12) All Jihads are Local: Radical Islam and Europe’s Muslims

**Featured Case Studies: Soviet Russia; Fascist Italy; Taliban Afghanistan


Class Format and Requirements

The class format consists of lectures, discussion of readings, and student presentations. The class is organized into three sections, focusing on the comparative political-ideological themes. For each section we follow the events concerning the rise and fall of a representative case study, using the case to gain insight into the broader ideology as well as comparative political theory. A written paper assignment (1500-2000 words), based on the major social science theoretical questions discussed, is due at the end of each section. Students can substitute for the paper with either an in-class presentation on a more focused theme, or a critical review of a relevant personal memoir source. (These alternative assignments must be worked out in collaboration with professor.)



Evaluation of student performance breaks down as: 30 percent for each assignment at the end of the three sections (ie., 90 percent), plus and additional 10 percent for class attendance and participation. The assignments are designed to show how ideas can be interpreted differently, how radical interpretations can be grafted onto local conditions and conflicts, and how utopian ends are corrupted by violent means.


Sample Reading List:

--Excerpts from featured philosophers, rebels and tyrants: Marx, Lenin, Gramsci; Mazzini, Mussolini, Hitler; Sayyid Qutb, Khomeini, Omar.

--Books (excerpts or entire)
Daniel Chirot, Modern Tyrants
Stephen White, Communism and Its Collapse
Evgenia Ginzburg, Journey into the Whirlwind
Roger Griffin, The Nature of Fascism
Damian Tambini, Nationalism in Italian Politics: The Northern League
Nicolas Doumanis, Italy: Inventing the Nation
Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved
Thomas Barfield, Afghanistan: Cultural and Political History
Ahmed Rashid, Taliban


Isola di San Servolo
30133 Venice,

phone: +39 041 2719511
fax:+39 041 2719510

VAT: 02928970272