Authoritarian nostalgia, or historical education as antidote to historical amnesia.

Photo credit.

It goes without saying that “historical amnesia” appears to be the basis of the curriculum in the United States. Thanks to JV for the link.

Historical amnesia is undermining European democracy, by Diego Rubio (via EUROPP – European Politics and Policy)

Survey evidence suggests there is growing nostalgia toward former authoritarian regimes in a number of European countries. Diego Rubio writes that a degree of historical amnesia is now apparent in European societies, with those individuals who are too young to remember the authoritarian regimes of the past showing more openness toward the creation of authoritarian-like regimes today. He argues that strengthening historical education would help to protect European democracy against these trends.

This isn’t a case of blaming Fascists to the exclusion of Commies, or vice versa. Rather, it’s about non-democratic (non-denominational?) authoritarianism of any variety.

This goes beyond trivial embarrassment. If people do not know these basic facts, it is fair to think that they know even less about the many drawbacks of these dictatorships, such as the brutal repressions, the constant violations of dignity and civil rights, the marginalisation of minorities, and the high levels of corruption and nepotism. Most of today’s young people and adults do not really know what it means to live under a dictatorship. For them, the old authoritarian regimes are just alternatives to the current situation, symbols of a different past – for some, a better one. This historical confusion is undermining support for democracy and increasing the longing for ‘strong leaders’ like Trump, Putin, Le Pen, Hofer, and Vona, who want to limit the rule of law and undermine the separation of powers in their countries.

What can democrats do to stop this worrying trend? The solution, as so often, depends on our schools.


This is mainly due to the contributions of the humanities and social science subjects, which help us to contextualise the virtues and flaws of our present institutions, thereby promoting a more balanced and favourable attitude towards democracy. For that sole reason, we should support these disciplines and make sure that new generations study them as much as coding, engineering and business. Otherwise they may end up repeating the mistake that their grandparents committed a few decades ago: that of preferring security and stability over justice and freedom.