Political change and historical analogies


This article deals with how scholars, policy analysts and activists, striving to make sense of current political change, have turned to history for analogies and ideas for action. While it is encouraging to see the Trump presidency and other instances of upheaval leading to a strengthened interest in history, in academe and public life more generally, there nevertheless is a need to caution against facile appropriations of the historical record and the use of superficial similarity to legitimize political action. I discuss ways of historicizing the present, through some examples of historical analogies applied to the first months of the Trump presidency and other relatively current instances of change. I start with a discussion of historical analogies and concepts, stressing how they can be understood as both first order and second order constructs. Then I discuss the current usage of historical analogies and concepts as both first order and second order constructs, before I conclude.