Photo: “Steve Bannon,” by Gage Skidmore licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Hue is modified from the original.
Mihailovic, Alexandar. Illiberal Vanguard: Populist Elitism in the United States and Russia. University of Wisconsin Pres, 2023.
Recent years have witnessed a growing affinity between increasingly radicalized right-wing movements in the United States and Russia, countries that only recently viewed each other as intractable foes. In Illiberal Vanguard: Populist Elitism in the United States and Russia, Alexandar Mihailovic untangles this confluence, considering ethnonationalist movements in both countries and their parallel approaches to gender, race, and performative identity. Rather than probe specific points of possible contact or political collusion, Mihailovic unveils the mirrored styles of thought that characterize far-right elitism in two erstwhile enemy nations.
Mihailovic investigates notable right-wing actors like Steve Bannon and Alexander Dugin and targets of right-wing ire such as globalization, LGBTQ+ activism, and mobilizations to remove controversial statues (that honor Confederate generals and Soviet leaders, for instance), but the argument extends beyond the specifics. How and why are radical right-wing movements developing along such similar trajectories in two nominally oppositional countries? How do religious sectarianism, the construction of whiteness, and institutionalized homophobia support each other in this transnational, informal, but powerful allegiance? Despite their appeals to populism and flamboyant theatrics, Mihailovic argues, much of the answer can be found in the mutual desire to justify and organize an illiberal vanguard of elite intellectuals, one that supports and advocates for a new authoritarianism.