logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: fascism
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-11-14 15:44
What is fascism?
The Anatomy of Fascism - Robert O. Paxton

Over the past few years, the word "fascist" has been deployed increasingly to describe modern-day political movements in the United States, Hungary, Greece, and Italy, to name a few places. The word brings with it some of the most odious associations from the 20th century, namely Nazi Germany and the most devastating war in human history. Yet to what degree is the label appropriate and to what extent is it more melodramatic epithet than an appropriate description?

 

It was in part to answer that question that I picked up a copy of Robert O. Paxton's book. As a longtime historian of 20th century France and author of a seminal work on the Vichy regime, he brings a perspective to the question that is not predominantly Italian or German. This shows in the narrative, as his work uses fascist movements in nearly every European country to draw out commonalities that explain the fascist phenomenon. As he demonstrates, fascism can be traced as far back as the 1880s, with elements of it proposed by authors and politicians across Europe in order to mobilize the growing population of voters (thanks to new measures of enfranchisement) to causes other than communism. Until then, it was assumed by nearly everyone that such voters would be automatic supporters for socialist movements. Fascism proposed a different appeal, one based around nationalist elements which socialism ostensibly rejected.

 

Despite this, fascism remained undeveloped until it emerged in Italy in the aftermath of the First World War. This gave Benito Mussolini and his comrades a flexibility in crafting an appeal that won over the established elites in Italian politics and society. From this emerged a pattern that Paxton identifies in the emergence of fascism in both Italy and later in Germany, which was their acceptance by existing leaders as a precondition for power. Contrary to the myth of Mussolini's "March on Rome," nowhere did fascism take over by seizing power; instead they were offered it by conservative politicians as a solution to political turmoil and the threatened emergence of a radical left-wing alternative. It was the absence of an alternative on the right which led to the acceptance of fascism; where such alternatives (of a more traditional right-authoritarian variety) existed, fascism remained on the fringes. The nature of their ascent into power also defined the regimes that emerged, which were characterized by tension between fascists and more traditional conservatives, and often proved to be far less revolutionary in practice than their rhetoric promised.

 

Paxton's analysis is buttressed by a sure command of his subject. He ranges widely over the era, comparing and contrasting national groups in a way that allows him to come up an overarching analysis of it as a movement. All of this leads him to this final definition:

Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion. (p. 218)

While elements of this are certainly present today, they are hardly unique to fascism and exist in various forms across the political spectrum. Just as important, as Paxton demonstrates, is the context: one in which existing institutions are so distrusted or discredited that the broader population is willing to sit by and watch as they are compromised, bypassed, or dismantled in the name of achieving fascism's goals. Paxton's arguments here, made a decade before Donald Trump first embarked on his candidacy, are as true now as they were then. Reading them helped me to appreciate better the challenge of fascism, both in interwar Europe and in our world today. Everyone seeking to understand it would do well to start with this perceptive and well-argued book.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2018-11-03 21:55
Reading progress update: I've read 55 out of 336 pages.
The Anatomy of Fascism - Robert O. Paxton

From page 41:

In that sense, too, fascism is more plausibly linked to a set of "mobilizing passions" that shape fascist action than to a consistent and fully articulated philosophy. At bottom is a passionate nationalism. Allied to it is a conspiratorial and Manichean view of history as a battle between good and evil camps, between the pure and the corrupt, in which one's own community or nation has been the victim. In this Darwinian narrative, the chosen people have been weakened by political parties, social classes, unassailable minorities, spoiled rentiers, and nationalist thinkers who lack the necessary sense of community. These "mobilizing passions," mostly taken for granted and not always covertly argued as intellectual propositions, form the emotional lava that set fascism's foundations.

Before I started this book, I was dismissive of descriptions of the political movement around our current president as fascist. After reading this, I'm less so.

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2018-11-02 23:47
Reading progress update: I've read 23 out of 336 pages.
The Anatomy of Fascism - Robert O. Paxton

Robert Paxton's goal in this book is to define fascism for his readers, and so far it's proving a disturbingly fascinating exercise.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2018-07-13 14:27
Fascism: A Warning - Reshelving
Fascism: A Warning - Madeleine Albright

I'v e been trying to make myself pick this up and move beyond the first chapter, but the subject matter is just too heavy for me right now. I'm reshelving it and will try again later.

 

Right now, I'm doing comfort re-reads on audio, and for my bound book reading, I'm going to do some light fiction for a while until I'm in a better frame of mind.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2018-06-29 15:52
Fascism: A Warning - 2%
Fascism: A Warning - Madeleine Albright

If we think of fascism as a wound from the past that we had almost healed, putting Trump in the White House was like ripping off the bandage and picking at the scab...

 

The United States has had flawed presidents before. In fact, we have never any other kind, but we have not had a chief executive in the modern era whose statements and actions are so at odds with democratic ideals.

 

From the early stages of his campaign and right into the Oval Office, Donald Trump has spoken harshly about the institutions and principles that make up the foundation of open government. In the process, he has systematically degraded political discourse in the United States, shown an astonishing disregard for facts, libeled his predecessors, threatened to lock up political rivals, referred to mainstream journalists as the enemy of the American people, spread falsehoods about the integrity of the US electoral process, touted mindlessly nationalistic economic and trade policies, vilified immigrants and the countries from which they come, and nurtured a paranoid bigotry toward the followers of one of the world's foremost religions. 

 

None of this is a newsflash to me. It's what has concerned me most about this administration and so thoroughly alarmed me when elected officials in other branches of government - the ones supposed to provide the checks and balances our entire system of government depend on - failed to rein him in. 

 

This is depressing as hell. I'm going to have to take this book in small sips. 

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?