The Anatomy of Fascism

The Anatomy of Fascism

Book - 2005
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What is fascism? Many authors have proposed succinct but abstract definitions. The author of this book prefers to start with concrete historical experience. He focuses more on what fascists did than on what they said. Their first uniformed bands beat up "enemies of the nation," such as communists and foreign immigrants, during the tense days after 1918 when the liberal democracies of Europe were struggling with the aftershocks of World War I. Fascist parties could not approach power, however, without the complicity of conservatives willing to sacrifice the rule of law for security. The author makes clear the sequence of steps by which fascists and conservatives together formed regimes in Italy and Germany, and why fascists remained out of power elsewhere. Fascist regimes were strained alliances. While fascist parties had broad political leeway, conservatives preserved many social and economic privileges. Goals of forced national unity, purity, and expansion, accompanied by propaganda driven public excitement, held the mixture together. War opened opportunities for fascist extremists to pursue these goals to the point of genocide. The author shows how these opportunities manifested themselves differently in France, in Britain, in the Low Countries, and in Eastern Europe, and yet failed to achieve supreme power. He goes on to examine whether fascism can exist outside the specific early twentieth century European setting in which it emerged, and whether it can reappear today. This book, based on a lifetime of research, will have a lasting impact on our understanding of twentieth century history.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 2005
Edition: First Vintage Books edition
ISBN: 9781400033911
Branch Call Number: 321.94 P2899A 2005
Characteristics: xii, 321 pages ; 21 cm


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Mark_Daly Aug 15, 2017

This is a work of analysis, not history. Readers seeking a chronological account may find this choppy and repetitive. The final chapter gives advice for distinguishing fascisms from other perversions of politics. Detailed but brief: An annotated bibliography, endnotes, and an index fill the last 100 pages.

Aw_19 Nov 12, 2016

Brilliant analysis of the 20th century's most powerful and destructive political ideologies.

If you want to understand what fascism was and why it's still possible, then this is the place to start.

Though I will say it helps to have a basic knowledge of interwar Europe.

Nov 02, 2013

Vichy France is a great book about the Petain years in France, and the Anatomy of Fascism is equally fine on the various fascist movements in Europe before the war. I especially liked Paxton's discussion of Mussolini's Italy.


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Mark_Daly Aug 15, 2017

Fascism [for one observer] meant setting aside democracy and due process in public life, to the acclamation of the street.


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