The Anatomy of Fascism

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5 out of 5 stars
By Amazon Customer on 02-11-17

Great book for getting a clearer idea of fascism

A quite dense but incredibly rewarding and interesting summary of fascism in theory and practice. The emphasis in this book is on the practice. Paxton traces fascist movements through a series of stages, arguing that we learn more from fascism in action than we do from studying a doctrine. This is especially appropriate for fascism, which takes a cynical approach to ideological consistency, reason, and any kind of universal doctrine. The stages go from formation to wedging themselves into power to consolidating power to governing to radicalization or entropy. He shows these processes at work mainly in Germany and Italy. He argues that we can't take a snapshot of fascist movements at any point and say "This is fascism," because like any political movement fascists strategically ally with partners, downplay or play up certain aspects of their programs, and ally with conservative institutions in society. Rather, we have to see fascism as morphing around within certain limits over time.

This book is also interesting on the question of what conditions facilitate the rise of fascism. Obviously there is no recipe for fascism, but there are some cautionary points in this book. One key condition that helped Nazism and Italian fascism rise to power was conservative elites or parties allying with fascists in order to isolate or destroy socialist parties. The conservatives saw the communists or socialists as the worst imaginable threat, causing them to jump into bed with another, possibly worse, group. It certainly helped that they shared some of the same ideas about why society was going downhill . Although the scale is radically different, and Trump is not a fascist, this issue of allying with someone who will degrade your values or those of society at large in order to defeat what you view as an existential enemy calls for reflection among establishment Republicans. I thought this was the biggest 'lesson" of this book for the present.

Other key conditions that facilitated the rise of fascism were WWI's trauma, parliamentary gridlock, a loss of faith in democracy and liberal values like human rights, and the chaos created by fascist groups themselves. Paxton emphasizes that no fascist group ever won more than 50% of the vote, so they all needed some kind of help from established elites in getting their foot in the door. Mussolini's March to Rome, which would have flopped had King Victor Emmanuel not offered him a Cabinet position in a panicked error, is the perfect example of this point. Fascism was a mass totalitarian movement with genuine popular support, but it is important to not portray fascists as coming to power in mass revolutions or outright coups. In Germany and Italy, this was a much more gradual process, aided and abetted by mostly conservative elites who sought to co-opt and channel these forces (not that this isn't a good strategy-it didn't work here, that's all)

This is an outstanding guide for the perplexed on a term and set of movements that has gained newfound currency in our politics. Although sometimes I think Paxton is a little to strict on what counts as fascism (Imperial Japan seems to check virtually every box), he nevertheless captures the central dynamics of fascism. I was especially intrigued by the outright rejection of reason, the embrace of violence, the disdain for intellectual consistency, the strong sense of victimhood, and the worship of power. Mussolini may have reached the heart of fascism when someone asked him "What is your position on the liberal party?" He replied "Our position is to break their bones, and to do so as soon as possible." When someone else asked him what the fascist program was, he said it was to take and hold power. This pursuit of power as an end in itself is always present in human affairs, but in fascism this drive took its most extreme and destructive form. The same forces lie in human nature today. If anything, this book shows us that as people we are never as far from these dark pasts as we would like to think.

"Audible 20 Review Sweepstakes Entry."

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15 of 15 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Julia Tanenbaum on 18-10-17

Excellent History of Fascism

I was thrilled to find such a nuanced history in audiobook form. This is a great place to start for anyone interested in definitions of fascism and its history and historiographical debates. It focuses on Europe but also includes discussion on Latin America.

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8 of 9 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Anonymous User on 02-06-18

A Historical and Unbiased look at Fascism.

Fascism is the prominent dirty world in world politics today, and this book looks back on the rise of the Fascist parties in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, (sadly no references to Japanese politics or Fascism.) The book remains to be the best way to look at Fascism as the organic system that lends itself to being and ultra right movement, with the odd extreme leftist ideas from the foundation of their movements. All in all, if you want to use the word Fascism in the modern day, this book gives you the crash course on what it means.

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2 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By James W. Sellers on 21-08-18

Edifying and relevant.

Enlightening and well argued. Very relevant to the political situation unfolding in the United States of America under Donald Trump's leadership.

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars
By Sgt. Ryan Fisher on 21-11-17

Uses every unjustified "fact" to criticize. Unreal

The author blends fascism and Nazism together while using every negative "fact" to justify his story. I could smell the bs by chapter 8. Hoped for more

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1 of 27 people found this review helpful

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