A scholar of Vichy France, Paxton focuses here on the literature about fascism. The term is used with abandon in contemporary political discourse, reflecting scholarly disagreement about how to define it. His historical source material predominantly emanates from Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany, an obvious but necessary observation since the "fascist" status of other authoritarian regimes is contentious. Paxton does integrate biographies of the two ur-fascists into his dissection, but he comments frequently that a researcher's fixation on the leader obscures rather than clarifies the rise of his party, as does a propensity to focus on the party's ideology instead of its actions, and he follows the significantly different trajectories of radicalism taken by the Fascists and the Nazis. Formulating a five-stage life cycle of fascism from birth in "mobilizing passions" provoked by World War I to its destructiveness in power, Paxton wants his intricate but readable work to "rescue the concept [of fascism] for meaningful use," a laudable goal largely achieved. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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"So fair, so thorough and, in the end, so convincing, it may well become the most authoritative . . . study of the subject. . . . A splendid book." –The New York Times Book Review
"Useful and timely. . . . Mussolini and Hitler were the prototypical fascist leaders, and Paxton chronicles their rise to power--and their global influence and ultimate fall--with a brilliant economy." –San Francisco Chronicle
"A deeply intelligent and very readable book. . . . Historical analysis at its best." –The Economist
“[A] helpful contribution, thoughtfully mapping out the descent of a civilized people — first the Italians, then the Germans — into a primal state (and state of being) ruled by mythology, symbol and emotion. . . . Serves as a reminder of our power and responsibility.” –The Washington Post Book World
“Until now there has been no satisfying account of fascism that includes a convincing diagnostic kit for identifying its symptoms. . . . Robert Paxton steps in to restore sanity, with his view that fascism is not what was believed but what was done.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review