- Series: Very Short Introductions
- Paperback: 184 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (June 1, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199685363
- ISBN-13: 978-0199685363
- Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.6 x 4.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fascism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) 2nd Edition
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About the Author
Dr Kevin Passmore is a Reader in History at Cardiff University. His The Right in the Third Republic was published by OUP in November 2012. He has continued to publish widely on fascism since publication of the VSI in 2002, but has also written on the history of the social sciences and historical writing.
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Top Customer Reviews
That is certainly why I chose to read this book. We on the Left are very fond of bandying about the word “fascist” (count me guilty as charged!) so I wanted to educate myself a little more about what fascism is, at least so I can be somewhat intellectually honest should I seriously brand someone a fascist.
Passmore goes to great lengths in pointing out that fascism is not easily defined (Fascist/Fascism- with a capital F- refers specifically to Mussolini’s Italian political party) but that fascism can entail a number of traits. By giving a history of political parties and movements that might be labeled fascist, he shows that there are often differences between the goals, methods and make up of these parties.
(Interestingly Nazism differs from fascism primarily in its racist policies. While fascists are generally racist, anti-immigrant and may even believe in a hierarchy of races, the actual pursuit of a policy of racial extermination like the Final Solution differentiates Nazism from fascism. And recent right-wing leaders like Thatcher and Messrs. Reagan and Bush Jr are more correctly defined as Neo-conservatives.)
So what are some of the hallmarks of fascism? Some of the more obvious ones are ultranationalism, racism, a cult of personality/charismatic leadership, anti-constitutionalism and a level of violence. In addition, a true fascist movement will often have its own paramilitary wing. A strong element of Social-Darwinism pervades fascism as well (and the irony of American Evangelical voters supporting Social Darwin-like Republican economic policies is rich to me!)
It can get a little more complicated when it comes to economics and fascism. While fascists often appeal to the working classes with a pro-worker sort of populism (particularly where socialist parties have failed in leadership or simply don’t exist), fascists are often corporatist. They cosy up to big business for a variety of reasons, and as big business naturally lacks a moral compass besides that of making a profit, it will often tolerate fascist political leadership.
The book also discusses fascism’s often fluid relationship to religion and the role of women in a fascist state, fascism usually having an aura of machismo.
Fascism of course didn’t die with the defeat of Hitler and Mussolini and it has taken various forms in disparate places and populations around the globe since.
It was interesting (and disheartening) to consider that while this book was revised and reprinted in 2014 and the author discusses various right-wing political movements especially across Europe, I don’t think even he anticipated the rapid growth of parties like UKIP in the UK, the FN in France, etc.
While the far-right parties today that may indeed be fascist, none really ever embrace the term openly. Ultimately, this book succeeded for me in that now I better understand fascism’s history, what fascism is (and is not) and its place in contemporary politics. I am far more comfortable in using it to describe one when I see one.
A few final thoughts on the book itself. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the subject but while it’s a relatively short and very engaging read, it does assume a fairly good knowledge base of 20th Century history and politics. Also, and this might sound silly, but it is important for context: the book is written with and embraces the assumption that fascism is in fact a BAD thing!
Passmore also notes, however, that fascism was closely linked to a particular time and place: Europe between the two World Wars. Every modern Western political movement of any importance -- conservatism, socialism, capitalism, liberalism, Christian democracy, nationalism, even feminism -- was in place by 1914, and the only two exceptions were environmentalism and fascism. Fascism, an exotic compound of nationalism and elements of conservatism and socialism, was essentially a product of a continent that had been brutalized and bankrupted by a catastrophic war and was fearful of the prospect of communist revolution. The links with older movements were tenuous: as Passmore notes, there was no clear link between Nazism and the antisemitic movements of Wilhelmine Germany. Passmore ends the book with the suggestion that fascism might re-emerge in the future, but this surely goes too far.
The sheer strangeness of fascism is striking. Its extreme nationalism and its murderous hostility towards socialism mean that it tends to be placed on the far right of the political spectrum. Yet it differed significantly from traditional conservatism. Unlike conservatives, fascists were prepared to exert state authority over the economy, interfere in private family life, disrespect monarchies and churches, and reshape traditional institutions like the army and the civil service. In some countries, such as Salazar's Portugal and Baldwin's Britain, orthodox conservative governments sought to suppress the local fascists, and Mussolini's original squadristi were radicals who fought with conservatives and Catholics as well as socialists. On the other hand, there was in practice more to unite conservatives and fascists than to divide them: fascists generally respected private property (as long it wasn't owned by Jews or other undesirables), and the two movements shared the common reference points of veneration for the nation -- the state and the military. There were intelligible reasons why they both viewed socialism as their mortal enemy.
This is a good little book, judiciously written and containing a wealth of useful information. It is essential reading for anyone who wishes to inform themselves before using the political f-word.