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The Anatomy of Fascism

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  441 ratings  ·  48 reviews
"What is fascism? Many authors have proposed succinct but abstract definitions. Robert O. Paxton 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 democraci ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 23rd 2004 by Knopf (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,284)
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David
Sure, calling people ‘fascist’ is lots of fun. There’s no denying that. Whether you’re a teenager revolting against the ruthless Gestapo comprised of teachers, parents, and Denny’s night shift managers or you’re a fussbudget Berkeley yippie who detects a whiff of the counterrevolutionary even in the most innocuous conventions (‘I will not have a nice day! Fuck you, Big Brother!’), the exaggeration of one’s own paranoid sense of victimization by glibly appropriating the suffering of millions and ...more
howl of minerva
Aug 19, 2014 howl of minerva rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to howl of minerva by: AC, Sologdin
See the excellent reviews by Sologdin and Szplug.


"Fascism may be defined as a form of political behaviour 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 inte
...more
Szplug
It is difficult to imagine how this book could have been improved upon—Paxton, after opening with the hard-to-argue proposition that Fascism was the major political innovation of the twentieth century, and the source of much of its pain, avoids any manner of definition of his thematic prey, preferring to avoid painting himself into a corner before tackling the various elements and stages that comprise this elusive interwar upstart. Paxton notes the surprising adaptability of fascism during the c ...more
sologdin
Very effective. Attempts a wittgensteinian, as opposed to a platonist, definition of fascism, drawing its operative principles from the laboratory of history, rather than penciling out starry-eyed presuppositions ab initio.

Definition seeks to analyze five stages of a fascist organization: movement formation, obtaining legitimacy, obtaining state power, exercising same, and terminal radicalization. Analysis is well presented and sharp, looking at the available historical samples under these respe
...more
Abailart
This is an extremely lucid exposition which examines and cuts through various inadequate 'definitions' of fascism. It looks at five stages of fascism proper - essentially, Italian and German - with each stage necessarily building on the preceding (though allowing for concurrence). Rather than what a manifesto or explicit project stated, Paxton looks at how fascism actually behaved during its rise to power, and at the vital contribution of (usually conservative) other parties, all in the context ...more
Michael Herrman
Could have been 3/4 the actual length (due to Paxton's tendency to revisit ideas, presumably to ensure that the reader 'got it'), but it's an enlightening study that isn't too demanding. Examines fascist movements of the twentieth century in various cultures and doesn't ignore the less successful, shorter-lived movements outside of Germany and Italy. Wrestles with what actually constitutes a fascist doctrine by examining the active traits of such movements and examines the social and economic fa ...more
Jacob
Let's admit it, political theatre has turned the word fascism into a vulgarity often used with little understanding of the term itself. As youths, some of us may have even slung the word around in protest against authoritarian politicians seeking to expand a nation's global influence through military power while creating a domestic program run on fear and total control. Even those usually found at the receiving end of such name-calling have joined in on the fun, as shown in the mental gymnastics ...more
John Nelson
It is common for left-wingers to toss around the word "fascist" without knowing what it means. Virtually every conservative and libertarian has been accused of being a "fascist" by someone who wouldn't know a real fascist if one bit them in the a--.

Robert O. Paxton endeavors to answer the question "what is a fascist?" by examing the actual traits of fascist regimes. In brief, Paxton states that fascism is a political movement motivated by a sense of national decline and humiliation. A mythic, or
...more
James
Excellent - a bit slow at first as the author described the early history of Italian fascism and German Nazism in detail, but very good once he got to analysis.

Paxton's basic point, which he makes convincingly, is that fascism is better defined by what fascist movements do than by what they say. They may make any number of ideological pronouncements, but they tend to ignore or change them as is convenient (for example, Mussolini at first advocated equal rights for women and Hitler was silent on
...more
Esteban del Mal
If a liberal is a conservative who has been mugged, a fascist is a conservative whose wife has been given the vote.
Kaci
Well written, conveniently organized, but dreadfully boring.
AC
The starting point for the topic.
Jim Pfluecke
One of the best books I have read in some time. The book is not long, but it contains a tremendous amount of information and is very tightly written. Each paragraph could easily be a 10 page journal article.

Paxton attempts to examine the nature of fascist regimes and determine what they had in common. Although he explicitly refuses to give a precise definition, he does establish a set of common criteria that Fascist regimes have in common-mainly the idea of rebirth/renewal and the identification
...more
James
One of the best books I have read in some time. The book is not long, but it contains a tremendous amount of information and is very tightly written. Each paragraph could easily be a 10 page journal article.

Paxton attempts to examine the nature of fascist regimes and determine what they had in common. Although he explicitly refuses to give a precise definition, he does establish a set of common criteria that Fascist regimes have in common-mainly the idea of rebirth/renewal and the identification
...more
John David
In “Il Gattopardo,” Guiseppe di Lampedusa said of the Sicilian nobility that, “if we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” Robert Paxton asserts that the same can be said for the scholarship of fascism in “The Anatomy of Fascism,” his insightful analysis of the rise, entrenchment, and political development of this body of political movements in twentieth century Europe. Instead of arguing that fascism is “of the left” or “of the right,” Paxton both escapes those narrow co ...more
Roy
Aan de hand van de twee succesvolste fascistische staten, het Italië van Mussolini en Hitlers Duitsland, probeert Paxton het fascisme te ontleden. Hij bespreekt ook de Staten waar het maar niet van de grond kwam. Al vertellende probeert hij de randvoorwaarden voor fascisme te determineren. Pas helemaal aan het einde waagt hij zich aan een definitie. Gelukkig bleek/blijkt dat het voldoen aan de genoemde voorwaarden geen garantie voor succes is.

De definitie:
"Fascism may be defined as a form of pol
...more
Antonio Nunez
Fascism is the genus to which Nazism, Falangism, Francisme, the Arrow Cross, the Order of the Archangel Michael, the Ustasha, and possibly also certain strains of militant Islam belong. The book provides a very useful primer to the subject (which, by the way, goes well beyond a standard insult for supposed right wingers). It is, however, addressed to college students and won't be much fun for those with an occasional interest, nor very informative for those who have already read on the subject. ...more
Josh Liller
I picked this up as a source for a college term paper on Weimar Germany, but I would have wanted to read this regardless. It is interesting to learn about how and why Hitler and Mussolini came to power (and why their contemporaries did not) from a purely historical interest in World War II.

Additionally, the terms "fascist", "socialist", and "communist" have get thrown around a great deal. "V for Vendetta" was written because Alan Moore was among those who considered Margaret Thatcher a fascist.
...more
Mark
Ian Kershaw sagt wohl, es sei eine meisterhafte Studie. Der Verlag wirbt mit der Aktualität der Ergebnisse dieser Studie: „Auf der ersten Stufe existiert er (der Faschismus) auch heute in allen größeren Demokratien“ prangt es auf dem Schutzumschlag. Die auch ansonsten ansprechender gestalteten Einbände der Originalausgaben (siehe hier, hier und auch hier) kommen ohne solchen, im Ergebnis auch noch irreführenden Firlefanz aus. Denn der Satz ist ohne Kenntnis über den Inhalt der „ersten Stufe“ off ...more
Brad
The Anatomy of Fascism. By Robert Paxton. (New York: Vintage Books, 2004. Pp. xii, 220).

In our post-World War II society, the word fascism has come to symbolize the epitome of evil and totalitarianism. Its association with the destructive forces of the Nazi regime and the radical agendas of Italy has caused many in our modern society to view fascism as the embodiment of malevolence, yet the word is often thrown around by politicians, theologians and others in a manner that misrepresents the tru
...more
alyssa carver
i have never been a big non-fiction, non-"literary" reader, although i am of course interested in the stuff of reality... you know, history, science, etc. my current job (as an archivist) has proven to be more demanding than i expected concerning my piecemeal sort of background and education in history.

processing a collection of nasty anti-semitic propaganda of the pre-WWII era has launched the subject of fascism to the forefront of my thinking lately. otherwise, i don't think i'd ever pick up
...more
stephanie
paxton came to my WWII seminar and talked to us about this book. my signed copy is one of my most prized possessions. and i could talk for hours about how amazingly cool paxton is, but what you should know is that if you think you know what fascism is, was, you should read this book. if you never understood what the difference between mussolini and hitler was, you should read this book. if you didn't know hitler and mussolini were ideologically linked, you should read this book. if you are inter ...more
Latro
Quite an interesting overview of fascism, not as an ideology - in fact, the author refuses to define fascism until the very end of the book - but as a process, showing the different ways those movements behaved in the different steps, from formation to power to radicalization, studying mainly the "succesful" fascisms but also the ones that did not manage to get into power. To Paxton is more important to see what fascist did than what they said, as it is appropiate for an "ideology" that didnt ha ...more
Dianna LeFevre
This book would have been better had it combined the theory/conclusions along with the examples themselves. The first part of the book outlines the various facets of fascism that the author has gleaned from studying both the Italian fascists and the Nazis (and a bit of a few other movements); the second part of the book, which is the larger part, focuses on looking at what these groups actually did. But I was not always really clear on what specific actions by the groups led Paxton to make the c ...more
Rebecca
Synthesizes the major academic works on fascism from the 1930s-now, identifies weaknesses in various theories of fascism's causes and attempts to avoid the pitfalls of overly narrow/overly broad definition that characterize much scholarship and commentary on fascism. What qualifies it as "amazing" is the coverage of so much ground in so few pages.
Yago de Artaza Paramo
Great book on early 1900s politics. Fantastic analysis of different paths fascism took in different countries and the neccesary conditions to succeed. If anything this book concludes that pure fascism is only possible when democracy fails and when a society doesn't have safety checks for control of power.
Susan Suárez


I bought this at a train station in Italy of all places. Very informative and I liked the author's approach which was based more on historical events than widespread definitions of fascism. If you are looking for light reading, this isn't your book. Takes a some focus to really enjoy.
Chris
Fascism is a heavily-used term that is so hard to define. People often use this word in places where it makes no sense.

This book is a very serious book, and it really strips apart the various fascist and fascist-like governments to cover all sorts of questions about fascism.
Roy
"Surverys and immense literature," knowing where he's going and what he has that's worthy of emphasis, "with great skill and incisive analysis."
Highly recommend...Fascism is no joke and not that far from us. Proto-fascists are in our legislature and more are coming.
Gina
This book kinda sucks. Surprising, since Paxton is a reputed historian. I have trouble with the dumbing down of his writing, and the blatant mistakes like using repression when he means suppression. Is this what it means to 'make it' in academia? sigh. I hope not.
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“Looking for fears, indeed, may be a more fruitful research strategy than a literal-minded quest for thinkers who “created” fascism.” 0 likes
“An interlocking set of new enemies was emerging: globalization, foreigners, multiculturalism, environmental regulation, high taxes, and the incompetent politicians who could not cope with these challenges. A widening public disaffection for the political Establishment opened the way for an “antipolitics” that the extreme Right could satisfy better than the far Left after 1989. After the Marxist Left lost credibility as a plausible protest vehicle when the Soviet Union collapsed, the radical Right had no serious rivals as the mouthpiece for the angry “losers” of the new postindustrial, globalized, multiethnic Europe.” 0 likes
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