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The Anatomy of Fascism

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  2,008 ratings  ·  217 reviews
What is fascism? Many authors have proposed definitions, but most fail to move beyond the abstract. The esteemed historian Robert O. Paxton answers this question for the first time by focusing on the concrete: what the fascists did, rather than what they said. From the first violent uniformed bands beating up “enemies of the state,” through Mussolini’s rise to power, to Ge ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 8th 2005 by Vintage (first published 2004)
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Maru Kun
UPDATE: At last some journalists are beginning to get it. Trump is not a fascist but an old fashioned, right wing authoritarian of the type that could be found in many a banana republic in the days of the Cold War. A couple of articles have pointed this out and Vox's The rise of American authoritarianism is very interesting. The worrying implication of this article is that while Trump may not win the election he may well not be the last we see of his type.
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: italy, german-history
Most people have trouble defining fascism. Now I know there is a reason for it. Author Robert O. Paxton notes that unlike the other “isms” fascism has no manifesto, no treatise and no doctrine.

It is a feeling of resentment and the desire to impede or destroy the resented group. It glorifies its own state or ethnicity and accepts violence as a Darwinian prerogative. A few days ago I saw a Facebook post that brought this home. A simply dressed and groomed young women sitting in a rural area with
howl of minerva
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
John Anthony
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
1. Introduction
2. Creating Fascist Movements
3. Taking Root
4. Getting Power
5. Exercising Power
6. The Long Term: Radicalization or Entropy
7. Other Times, Other Places
8. What is Fascism?

Biographical Essay


Hugely and interestingly informative and a very useful addition to my library. It is measured and reasonably balanced and the author doesn’t use words lightly. If Robert Paxton calls you a fascist – well, you really are one! He has little time for people who label indiscriminately pot
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Anatomy of Fascism, by Robert O. Paxton, is an interesting examination of the political concept of Fascism from both an intellectual and practical perspective. Paxton breaks down Fascism into a few components; Fascism and its intellectual roots, Fascism in ascendance, and Fascism in power. Paxton generally avoids trying to define Fascism. Instead, he uses a comparative model to examine the two successful Fascisms - Italy and Germany in the 1930's/1940's - as well as other regimes that have b ...more
Jul 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Anatomy of Fascism is probably one of the most insightful books out there to study the underpinnings of fascist movements. Robert O. Paxton argues that what most books on fascism fail to analyze is the internal and external conditions necessary for the success of 20th century movements, because without these basic tools we cannot analyze how unsuccessful ones across Europe failed to gain the same kind of momentum. He does a thoughtful job of detailing the important conditions and allies nece ...more
It's high time to read this...
Oct 22, 2017 rated it liked it
The word "fascist" gets tossed around quite a lot, so I was interested in reading this book in order to add some rigor to what that term actually means. The answer is actually quite complex, but Paxton manages to define a baseline for identifying fascist movements and ideologies. His summary points for a fascist ideology are: 1) a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond the reach of traditional solutions, 2) belief in the supremacy of one's group or race (as well as a corresponding belief that the g ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Paxton does a really good job of laying out fascism's history, main characteristics, philosophy, methods of acquiring power, methods of co-opting powerful institutions and people, radicalization process once in power, and tendency to cause its own apocalyptic self-destruction ultimately destroying the societies it takes over in its passion for conquest. I am reading this at a time when right-wing nationalism is ascending politically. I suspect history is about the replay the conflagration of the ...more
Ade Bailey
Feb 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Fascism is ritual while fanning the flames of rhetoric and manipulating the mass numbers of voters.
It is not a fight for is a fight for the soul.
Don't let the title of this book scare you off.
It was interesting, well structured and most importantly accessible
for every reader.
I learned so much that had been missing from my other
history books about the period 1919 (start of fascism) up until the present.
Paxton's book stops at 2005...but I know that parties as FN in France has
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
Oct 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fascism
The starting point for the topic.
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Over the past few years, the word "fascist" has been deployed increasingly to describe modern-day political movements in the United States, Hungary, Greece, and Italy, to name a few places. The word brings with it some of the most odious associations from the 20th century, namely Nazi Germany and the most devastating war in human history. Yet to what degree is the label appropriate and to what extent is it more melodramatic epithet than an appropriate description?

It was in part to answer that qu
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Right-wingers like to define fascism so narrowly that they don't fit the label, then mock leftists for using the word in a hysterical fashion. This transparently self-serving tendency reaches such heights of absurdity that even ur-fascists like Franco and Mussolini are said to be merely "right-wing authoritarians with fascist tendencies" and only Hitler makes the final cut. Of course there are those on the far left who use the term indiscriminately to mean tyrannical, which is un-helpful and stu ...more
Feb 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Very interesting and thorough study of fascism. Paxton's view is very pragmatic, not only looking at theory, but more to what fascism was in practice. Striking gap: the Flemish nationalist collaboration in World War 2.
Duane Bindschadler
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, calibre

I picked this out of a reading list for a number of reasons, including my concerns about the election and the rise of fascistic groups sometimes call the “alt-right,” my own background (a grandfather who fought in the trenches for Germany in WW I), and a desire to understand if the U.S. might be slipping into fascism. The book is very much an academic tome and is heavily footnoted - in no small part because of the enormous volume of writing on the topic of fascism and fascist movements that foll

4 stars.

“Intellectual and cultural preparation may have made it possible to imagine fascism, but they did not thereby bring fascism about. Even for Sternhell, the ideology of fascism, fully formed, he believes, by 1912, did not shape fascist regimes all by itself. Fascist regimes had to be woven into societies by choices and actions.”

(Ignore the quote. I just needed something to match my review aesthetic, lol). This was definitely interesting, but since I only read it for one of my history cours
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
Mar 09, 2020 rated it liked it
This one was a mixed bag for me. While it wasn't that bad, I didn't find it to be exemplary, either.
One criticism is the book's somewhat jumbled formatting. Although the material of the book does follow in line with the titles of each chapter, I felt like the writing bounced around a lot. He switches from talking about Mussolini, to Hitler, and back again often... I feel like he should have formatted the book a little better.
Also, while I am certainly no expert on the fascist ideology, and/or th
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very in-depth analysis of fascism as a political phenomenon.

Paxton's approach in this book is different than the usual when discussing totalitarianism: rather than specifying bare minimums of what constitutes a fascist regime the author observers and analyzes historical, political and cultural facts about regimes deemed or deeming themselves fascist (most notably Mussolini's Italy, Hitler's Germany and Franco's Spain).

The book's bibliografy is huge: it constitutes about 40% of the whole book
Celia Yost
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read this book. I do not say that lightly as I kept having to pause and stare off in horror while reading, but it is terrifyingly relevant.
3.5 stars.

This book has a wealth of information on Hitler and Mussolini, and the ins and outs of their respective regimes. It goes into great detail on these regimes in particular, whilst also looking at fascist precursors, less successful fascist groups in other countries, and modern neofascists.

The only issues I have with it are that Paxton doesn't spend very long on more modern fascist groups and their implications, and that he repeats himself a lot; to the extent that I believe the book cou
عهود المخيني
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most brilliant books of our century.
Michael Herrman
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a first rate, highly readable book. I recommend this to anyone with a passing interest in early 20th century European history and the Nazis.

I can see elements and parallels in 2020 India.

I wonder if ever there was a time in history where people had so much information/disinformation. How this information explosion is going to change the political landscape worldwide. Maybe the strong men are a precursor to something more sinister?
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Robert Owen Paxton is an American political scientist and historian specializing in Vichy France, fascism, and Europe during the World War II era. After attending secondary school in New England, he received a B.A. from Washington and Lee University in 1954. Later, he won a Rhodes Scholarship and spent two years earning an M.A. at Merton College, Oxford, where he studied under historians including ...more

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