Making the Fascist Self: The Political Culture of Interwar Italy

Overview

In her examination of the culture of Italian fascism, Mabel Berezin focuses on how Mussolini's regime consciously constructed a nonliberal public sphere to support its political aims. Fascism stresses form over content, she believes, and the regime tried to build its political support through the careful construction and manipulation of public spectacles or rituals such as parades, commemoration ceremonies, and holiday festivities.

The fascists believed they could rely on the ...

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Overview

In her examination of the culture of Italian fascism, Mabel Berezin focuses on how Mussolini's regime consciously constructed a nonliberal public sphere to support its political aims. Fascism stresses form over content, she believes, and the regime tried to build its political support through the careful construction and manipulation of public spectacles or rituals such as parades, commemoration ceremonies, and holiday festivities.

The fascists believed they could rely on the motivating power of spectacle, and experiential symbols. In contrast with the liberal democratic notion of separable public and private selves, Italian fascism attempted to merge the public and private selves in political spectacles, creating communities of feeling in public piazzas. Such communities were only temporary, Berezin explains, and fascist identity was only formed to the extent that it could be articulated in a language of pre-existing cultural identities.

In the Italian case, those identities meant the popular culture of Roman Catholicism and the cult of motherhood. Berezin hypothesizes that at particular historical moments certain social groups which perceive the division of public and private self as untenable on cultural grounds will gain political ascendance. Her hypothesis opens a new perspective on how fascism works.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An excellent interdisciplinary work. Progressing from a commemorative period that made the 1922 March on Rome the centerpiece of rituals to a mobilization phase after 1934, which emphasized athletic and military bodies, Berezin delineates the phases in which rituals of the piazza passed from emphasizing the myth of national revolution to that creating the myths of the new Roman empire. . . . Berezin's work is a splendid addition to literature on fascist politicization of culture and civic life."—Choice

"This excellent book explores how politics, culture, and identity intersected in interwar Italy so as to make the 'fascist project': a creation of the self and of new identities as citizens of fascist Italy. . . . This is a rich and rewarding book; the writing is engaging and the theory challenging. It is an important contribution to our understanding of fascism and of the making of modern identities."—Virginia Quarterly

"Instantly accessible. . . . An admirable monograph based on a wide range of readings intelligently deployed. Historians will appreciate the factual content and will find the sociological insights stimulating."—American Historical Review

"This is a deeply researched, elegantly argued book that makes an important contribution both to the study of fascism and to theories of political mobilization more generally. . . . It is the best study we have for making sense of how fascism worked as politics and as cultural politics in inter-war Italy."—Lynn Hunt, University of Pennsylvania

"Making the Fascist Self is an exciting contribution to historical sociology and the politics of culture. Mabel Berezin sheds new light on Italian fascism, on the relationship of personal identity to political commitment, and on the ideological mobilization of memory."—Craig Calhoun, New York University

"The focus on Fascist spectacle is intrinsically interesting, and Mabel Berezin's cultural analysis reflects cutting-edge developments in cultural sociology."—David Kertzer, Brown University

"Mabel Berezin draws on extensive historical knowledge and familiarity with social theory to claim the critical importance of fascist ritual. Ritual in the broadest sense, she argues, was constructed to serve as the core of the fascist experience—displacing the church, claiming the town center, fusing the private self with the public cause. Berezin explains to what degree the fascist project worked, and why contemporary xenophobic movements can still draw upon its mystique."—Charles S. Maier, Harvard University

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Chronology
Abbreviations
Introduction: Post Fascism/Fascism: Italy 1994/1922 1
1 Interpreting Fascism/Explaining Ritual 11
2 Imagining a New Political Community: The Landscape of Ritual Action 39
3 Convergence and Commemoration: Reenacting the March on Rome 70
4 The Evolution of Ritual Genres: The March Continues 101
5 Colonizing Time: Rhythms of Fascist Ritual in Verona 141
6 Dead Bodies and Live Voices: Locating the Fascist Self 196
Conclusion: Fascism/Identity/Ritual 245
Methodological Appendix 253
Index 261
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