Stanley (How Propaganda Works), a Yale philosophy professor, delivers an instructive and poignant examination of fascism—a resurgent presence in both developed and developing nations, including the United States—in this cogent and accessibly written book. He cites past and present examples of fascist behavior from politicians—from Hitler, Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, and Benito Mussolini to Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump—and draws on sociology and critical race theory to identify 10 concepts and tools employed by political leaders to promote a fascist politics that rely on an “us-versus-them” mentality. Liberal democracies, he writes, have seen immigrants, refugees, and city dwellers, among others, treated as “them.” The 10 tactics, which include propaganda, anti-intellectualism, and “victimhood,” will be eerily familiar to observers of today’s political landscape; for example, the Trump administration’s rhetoric surrounding the media is recalled by Stanley’s statement that “Reality itself is cast into doubt.... Fascist politics exchanges reality for the pronouncements of a single individual, or perhaps a political party.” Stanley is an erudite guide, and his convincing analysis of forces at work in present-day politics is accessible to experts and novices alike. Agent: Stephanie Steiker, Regal Hoffman & Assoc. (Sept.)
A philosopher examines political tactics that give rise to fascism.The son of immigrants who fled Nazi Germany, Stanley (Philosophy/Yale Univ.; How Propaganda Works, 2015, etc.) has directly observed the consequences of fascism. Troubled that fascist politics is on the rise throughout the world, he offers an analysis of the many strategies that fascist regimes employ: publicizing the idea of a mythic past, use of propaganda and conspiracy theories, anti-intellectualism, the replacement of "reasoned debate with fear and anger," casting doubt on the media, denial of equality and insistence on a hierarchy legitimized by nature (e.g., whites being superior to nonwhites), propagation of a culture of victimhood, campaigns based on law and order, incitement of male sexual anxiety, appeals to rural voters and suspicion of cosmopolitan urban dwellers, and perpetuation of a national conflict between "us" and "them," based on ethnic, religious, and racial identities. Like Madeleine Albright and Timothy Snyder in their recent books, Stanley sees fascism threatening democracies, not least in the United States, where Donald Trump has all the earmarks of a fascist leader. Drawing on research by sociologists, philosophers, and other scholars—as well as sources such as his grandmother's memoir of Nazi Germany and Mein Kampf— Stanley argues convincingly that fascists employ "legitimation myths" to promote their ideas, exploiting, for example, "a human tendency to organize society hierarchically" to justify the idea that "the principle of equality is a denial of natural law." Fascists foment the distinction between "us" and "them" by using specific coded language, which psychologists call Linguistic Intergroup Bias, to describe individuals' actions. Using the term "criminal" to describe murder, traffic violations, and political protest "changes attitudes and shapes policy." Fascists stir up suspicion of intellectuals by presenting "liberal tolerance" as synonymous with "elite privilege." Stanley also rightly worries about complacency: Many of his grandmother's friends and neighbors refused to acknowledge the Nazi threat until it was too late; today, the "normalization of extreme policies" poses an urgent challenge.A potent call for democracies to resist the insidious encroachment of fascism.
A vital read . . . The book provides a fascinating breakdown of the fascist ideology, nimbly interweaving examples from Germany, Italy and Hungary, from Rwanda and Myanmar to Serbia and, yes, the US. As he proceeds through his framework of the broadest features of his subject, Stanley includes smaller observations that may for some readers land bracingly close to home.”—The Guardian
“By placing Trump in transnational and transhistorical perspective, Stanley sees patterns that others miss. . . . Stanley’s comparative perspective is particularly effective in illustrating how fascists use fears of sexual violence. . . . By calling Trump a ‘fascist’—a word that strikes many Americans as alien and extreme—Stanley is trying to spark public alarm. He doesn’t want Americans to respond to Trump’s racist, authoritarian offensives by moving their moral goal posts. The greater danger, he suggests, isn’t hyperbole, it’s normalization.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
“Jason Stanley’s staggering analysis has only grown in importance since the release of How Fascism Works in 2018. It is one of the defining books of the decade.”—Elizabeth Hinton, author of From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime
“Jason Stanley reveals how the liberties of the people wither when voters embrace politicians who promote the divisive politics of us versus them while denigrating cooperation, compromise, and respect for others. How Fascism Works builds on philosopher Stanley’s insightful How Propaganda Works to explain in concise and easily understood terms how people get tricked into reversing the expanding rights that made America great.”—David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of It’s Even Worse Than You Think and The Making of Donald Trump
“An endless question about history—does it repeat itself? The Allies triumphed over fascism nearly seventy-five years ago. But is it on the rise again? The national populism of Trump and Bannon; Brexit; Orban and the rise of the Hungarian right; the Italian five-star movement; Erdoğan—Jason Stanley has in this extraordinary book tried to answer these questions. For those in denial or in doubt, Stanley’s book provides overwhelming evidence that fascism is alive, well, and on the rise. It’s a clarion call to wake up, pay attention, and do something. No one has any doubt that fascism works; the question remains: How do we stop it? Stanley tells us that fascism is not a plan on how to govern but a plan on how to seize control. This is an important and essential book.”—Errol Morris, filmmaker and author of The Ashtray
“There are moments in which the fate of humanity itself hangs in the balance, and such times always bring with them the resurrection of ugly myths. And yet, as Jason Stanley, one of this nation’s most important philosophers, makes clear, when such myths are deconstructed and their history is laid bare, we remember the extraordinary ties that in fact bind us together. And in the fire of that powerful recollection, modern-day fascism—the current myth-dependent moment of intolerance, xenophobia, and fearmongering in which we find ourselves—can be rendered to ash.”—Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Blood in the Water
“Jason Stanley’s book comes at a most propitious time, when we must come to grips with the political consequences that may follow the rise of xenophobic populism. History teaches what those consequences are, and in his book Stanley, with great analytical and conceptual clarity, not only tells the story but more crucially provides a critical framework through which to see the insidious mechanisms at play that are threatening today’s democracies around the globe. How Fascism Works is a must-read for all of us who take seriously our responsibility as citizens.”—Jan T. Gross, author of Neighbors
“A sharply argued and timely guide . . . Stanley’s highlighting of the politics of sexual anxiety is particularly welcome and relevant.”—Ruth Ben-Ghiat, author of Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema
“With unsettling insight and disturbing clarity, How Fascism Works is an essential guidebook to our current national dilemma of democracy vs. authoritarianism. The fingerprints of the fascist past are visible in the present, and this volume bravely shines a light upon them.”—William Jelani Cobb, author of The Substance of Hope
Award-winning Yale philosophy professor Stanley (How Propaganda Works) understands fascism intuitively: his parents were refugees from World War II Europe. Worrying about today's fractured political arena, he argues that countries can have fascist strains without being fascistic. Fascism means dividing a population to achieve power and, he says, has ten "pillars": the mythic past, propaganda, anti-intellectualism, unreality, hierarchy, victimhood, law and order, sexual anxiety, appeals to the heartland, and a dismantling of public welfare and unity. Keep your eyes peeled.