"So fair, so thorough and, in the end, so convincing, it may well become the most authoritative . . . study of the subject. . . . A splendid book." –The New York Times Book Review
"Useful and timely. . . . Mussolini and Hitler were the prototypical fascist leaders, and Paxton chronicles their rise to powerand their global influence and ultimate fallwith a brilliant economy." –San Francisco Chronicle
"A deeply intelligent and very readable book. . . . Historical analysis at its best." –The Economist
“[A] helpful contribution, thoughtfully mapping out the descent of a civilized people — first the Italians, then the Germans — into a primal state (and state of being) ruled by mythology, symbol and emotion. . . . Serves as a reminder of our power and responsibility.” –The Washington Post Book World
“Until now there has been no satisfying account of fascism that includes a convincing diagnostic kit for identifying its symptoms. . . . Robert Paxton steps in to restore sanity, with his view that fascism is not what was believed but what was done.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review
… Paxton has made a helpful contribution, thoughtfully mapping out the descent of a civilized people -- first the Italians, then the Germans -- into a primal state (and state of being) ruled by mythology, symbol and emotion. While avoiding much discussion of the intellectual and cultural roots of fascism, he traces the political and structural development of a movement that evolved into a party and then a state and, finally, a war against humanity.
The Anatomy of Fascism is the work of a distinguished scholar who has sifted through the primary sources, the tomes and the trends in an effort to synthesize and even settle prior debates. His main emphasis is on Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany, but in order to demonstrate why certain fascist movements were able to seize power while most remained marginal, he contrasts these ''successes'' with fascist sputterings in Britain, France, Hungary, Portugal, Spain and elsewhere … the lasting contribution of this splendid book is to remind us that fascism, if it returns, will do so not simply because of a rousing leader, but because of his timid accomplices.
The New York Times
Paxton, the author of seminal works on Vichy France, now sums up a lifelong reflection on fascism's myriad forms. Paxton writes in his introduction that fascism was "the most self-consciously visual of all political forms," yet many of those indelible images (Mussolini haranguing a crowd from a balcony; the perfect choreography of totalitarianism in Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will) can "induce facile errors" about the omnipotent leader or the supposed unanimity of the crowd. Rather than begin with a definition of fascism, Paxton prefers to give concrete examples of it in action in various countries, from Italy and Germany to France, Holland and Eastern Europe; in particular, he examines its "mobilizing passions," such as a sense of overwhelming crisis and dread of a native group's decline. This study has several virtues (and few defects): the writing is free of some of the theoretical jargon that threatens our understanding of a defining political movement of the 20th century. This is a study of both the intellectual origins of fascism and how it played out in the streets of Berlin, Rome, Paris and other locales. In addition, Paxton examines such important topics as images of fascism and what we might call "the future of fascism" (in a quick aside on a current controversy, Paxton notes that Islamic fundamentalism is not fascist). Although Paxton doesn't address present or future forms of fascism, his list of its "mobilizing passions" will sound to some readers frighteningly similar to aspects of contemporary America. This is sure to take its place among classics in the field by Stanley Payne and Roger Griffith. (Mar. 26) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The term "fascism" originated with Mussolini in 1919 and has since often been stretched to apply to almost any political group to the right of the person using it. Paxton, a historian, sets out to rescue the term from such sloppy usage, even as he acknowledges that a narrow definition is impossible. In his quest for understanding, Paxton surveys how a broad array of fascist movements has sought out followers, formed alliances, and seized and exercised power. The comparisons show great variety over time and place but also reveal characteristics that distinguish fascism from other kinds of authoritarian rule. Fascists, he concludes, were identifiable most of all by a style of political behavior that emphasized historical grievances, worshiped the cult of leadership, relied on a mass-based movement of national militants, repressed democratic liberties, and used violence as a political tool. Paxton's first book, "Vichy France," has become the standard work in the field despite its once-controversial thesis (that the Vichy regime was not merely imposed by Nazis but had domestic roots); "The Anatomy of Fascism," based on decades of research and teaching, is likely to prove just as authoritative. The in-depth bibliographical essay alone will guide scholars and graduate students for years to come.
Paxton (Mellon Professor Emeritus of the Social Sciences, Columbia Univ.; Vichy France) dissects a historical phenomenon that unleashed the deadliest epoch in world history. It is well known that fascism consumed the passions of Germany and Italy, but Paxton reminds readers that the fascist impulse found expression throughout the globe and still poses a threat to international stability. His goal is to find generic characteristics that shape the dynamics of fascism-not the product of a well-defined ideology, Paxton emphasizes, but rather a visceral response to national crises that defy conventional solutions. Paxton stresses that all fascist movements sanctify violence and view life as a Darwinian struggle; beleaguered constituencies turn toward a leader who revitalizes nationalistic sentiments by demonizing perceived internal and external enemies. The culmination of a lifetime's study, this work is based on a thorough analysis of just about every secondary work on fascism and includes a superb bibliographic essay that will guide students and historians for many years to come. While there are countless studies on fascism, readers will be hard pressed to find anything more in-depth from a scholar with Paxton's credentials. Recommended for all academic libraries and for public libraries with strong political science collections.-Jim Doyle, Marconi P.L., GA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
An immensely learned consideration of "the major political innovation of the twentieth century, and the source of much of its pain."The folks at MoveOn.org notwithstanding, George Bush is no Hitler, John Ashcroft likely no fascist. The looseness of terms and equations disguises the complexity of the deadly far-right ideology, which Paxton (Emeritus, Social Sciences/Columbia Univ.; Europe in the Twentieth Century, not reviewed, etc.) defines, quite comprehensively, as "a form of political behavior 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 internal cleansing and external expansion." A mouthful, but Paxton ably demonstrates why precision is wanted here, having spent the preceding chapters analyzing the many brands of fascism on the world stage. The best known, of course, is the first: Mussolini's pompous, theatrical regime, which came to power a full decade before Hitler's; as Paxton writes, Mussolini coined the term fascismo and set the tone for many a dictatorship to come. These allied but subtly different fascisms shared a radicalism that belied their socialist origins, which has caused some historians to regard fascism as anticapitalist at heart. Not so, Paxton argues: Fascism was at once a revolt against the left and against liberal individualism and a slap in the face of old-school, elitist conservatism, whose exponents "wanted obedience anddeference, not dangerous popular mobilization" of the sort that working-class fascism drew on. But, all the same, it was a very willing crony of big business, which was quite happy with the anti-leftist "new man" that once threatened to rule the world. A solid contribution to political literature, and of much interest to students of 20th-century history. Agency: Wylie Agency