Synopses & Reviews
From the author of Vichy France,
a fascinating, authoritative history of fascism in all its manifestations, and how and why it took hold in certain countries and not in others.
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 democracies of Europe were struggling with the aftershocks of World War I. Fascist parties could not approach power, however, without the complicity of conservatives willing to sacrifice the rule of law for security.
Paxton makes clear the sequence of steps by which fascists and conservatives together formed regimes in Italy and Germany, and why fascists remained out of power elsewhere. Fascist regimes were strained alliances. While fascist parties had broad political leeway, conservatives preserved many social and economic privileges. Goals of forced national unity, purity, and expansion, accompanied by propaganda-driven public excitement, held the mixture together. War opened opportunities for fascist extremists to pursue these goals to the point of genocide. Paxton shows how these opportunities manifested themselves differently in France, in Britain, in the Low Countries, and in Eastern Europe–and yet failed to achieve supreme power. He goes on to examine whether fascism can exist outside the specific early-twentieth-century European setting in which it emerged, and whether it can reappear today. This groundbreaking book, based on a lifetime of research, will have a lasting impact on our understanding of twentieth-century history.
"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....[S]ure to take its place among classics in the field." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"An immensely learned consideration....A solid contribution to political literature, and of much interest to students of 20th-century history." Kirkus Reviews
"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." Library Journal
"Robert O. Paxton's new book is firmly in the comparative, analytical tradition of writing about Fascism, a tradition that attempts to explain how Fascist movements and regimes were founded and why they behaved as they did. He writes intelligently and is clearly well informed about a host of differing movements including contemporary ones, although the bulk of The Anatomy of Fascism
focuses on the two exemplar regimes in Italy and Germany." Martin Clark, The Times Literary Supplement
(read the entire Times Literary Supplement review
About the Author
Robert O. Paxton taught at Columbia University. His other books include Vichy France, Vichy France and the Jews (with Michael Marrus), Europe in the Twentieth Century, and French Peasant Fascism. He lives in New York City.