Fascism

The whole of Robert O. Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism (2004) is available here. In the final pages (p.218), following detailed historical analysis, it cautiously advances a cultural-political definition:

Fascism may be defined 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 restraint goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

Since the topic regularly re-surfaces, it seems worth recording Paxton’s formulation as a reference point, especially as its emphases differ significantly from those this blog (and its critics) have tended to stress. An important conclusion of Paxton’s study is that no purely ideological account of fascism is able to capture what is an essentially historical phenomenon, which is to say a process, rooted in the degeneration of democracy. (Wikipedia offers some background on his work.)

June 12, 2014admin 20 Comments »
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20 Responses to this entry

  • Alrenous Says:

    That is the first time I’ve ever considered buying a description of fascism. It’s got sophistication and historical plausibility instead of bratty name calling. It’s got demotism. It’s got inherent morbidity, yet must seem unavoidable from the inside. (ProTip: agency means nothing is unavoidable.)

    [Reply]

    Posted on June 12th, 2014 at 9:36 am Reply | Quote
  • James James Says:

    Also available as epub here http://gen.lib.rus.ec/search.php?req=Anatomy+Fascism+paxton

    I recommend you delete my comment and your link after a couple of days. Don’t want these useful libraries to get shut down.

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    nyan_sandwich Reply:

    Best just to edit to refer to lib gen, on the assumption that the rest of us know what it is and where to find it.

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    Posted on June 12th, 2014 at 10:17 am Reply | Quote
  • James James Says:

    See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Griffin

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    Posted on June 12th, 2014 at 10:29 am Reply | Quote
  • Fascism | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on June 12th, 2014 at 12:37 pm Reply | Quote
  • Zerg Says:

    What if the “with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraint” qualifier were left out? Would what’s left still be Fascism? What if the “with redemptive violence” were kept but the “and without ethical or legal restraint” removed? What if the single word “redemptive” were removed? What really matters here? This question is analogous to one I have about the “sociopath” label. The DSM list of sociopath-characteristics weighs irresponsibility, impulsiveness, inability to feel guilt, lack of empathy, predatory inclination (maybe not in those words), etc., all equally, but the predatory inclination is the only thing that really matters here. We associate the labels “sociopath” and “monster” because of the predatory inclination, but that inclination does not necessary accompany the other characteristics on the DSM list. Similarly, we associate the labels “Fascist” and “[politically] monstrous” because of a [redemptively? amorally?] violent tendency that doesn’t necessarily accompany an intense interest in purifying and energizing one’s “community”.

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    admin Reply:

    Good questions — I can only assume its a Sorites problem.

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    Posted on June 12th, 2014 at 1:31 pm Reply | Quote
  • Lesser Bull Says:

    I could buy that as a descriptive definition. I object to the ‘obsessive,’ though. It implies a value judgment that the preoccupation with community decline and etc. is disproportionate. Descriptive definitions don’t need value judgments.

    We still need other accounts of fascism, though, because his descriptive definition isn’t adequately explanatory.

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    admin Reply:

    That word struck out for me too.

    The ‘explanation’ — or at least detailed process description — comes in the rest of the book.

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    Porphy's Attorney Reply:

    There are other descriptive definitions that are probably more apt. Some are referred to here:

    http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2014/02/fascism-and-future-part-two.html

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    Posted on June 12th, 2014 at 1:35 pm Reply | Quote
  • Arcane Says:

    @James James

    I second Roger Griffin. In my mind, he is one of the premier political scientists studying fascism, and has an enormous CV on the subject.
    http://www.history.brookes.ac.uk/staff/prof.asp?ID=584

    He considers fascism to be a form of “palingenetic ultranationalism,” but he has also written numerous books comparing fascism from various theoretical perspectives. He has also published an outstanding reader of primary source material.

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    Posted on June 12th, 2014 at 8:37 pm Reply | Quote
  • peppermint Says:

    Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by concern for community decline 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 without legal restraint goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

    Cleaned up. I think we can get the DailyStormer kids to agree with this.

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    Posted on June 12th, 2014 at 9:10 pm Reply | Quote
  • scientism Says:

    Are militants voice or exit?

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    Posted on June 12th, 2014 at 11:12 pm Reply | Quote
  • Handle Says:

    I’m not buying the definition at all. It’s ridiculous to define any short-lived (because quickly exterminated) political ideology in terms of trying to look for a patten of ‘behavior’ among a very small n, all contained within a very small timeframe, especially when those behaviors have some extreme overlaps with the practices of other regimes who dedicated themselves to different political ideas and organizing principles. Is China fascist? What about the Russians / Soviets? What if you don’t have a traditional elite (Moldbug’s ‘Optimates’) anymore? You can’t be fascist now?

    ‘Isms’ are about ideas. For instance, looking at this absurd definition really tells us nothing at all about who is in charge, what powers they have, and the relationship of the government to, and its power over, the markets and the means of production.

    And what about some uncomfortable comparisons to present day ‘mixed economy’ governments? What if their extolation of democratic values is, for all intents and purposes, a mirage?

    Finally, I don’t even think the definition passes its own Historical test. If the Italian fascists weren’t fascist, nobody was, but they weren’t any more obsesses with political ‘internal cleansing’ than anybody else dealing with certain threats, and especially the Communists. In that respect, American WWI-era anti-Syndicalism laws sought the exact same amount of ‘internal cleansing’ and suppression of the crazy commies because of their tendency to shoot and bomb people alongside their ‘merely political’ activities.

    The whole approach is bunk.

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    admin Reply:

    Do you think anybody provides the kind of definition you would take seriously?

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    Handle Reply:

    I think the original Italian fascists did that well enough.

    The question is why isn’t that good enough for everyone else? Fascism now just means politically bad and evil, and so its definition has to be stretched to accommodate everything bad and evil, which leaves it predictably muddied.

    Everything else and since then, as Orwell explained, is using the word as a generic insult and derogatory, conveniently untethered from any need to describe or align with reality, and a punching-bag-word. Indeed, this constantly incoherent, inconsistent, and insouciant use is precisely why it’s become linguistically impossible to define the world descriptively. So, if one is going to have to rely on prescriptivism by necessity, then return to the source, and those writers will explain their ideas for us completely adequately.

    The trick is that nobody pridefully calls themselves ‘fascists’ anymore, and so the term is used by people attacking a ghost enemy. That’s a recipe for abuses that suffocate the proper uses. Another hint is that, when exposed to the originally published ideas of fascism, the other leaders of the world hardly recoiled in immediate horror as they would today.

    This whole approach is like trying to understand the tenets of some eradicated original schism of Christianity by asking a 13th century European about it, and being told about, “The psychology and behavior of the kind of people who tend to become heretics.”

    Um, no, that’s not the question that was asked. It’s worse when that original sect left entire books trying to explain themselves and what they thought and why they acted as they did – not to mention the contemporary books of their observers and critics – and everyone treats those books as if they are barely relevant to the question of what the schismatics actually believed, or how their hated name should properly be used these days, which has devolved into a mere swear word.

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    Porphy's Attorney Reply:

    More on what Handel is saying is here: http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2014/02/fascism-and-future-part-one-up-from.html

    IMO Archdruid Report is a…strange blog to put it mildly. I certainly don’t agree with or endorse anywhere near everything he writes. BUT – his series (4 parts) on “fascism and the future” is one of the better-done ways of handling this subject.

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    Posted on June 13th, 2014 at 12:16 am Reply | Quote
  • E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Says:

    @handle

    Though I have to agree that his definition does align well with Fascism conceptually. This also makes Stalin’s Russia seem rather fascist (not unrealistic, I think.) And it agrees with Evola’s critique of the movement (in Italy in this case) being very ‘mass’ while technically not being ‘democratic’ – a demotic system without all the need for that fancy democratic machinery; a democracy of direct feeling.

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    Posted on June 13th, 2014 at 2:19 pm Reply | Quote
  • nydwracu Says:

    …a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with … victimhood and by compensatory cults of … energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed … militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraint goals of internal cleansing…

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    Posted on June 14th, 2014 at 4:18 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alex Says:

    Despite its emphasis on a particular ecclesiastical milieu, this article is perhaps tangentially relevant — fascism as communitarian vitalism.

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    Posted on June 14th, 2014 at 4:52 pm Reply | Quote

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