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The Anatomy of Fascism [Paperback]

Robert O. Paxton
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

24 Feb 2005

Fascism was the major political invention of the twentieth century and the source of much of its pain. How can we try to comprehend its allure and its horror? Is it a philosophy, a movement, an aesthetic experience? What makes states and nations become fascist?

Acclaimed historian Robert O. Paxton shows that in order to understand fascism we must look at it in action - at what it did, as much as what it said it was about. He explores its falsehoods and common threads; the social and political base that allowed it to prosper; its leaders and internal struggles; how it manifested itself differently in each country - France, Britain, the low countries, Eastern Europe, even Latin America as well as Italy and Germany; how fascists viewed the Holocaust; and, finally, whether fascism is still possible in today's world.

Offering a bold new interpretation of the fascist phenomenon, this groundbreaking book will overturn our understanding of twentieth-century history.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (24 Feb 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141014326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141014326
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 41,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"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 power--and their global influence and ultimate fall--with 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"

About the Author

Robert O. Paxton is Mellon Professor Emeritus of the Social Sciences at Columbia University. His other books include Vichy France, Parades and Politics at Vichy, Europe in the Twentieth Century, and French Peasant Fascism. He lives in New York City.

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Fascism was the major political innovation of the twentieth century, and the source of much of its pain. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Outstanding Overview 15 July 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Paxton's "Anatomy of Fascism" is, in fact, more than an overview or introduction. It is focused on real Fascism in Italy and Germany from c. 1919-45 (but with adequate consideration of later developments and possible 'Fascisms' elsewhere). It is a scholarly and highly perceptive analysis of Fascism - by far the best that I've encountered so far anywhere. In a word, it is brilliant.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile Introduction 18 May 2011
By Drew
Paxton's work on fascism serves as an excellent and well-written introduction to the subject, and therefore is a great starting point for anyone studying the subject or merely exploring an interest.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brushing Away the Cobwebs of Confusion 28 Mar 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fascism is the most misunderstood and abused political term around. It's almost as if no two people have the same understanding.

This confusion, some of it willfully induced in my opinion, has, in turn, led to further multiple confusions to the extent that, today, we have commentators who seriously suggest that people like Fini, Griffin, Le Pen and Haidar do not stand in a fascist political tradition but that Islamists, to pick one of the more obvious examples, do stand in the fascist tradition.

How did we get into this pickle and, more importantly, how do we get out of it?

Robert Paxton's 'Anatomy of Fascism' goes a long way to helping guide us out of the fog.

Firstly, Paxton deals with recent writers on fascism such as Sternhell, Payne, de Felice and Roger Griffin to understand why they are not quite adequate in their analysis. Paxton also directs his fire on the more commonly understood 'totalitarian' analysis of the Cold War era which sought to equate fascism and communism.

Paxton rejects the way some historians have offered separate definitions of fascism and Nazism, arguing that this leads to the study of fascism in isolation from other factors. Analyses which reduce fascism to a tool of a particular interest group, meanwhile, ignore the fact that the movement won independent popular backing. Instead Paxton proposes to examine the development of fascism through five stages: the creation of a movement; its rooting in the political system; the seizure of power; the exercise of power; its fate in the long term (radicalisation or entropy).
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poised to become the standard on the subject 26 Jan 2006
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Fascism set of a tidal wave of ink says Robert O. Paxton in his bibliographical essay at the end of his rather excellent book on Fascism. I would almost wager that you could skip reading this ‘wave of ink’ and exclusively stick to Paxton’s book. It is poised to become the standard on the subject. Paxton covers the subject from its roots in the nineteenth century to almost today. Even though he does spend quite some time on Mussolini’s and Hitler’s brand of Fascism, as one would expect, Paxton also covers the less successful Fascists regimes and why those failed..
Fascism as a term appears to have been applied to all sorts of political groupings and regimes since 1945. Paxton goes through the lot and doesn’t find a single one – with one possible exception – which could be labeled Fascist in the historical definition of the concept. There has been a lot of praise for this book. It is indeed a rather excellent analysis on the topic.
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This book certainly provides a brilliant, scholarly and highly perceptive analysis of fascism. The book clearly mentions the origins of fascism from its nineteenth century roots to the 'real' fascism in Italy and Germany from 1919-45. Generally speaking, most writers define their subject matter at the beginning: Robert O. Paxton leaves this to the end of the book - although he defines the word fascism as being taken from Italian: 'fascio', literally a bundle of sheaf, as I remember from my student days and I also can recall that this was taken from Latin meaning Fasces, an axe encased in a bundle of rods.

More importantly, Paxton's viewpoint differs markedly from many other writers on the subject in that he suggest that fascism should not be studied in isolation from other factors. He stresses that fascism should not be just viewed as a tool of a particular interest group and at the same time this tends to be a popular movement. Paxton concentrates on examining the development of fascism through five stages: "creating fascist movements; taking root; getting power; exercising power and the long-term (radicalisation or entropy)". In a sense, he (Paxton) argues that fascist movements tend to develop autonomously and they do get support from some of the existing liberal and conservatives elite at times of social, economic and political upheaval or crisis and when many of the democratic institutions within the state are unable to resolve the crisis. However, Paxton makes very brief references to the Marxist school of thought and which clearly offers the most sharpest analysis of fascism through the writings of Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) - who had lived through it from its height in Italy and Germany from 1919 to 1940s.
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