This book is a very good introduction to the subject by a historian who specialises on this aspect of political life at the University of Bath.
The book covers the developments in Germany and Italy, two countries that had fully fledged fascist governments and two countries that didn't, England and France, through the 20th Century. It asks why fascism was able to become the system of government in some places and not in others and also looks to the future to establish whether the concept of fascism can ever be rehabilitated.
The book shows also that there are different forms of fascism. For instance, Italian fascism [where the term was used originally] stressed the nation and nationalism whereas German fascism [even if they did not use the term] i.e. Nazism stressed the idea of racial purity. Both country's governments [under Mussolini and Hitler] stressed strong authoritarian leadership and leader cults and had a contempt for democracy as a means of forming governments. Having read the book, I felt that the Italian model appeared to be a bit more benign than the German one but really, that is not saying very much.
It was interesting to read the sections on French and British fascism. The French model seemed to be more philosophically formed than the others and certainly, it would appear that the Vichy government during the Second World War had many authoritarian leanings. The book covers the rise of Jean Marie Le Pen.
The British section deals with Oswald Mosley, who cast quite a large shadow over the political landscape without ever winning any political office as a fascist and looks to the post war activities of the National Front and the British National Party. The edition of the book I read goes up to 2003 and does not therefore acknowledge success in the 2009 European Parliamentary elections for the BNP, indicating [unfortunately] a small element of electoral legitimacy to the idea.
At the end of reading the book, I felt that I had been subject to an awful lot of snippets of information and felt in some ways that I understood the idea of fascism less than I did before. There are elements of fascism that are practised by mainstream political parties but it is likely that no-one would acknowledge them as such. I also felt that there is a wider world than the four countries written about in this book. I kept wondering what the writer would say about South America, Africa or General Franco's Spain. I also wondered what are the real differences were between Fascist and Communist states. They were both authoritarian and both had a distrust of individual freedon and democracy.
on 3 January 2012
I agree with the previous reviewer that several historically important varieties of fascism are not included in Eatwell's analysis, however, he never claimed to provide an exhaustive study of every single strand of fascist ideology. Rather, he looks at the two main easily identifiable movements; those of 1940s Italy and Germany, and compare the two while trying to identify both common features, and that which separated each variety. Later, he looks at French collaborationist movements, and post war neo-fascist movements elsewhere in Europe. While the book is not a highly detailed academic study, it is a good enough introduction for A-level and undergraduate students, and indeed anybody who is concerned about the rise of far right wing movements in France and elsewhere in Europe at present. I certainly enjoyed reading it, so I have no problem recommending it to others.
on 23 January 2004
As an overview of the subject this book is perfect but it lacks depth.
In dealing with interwar fascism Eatwell fails to cover Hungary, or Romania and every non European variant of fascism both in the inter and post war fascism. Eatwell also limits himself to movement based fascism rather than looking at the more nebulous approach that has developed after the Second World War.
That said it is a very good book for the general reader and helps (along with the works of Roger Griffin and George Moshe) to explain rather than hide from the subject.