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Highly Perceptive and Brilliant Analysis of fascism written in Scholarly fashion!,
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This review is from: The Anatomy of Fascism (Paperback)
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.
Overall, Paxton'ss analysis of fascism takes account of some of the more recent developments in Britain like the rise of the British National Party (BNP) 'wannabe' fascist groups as arising from other forces through which Emile Durkheim termed "Organic Solidarity" (dominant in more advanced societies) and "Mechanical Solidarity" (dominant in more traditional societies) as the original Italian fascist movements did. Interestingly, the recent rise in the neo-fascist movements like the English Defence League (EDL) (not mentioned in the book) have branded Islamic Fundamental movements like Al-Qaeda and Taliban as fascist. Paxton's answer to this, as according to the book: "... they are not reactions against a malfunctioning democracy. Arising in traditional hierarchical societies, their unity is, in terms of Emile Durkheim's famous distinction, more mechanical than organic. Above all, they have not "given up free institutions, since they never had any." On the question of what is Fascism? The answer in the book, clearly states that "Fascist actions are best from those actions for some of them remain unstated and implicit in fascist public language" which Paxton terms as "Mobilising Passions".
Finally, Paxton concludes: "...that when fascist are close to power when conservatives begin to borrow their techniques, appeal to their "mobilising passions" and try to co-opt the fascist following..." It is due to "having the historical knowledge" that we may be able to separate the 'wannabe' fascists "...with their shaved heads and swastika tattoos, from authentic functional equivalents in the form of a mature fascist-conservative alliance..." A must buy and read book!