The Anatomy of Fascism

Narrated by: Arthur Morey
Length: 11 hrs and 2 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (267 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

What is fascism? By focusing on the concrete, what the fascists did rather than what they said, the esteemed historian Robert O. Paxton answers this question for the first time. From the first violent uniformed bands beating up "enemies of the state", through Mussolini's rise to power, to Germany's fascist radicalization in World War II, Paxton shows clearly why fascists came to power in some countries and not others, and he explores whether fascism could exist outside the early-20th-century European setting in which it emerged.

The Anatomy of Fascism will have a lasting impact on our understanding of modern European history, just as Paxton's classic Vichy France redefined our vision of World War II. Based on a lifetime of research, this compelling and important book transforms our knowledge of fascism.

©2007 Robert O. Paxton (P)2017 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about The Anatomy of Fascism

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Great book for getting a clearer idea of fascism

A quite dense but incredibly rewarding and interesting summary of fascism in theory and practice. The emphasis in this book is on the practice. Paxton traces fascist movements through a series of stages, arguing that we learn more from fascism in action than we do from studying a doctrine. This is especially appropriate for fascism, which takes a cynical approach to ideological consistency, reason, and any kind of universal doctrine. The stages go from formation to wedging themselves into power to consolidating power to governing to radicalization or entropy. He shows these processes at work mainly in Germany and Italy. He argues that we can't take a snapshot of fascist movements at any point and say "This is fascism," because like any political movement fascists strategically ally with partners, downplay or play up certain aspects of their programs, and ally with conservative institutions in society. Rather, we have to see fascism as morphing around within certain limits over time.

This book is also interesting on the question of what conditions facilitate the rise of fascism. Obviously there is no recipe for fascism, but there are some cautionary points in this book. One key condition that helped Nazism and Italian fascism rise to power was conservative elites or parties allying with fascists in order to isolate or destroy socialist parties. The conservatives saw the communists or socialists as the worst imaginable threat, causing them to jump into bed with another, possibly worse, group. It certainly helped that they shared some of the same ideas about why society was going downhill . Although the scale is radically different, and Trump is not a fascist, this issue of allying with someone who will degrade your values or those of society at large in order to defeat what you view as an existential enemy calls for reflection among establishment Republicans. I thought this was the biggest 'lesson" of this book for the present.

Other key conditions that facilitated the rise of fascism were WWI's trauma, parliamentary gridlock, a loss of faith in democracy and liberal values like human rights, and the chaos created by fascist groups themselves. Paxton emphasizes that no fascist group ever won more than 50% of the vote, so they all needed some kind of help from established elites in getting their foot in the door. Mussolini's March to Rome, which would have flopped had King Victor Emmanuel not offered him a Cabinet position in a panicked error, is the perfect example of this point. Fascism was a mass totalitarian movement with genuine popular support, but it is important to not portray fascists as coming to power in mass revolutions or outright coups. In Germany and Italy, this was a much more gradual process, aided and abetted by mostly conservative elites who sought to co-opt and channel these forces (not that this isn't a good strategy-it didn't work here, that's all)

This is an outstanding guide for the perplexed on a term and set of movements that has gained newfound currency in our politics. Although sometimes I think Paxton is a little to strict on what counts as fascism (Imperial Japan seems to check virtually every box), he nevertheless captures the central dynamics of fascism. I was especially intrigued by the outright rejection of reason, the embrace of violence, the disdain for intellectual consistency, the strong sense of victimhood, and the worship of power. Mussolini may have reached the heart of fascism when someone asked him "What is your position on the liberal party?" He replied "Our position is to break their bones, and to do so as soon as possible." When someone else asked him what the fascist program was, he said it was to take and hold power. This pursuit of power as an end in itself is always present in human affairs, but in fascism this drive took its most extreme and destructive form. The same forces lie in human nature today. If anything, this book shows us that as people we are never as far from these dark pasts as we would like to think.

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25 people found this helpful

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Excellent History of Fascism

I was thrilled to find such a nuanced history in audiobook form. This is a great place to start for anyone interested in definitions of fascism and its history and historiographical debates. It focuses on Europe but also includes discussion on Latin America.

9 people found this helpful

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An incredibly informative read

Occasional skipping in the audio, but fantastic insights throughout. A must read for anybody interested in the topic. If you end up enjoying this, I would also suggest reading Sebastian Haffner's "Defying Hitler", for a more firsthand account of many of the phenomena discussed herein.

1 person found this helpful

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A Historical and Unbiased look at Fascism.

Fascism is the prominent dirty world in world politics today, and this book looks back on the rise of the Fascist parties in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, (sadly no references to Japanese politics or Fascism.) The book remains to be the best way to look at Fascism as the organic system that lends itself to being and ultra right movement, with the odd extreme leftist ideas from the foundation of their movements. All in all, if you want to use the word Fascism in the modern day, this book gives you the crash course on what it means.

3 people found this helpful

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Edifying and relevant.

Enlightening and well argued. Very relevant to the political situation unfolding in the United States of America under Donald Trump's leadership.

4 people found this helpful

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Fascism has come to America

I read this book in 2020 and no irony is lost on how much of “Anatomy of Fascism,” published in 2004, has now come home to roost. I could feel it’s beginnings during the bloodlust era of Bush and Trump has fully unleashed the ecstatic spectacle. Let it be a warning.

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A PLUS FOR HONESTY. NOT SO MUCH FOR DELIVERY

I listened to the entire book. Professor Morey pulled no punches. He unspooled the history of European fascism with clarity and honesty. He began with a problem in defining fascism. What caused it, such as the kind that enveloped Italy and Germany, was a variety of factors, different in each country. Professor Morey carefully told what each leader had that allowed him to assume the power in his country. The best part of the reading dealt with the luck and unwitting support that Mussolini and Hitler received. It became clear that both men were aided by their opponents combativeness (The communists who had become a factor throughout Europe terrified the elite classes of Italy and Germany, especially the Roman Catholic Church.) and the disorder striking Europe after the poorly realized peace plans of the Allies at the end of WW I. The great weakness of the book was its failure to define fascism and apply it clearly to the movements in the nations like the US and England. Each application was glancing and lacked a framework that would have made our understanding far better. As well, some awareness of what is not fascism nowadays when the term is frequently used, would have helped.

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Very Informative

Very thorough and informative. The author went into great detail and provided a lot of very accessible framing and content. This is a good read if you hear people using "Fascist" to refer to things that you don't think fit that term, or if you see someone who is acting like a fascist but is trying to hide it. Performance was very good. Just soft enough so he doesn't put you to sleep but that you can listen to for a long stretch of time if you wish.

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Some misread words

There are several instances where the reader misreads the actual words in the book. I noticed because I always read along with the actual book. Overall great book though.

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addictive

the information in the book was laid out in a very easy easy to digest. I love the detail. it gave me a new understanding of not only fascism but also history. I can't stop talking about it.

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  • Anthony
  • 04-28-18

Thematical yet narrative.

Clearly and expediently delivered by Arthur Morey, Robert O.Paxton presents a nuanced, multi-faceted view of the Fascist regimes of the 20th century. Withholding generalisations, Paxton details the attributes of the Third Reich and RFP, distinguishing the differences between the two as well as the factors which led to their rise. Paxton places this analysis in a wider European, and then global, context, leaving the listener with a multiplicitous portrait of Fascism, which goes beyond its common attributes.

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  • "streborsan"
  • 07-02-20

Genuinely enlightening

My mum grew up next to a concentration camp in Austria in the 30s-40s and my dad was in the RAF. I have a genuine lust for knowledge about fascism, especially why and how it came about. Also about the signs of it happening again. This book brought some well needed perspective to my mind. If you are looking for an all right wing people are fascists narrative, go elsewhere. I will listen to it again, probably more than once. Without stopping being a liberal. It confronted some of my assumptions though, and what more could I ask of a book

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  • fndktr
  • 02-01-20

Excellent

A fascinating and somewhat worrying analysis and history of fascism. The main focus is obviously on Germany and Italy, but there are some interesting discussions on fascism outside of Europe and in the modern age. The narrator was excellent as well in an understated way. Overall a fascinating book throughout.

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  • Lloyd Houston
  • 10-15-19

Chillingly Timely

A subtle and measured analysis of the key features and techniques of fascism. By focussing on the deeds and strategies of various fascist parties and regimes, rather than their words or public image, Paxton arrives at an effective working model of what constitutes fascism. In the present political moment, such an account has never been more urgently necessary or seemed more soberingly accurate.

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