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The Civic Foundations of Fascism in Europe

Italy, Spain, and Romania, 1870–1945

Dylan Riley

Publication Year: 2010

Dylan Riley reconceptualizes the nature and origins of interwar fascism in this remarkable investigation of the connection between civil society and authoritarianism. From the late nineteenth century to World War I, voluntary associations exploded across Europe, especially among rural non-elites. But the development of this "civil society" did not produce liberal democracy in Italy, Spain, and Romania. Instead, Riley finds that it undermined the nascent liberal regimes in these countries and was a central cause of the rise of fascism. Developing an original synthesis of Gramsci and Tocqueville, Riley explains this surprising outcome by arguing that the development of political organizations in the three nations failed to keep pace with the proliferation of voluntary associations, leading to a crisis of political representation to which fascism developed as a response. His argument shows how different forms of fascism in Italy, Spain, and Romania arose in response to the divergent paths taken by civil society development in each nation. Presenting the seemingly paradoxical argument that the rapid development of civil society facilitated the rise of fascism in Italy, Spain, and Romania, Riley credibly challenges the notion that a strong civil society necessarily leads to the development of liberal democracy. Scholars and students interested in debates about the rise of fascism and authoritarianism, democratization, civil society, and comparative and historical methods will find his arguments compelling and his conclusions challenging.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.8543

This book grew out of my studies at UCLA and has consumed much of my life for the past ten years. But its core idea has a more precise origin: a warm August day in 2001 in the foothills of the Italian Alps in a small town called Torre Pellice. There, in a sunlit room with no books and only a laptop, it struck me that fascism had developed precisely in the dense...

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pp. xi-xiii | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.8544

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1. Civil Society and Fascism in Interwar Europe

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pp. 1-22 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.8545

Between 1890 and 1914 an organizational revolution occurred in Europe as mutual aid societies, rural credit organizations, and cooperatives blossomed (Callahan 2000: 142– 148; Eidelberg 1974: 98; Lyttelton 2000: 69– 78; Tenfeld 2000: 85).1 Indeed, scholars have identified the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century as a period of intensive development...

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2. Party Fascism: Italy,1870–1938

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pp. 23-71 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.8546

Why did Italy, instead of making a smooth transition from constitutional liberalism to mass democracy, produce the world’s first fascist regime, and why did this regime take the form of “party fascism”? The main argument of this chapter is that fascism was the consequence of rapid civil society development in a political context defined by three historically linked failures of hegemony...

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3. Traditionalist Fascism: Spain,1876–1945

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pp. 72-112 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.8547

Why did Spanish liberalism succumb to fascism, as opposed to developing as a mass democracy, and why did fascism in Spain assume a traditionalist form? The collapse of Spain’s democracy in the thirties derived from causes analogous to those in Italy: namely, the failure to develop a hegemonic politics in the face of an associational boom. As in Italy weak intraclass hegemony among the dominant ...

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4. Statist Fascism: Romania,1881–1940

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pp. 113-148 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.8548

The tension between the fascist movement and the fascist regime that eventually consolidated in Romania was much greater than in either Italy or Spain, for Romania produced a form of “statist fascism” between 1938 and 1940 premised on the violent suppression of its very large, and politically successful, fascist party. This regime, the dictatorship of King Carol II, adopted the language and ...

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5. Considering Alternatives

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pp. 149-192 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.8549

The analyses in chapters 2 through 4 have argued that the development of voluntary associations was a major factor in the emergence of fascism in Italy, Spain, and Romania. However, readers familiar with comparative analyses of fascism may rightly wonder how these cases fit with explanations that are not centered...

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6. Rethinking Civil Society and Fascism

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pp. 193-212 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.8550

I am now in a position to provide a fuller answer to the central query of this study: Why did civil society development lead to fascism rather than liberal democracy in Italy, Spain, and Romania in the interwar period? My argument is as follows. Civil society mobilization tended to promote democratic demands in interwar Italy, Spain, and Romania, as Tocquevillian analyses predict....


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pp. 213-233 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.8551


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pp. 235-250 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.8552


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pp. 251-258 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.8553

E-ISBN-13: 9780801897481
E-ISBN-10: 0801897483
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801894275
Print-ISBN-10: 0801894271

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 794700411
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Civic Foundations of Fascism in Europe

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Subject Headings

  • Europe -- Politics and government -- 19th century.
  • Europe -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Fascism -- Europe -- History -- 19th century.
  • Fascism -- Europe -- History -- 20th century.
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