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Introduction Fascism: A Working Definition At the end of the twentieth centuryfascism remains probably the vaguest of the major political terms. This may stem from the fact that the word itself contains no explicit political reference, however abstract, as do democracy, liberalism, socialism, and communism. To say that the Italianfascio (Latinfasces, French faisceau, Spanish haz) means "bundle" or "union" does not tell us much. I Moreover, the term has probably been used more by its opponents than by its proponents, the former having been responsible for the generalization of the adjective on an international level, as early as 1923. Fascist has been one of the most frequently invoked political pejoratives, normally intended to connote "violent," "brutal," "repressive," or "dictatorial." Yet if fascism means no more than that, then Communist regimes, for example, would probably have to be categorized as among the most fascist, depriving the word of any useful specificity. Definition in fact bedeviled the original Italian Fascists from the beginning .2 The problem is compounded by the fact that whereas nearly all Communist parties and regimes have preferred to call themselves Communist, most of the movements in interwar Europe commonly termed fascist did not in fact use I. One of the first German works on Italian Fascism, by the Social Democrat Fritz Schotthofer , aptly observed that "Fascism has a name that tells us nothing about the spirit and goals of the movement. A fascio is a union, a league; Fascists are unionists and Fascism a leaguetype organization [Biindlertuml." Schotthofer, II Fascio. Sinn und Wirklichkeit des italenischen Fascismus (Frankfurt, 1924), 64. For further discussion of the problem, see the chapter "Was ist Faschismus: politischer Kampfbegriff oder wissenschaftliche Theorie?" in W. Wippermann, Faschismustheorien (Darmstadt, 1989), 1-10. 2. In this study the names of the Italian Fascist Party and its immediate antecedents, members , and components will be capitalized, while the termsfascism andfascist used in a broader and more generic sense will not. 3 4 Introduction the name for themselves. The dilemmas of definition and categorization which arise are so severe that it is not surprising that some scholars prefer to call putative fascist movements by their individual names alone without applying the categorical adjective. Still others deny that any such general phenomenon as fascism-as distinct from Mussolini's own Italian movement-ever existed. Finally, the great majority of the hundreds of authors of works on fascism or individual fascist movements make little or no effort to define the term and simply assume that their readers will understand and presumably agree with the approach, whatever that may be. This book argues that it is useful to treat fascism as a general type or generic phenomenon for heuristic and analytic purposes, just as other categories of political forces are so treated. As Arthur L. Stinchcombe has observed, "Whenever a large number of variables go together, so that specific values of one are always associated with specific values of another, the creation of typologies, or sets oftype-concepts, such as the chemical elements, is scientifically useful." 3 Like all general types and concepts in political analysis, generic fascism is an abstraction which never existed in pure empirical form but constitutes a conceptual device which serves to clarify the analysis of individual political phenomena. If fascism is to be studied as a generic and comparative phenomenon, it has first to be identified through some sort of working description. Such a definition must be derived from empirical study of the classic interwar European movements. It must be developed as a theoretical construct or an ideal type, for all general political concepts are broadly based abstractions. Thus no single movement of the group under observation would necessarily be found to have announced a program or self-description couched in the exact terms of this definition. Nor would such a hypothetical definition be intended to imply that the individual goals and characteristics identified were necessarily in every case unique to fascist movements, for most items might be found in one or more other species of political movements. The contention would be, rather, that taken as a whole the definition would describe what all fascist movements had in common without trying to describe the additional unique characteristics of each individual group. Finally, for reasons to be discussed later, the definition might refer only to interwar European fascist movements and not to a presumed category of fascist regimes or systems. Any definition of common characteristics of fascist movements must be used with great care, for fascist movements differed from...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780299148737
Related ISBN
9780299148744
MARC Record
OCLC
45733847
Launched on MUSE
2012-06-26
Language
English
Open Access
No
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