Measuring the Successes, Failures, and Challenges of Fascist Regimes Attempts to Regulate of Leisure

Confronted with the task of unifying their respective nations under a burgeoning consumer culture, fascist regimes Germany, Italy, and Spain looked to the realm of leisure. By regulating the sphere of leisure, these fascist regimes could maintain a close hold on proper citizenship in addition to establishing a certain, often paternalistic, relationship between the state and the people. In turn, this further legitimized the practices of the regime. By instating different programs, practices, and systems, these fascist regimes often offered a veneer of freedom. The seemingly paradoxical relationship between individual freedom and fascism begs the question: to what end were these programs successful? Did citizens go along with these efforts or did they make displays of resistance?

in her book, Strength through Joy, Baranowski considers the way that tourism expeditions organized by Strength through Joy (kdf) were put in place to bolster the support of the Nazi regime. This was done by offering trips to working and middle class Germans to deliberately chosen countries wherein every day people clearly faced great deprivation so that German tourists could understand how the Nazi party greatly improved their lives. These trips were very methodically organized and offered an atmosphere of fun. In doing so, the Nazi party offered a semblance of individual freedom that brought Nazi Germany closer to its vision of racial purity. Despite their intentions, these trips did not always affirm a unified Germany as there was often differential treatment afforded to those of more affluent backgrounds. Indeed, it often came from members of the Nazi party themselves who would join these trips in high numbers and conduct themselves with great arrogance. Additionally, sometimes impediments to Nazi goals of the trips came from the tourists who would stay on the boat all day rather than interacting with the locals of the countries they visited.  

According to de Grazia, attempts to regulate leisure in Italy expressed great concern over class and regional divisions as they threatened a homogenous nation. In addition to tourism within the country that connected regions and showcased Italy’s natural beauty, the Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro (OND), coordinated and mediated sports and theatre to assert a unified nation. Like fascist Germany, Mussolini’s Italy was interested in maintaining a seemingly egalitarian society. Regulating such leisure activities and offering a veneer of freedom ensured conformity. In the Italian context, a high degree of state intervention and mass media including advertising help fascism flourish. As much as fascist Italy sought to blur the lines between class and differences by regulating leisure, they undermined their own work by seating theatre audiences according to class, to take one example. 

The case of Spain as explored by Crumbaugh is maybe most interesting for the way that it interacted with the “free world” and its invocation of democracy. Tourism to Spain brought a variety of foreign bodies. Most notably, it saw an influx of Americans to Spain. Given the spirit of democracy that  Americans are often thought to embody, this tourism offered a narrative of liberation. Tourism in Spain, affirmed the country as modern and also help to create self-disciplining citizens. Ultimately, the freedom that tourism offered was concluded as inauthentic.

One Reply to “Measuring the Successes, Failures, and Challenges of Fascist Regimes Attempts to Regulate of Leisure”

  1. I liked the way you succinctly illustrate the ways in which all three regimes met with significant obstacles to the stated goals of their respective leisure programs. This overall theme ties into the question of whether or not culture can be “lassoed” by fascism or any other political ideology/strategy.

    The fact that all these leisure programs in Germany, Italy, and Spain seemed to go “off the rails” from their stated purpose in at least minor ways, I think demonstrates the resilience of cultural factors in people’s daily lives. Moreover, I think the resulting questionable levels of success testifies to why these regimes felt it was so necessary to engage so heavily in trying to control culture: if your ideology is not in-line with a population’s culture, then it will always act as an opposition.

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