1968 and a “New” Understanding of Fascism

Throughout the weeks, I still try to connect new readings and ideas back to our first discussions of defining fascism. While we have discussed that fascism was pragmatic, adaptive, and fluid, having a somewhat rigid frame of terms is still helpful in recognizing fascism or far-right movements elsewhere. Additionally, the fluid nature of fascism helped it take on a transnational form. Either way, whether seeing fascism as a fluid concept, or existing within a rigid framework, I find Roger Griffin’s article to be quite convincing.

Bringing back some of the key factors of fascism that Paxton highlighted include: a sense of crisis that is beyond traditional solutions, need for closer integration of a purer community, dread of a group’s decline because of corrosive liberalism, class conflict, and alien influences. These elements of racism, reaction to crisis, and superiority of one’s group are present in Andrea Mammon’s and Griffin’s articles. Another important element we discussed is modernity, which is a core pillar in Griffin’s definition of fascism (Griffin calls it re-birth).

Throughout Mammon’s article, crisis is discussed in both the Italian and French cases. Racism was also present in the French case, as was biological racism and the promotion of ‘white civilisation.’ Of course, there are elements of Paxton’s definition that are missing here. However, Griffin elaborates on the most important parts of Paxton’s definition I think. Griffin’s core of fascism rests on populist ultra-nationalism and palingenesis, or re-birth. Interestingly, both of these elements are, as Griffin calls them, “highly flexible” concepts.

When first reading Paxton, I interpreted the elements of fascism as quite fluid and adaptable. “Crisis” can be many things, it can be anything the leaders of a fascist movement want it to be. Dread of a group’s decline can also be applied to many issues. These elements that Paxton described fall neatly into Griffin’s term for re-birth. Since there can be “a vast array of diagnoses of the causes of decline and the sources of renewal.”

It may seem contradictory that in a definition of fascism, main elements are subject to change, and expected to change. I particularly liked how Griffin described fascism’s eclecticism and tendency to absorb, what I assume are only the useful elements of “potentially contradictory ideologies.” However, this is in line with how we discussed fascism in previous weeks. Key factors of fascism are pragmatism and fluidity, which is why it is impossible to draw concrete definitions from historical examples of fascism. Although there were common elements of crisis, nationalism and superiority of race, they were applied very differently across time and space. Of all of the definitions of fascism we have come across and discussed, Griffin’s appears the most convincing, while being succinct and encompassing of the adaptability and morphing of fascism.

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