The Anatomy of Fascism

What is fascism? Many authors have proposed definitions, but most fail to move beyond the abstract. The esteemed historian Robert O. Paxton answers this question for the first time by focusing on the concrete: what the fascists did, rather than what they said. 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 explores whether fascism could exist outside the early-twentieth-century European setting in which it emerged.

Robert O. Paxton, Mellon Professor Emeritus of Social Science, specializes in the social and political history of Modern Europe, particularly Vichy France during the World War II era. Paxton has worked on two issues within the general area of modern European history: France during the Nazi occupation of 1940-1944; and the rise and spread of fascism. He was the first in the 1960s and 1970s to establish, on the basis of German archives, the active collaboration of Vichy France within Hitler’s Europe, a finding received coolly at first in France and now largely accepted. He continues to speak, write, and research in these fields. In 2009 he served as guest curator for an exhibition at the New York Public Library entitled “Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation.”

Robert O. Paxton on The Anatomy of Fascism and Trump

The Five Stage of Fascism

Historian Robert Paxton argues that fascism is best understood, not as a coherent political ideology, by rather as a series of political and social techniques for exploiting weaknesses in existing political power structures and subverting them to acquire and wield political power. Fascist movements go through 5 stages of development, which outlines, the tracing of which is more helpful in understanding fascism than the search for any ‘fascist minimum.’