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  •  Excellent Question (3+ / 0-)
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    kosta, TheFatLadySings, polar bear

    I'm an historian. And we historians have long argued about the definition of fascism because it is very difficult to define. From its start in Italy, it tended to be protean, shifting and changing with times and circumstances.

    I'm not sure any definition is perfect, but ideally a definition should clearly include any obvious cases of fascism (e.g. Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy), while clearly excluding regimes that obviously don't belong (e.g. functioning democracies, Communist regimes, etc.).  

    I've always been drawn to the historian Robert O. Paxton's definition:

    A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

    There's a good Wikipedia article on definitions of fascism that offers a variety of good definitions (including Paxton's).

    But while there's a variety of competing definitions, you'll notice that all of them specify a multiplicity of factors that makes a regime fascist. What every agrees is there is no single factor--e.g. a single party state, extreme nationalism, hostility to feminism, collusion of corporations and the government--that by itself makes a regime fascist.

    My disagreement with socks is not over the importance of collusion between corporations and the government in fascism, but rather that no one factor is sufficient to make a country fascist.

    That and the fact that our current U.S. regime is simply not a fascist regime, and whatever rhetorical power such a claim has, it both muddies the meaning of an important political term and makes it harder to understand the actual political pathologies we face in this country.

    Policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House. - Bob Herbert

    by GreenSooner on Mon Jun 29, 2009 at 09:54:42 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

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