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Future fascisms and
11 April 2008
East Germany in the 1980s
Insufficient info?
None of the above?
Ideology and post-totalitarian
Workers of the World, Unite!
Ideology and post-totalitarian
I am afraid, and therefore
unquestioningly obedient!
Ideology and post-totalitarian
• Ideology as excuse
– Ideology facilitates accommodation with the regime
• The automatism of ideology
– Ideology operates even when nobody believes it, as a
kind of ritual of power
– It ensnares both the dominated and the powerful, who
are caught in the fictitious world of ideology
• The apparent fragility of post-totalitarian
ideological regimes
– Anything that is not according to ideological dictates
threatens them
China: A different kind of posttotalitarian regime?
• Party-state relations are regularized; individual
leaders are not so important
• Ideology ceases to be all-important, though it still
serves as an instrument of control
• Nationalism substitutes for communist ideology
as a way of mobilizing people
• Extensive economic change creates new social
forces, many of which are nevertheless tied to
the state
Should we worry about fascism and
totalitarianism today?
• Are there movements out there that, like
fascism, represent the “rejection of free
institutions” in the name of alternative
• Are these movements capable of gaining
power in democratic contexts and creating
new forms of “totalitarianism”?
Candidates: Movements
• Far-right nationalist
parties in Europe and
• Nationalist-populist
• “Islamist” and other
“political religion”
Candidates: Countries
• Pakistan
– Has a weakly institutionalized democracy and
is suffering from wrenching social changes
– Islamist parties have been strong in the past,
and some of them reject democracy
– Has atomic weapons
Paxton’s 5-stage analysis
• Stage 1: Emergence
– Focus on the creation of “political space”
• Stage 2: Taking root
– Focus on the expansion and seizure of political space
• Stage 3: Seizing Power
– Focus on the polarized strategic context that made possible
conservative-fascist alliances with fascists on top
• Stage 4: Exercising power
– Focus on the techniques of rule used by fascists, as well as the
compromises they had to make with other independent power
• Stage 5: Decay or radicalization
– Focus on the dynamics of radicalization (Germany) or decay
(Italy) within fascist regimes
Stage1: Creation of Political Space
• Dissatisfaction with democracy
• Exploitation of fears (of foreigners, of
change, of globalization)
• Creation of alternatives to liberalism
Stage 2: Enlarging and Seizing
Political Space
• Expansion of appeal through changes in
• Participation in government as minority
partners or in minor offices
Stage 3: Seizing Power
• Participation in government as senior
partners or in major offices
Stage 4: Using Power
• Dismantling democratic institutions
Stage 5: Radicalization or Decay
• Aggressive expansion and terror
Fascism as toolkit: a different
• Ideology
• Repertoires (Tilly) and institutions
– Of fascist movements
– Of fascist regimes
• Contrast with function and context
Fascism as toolkit
• What ideologies can be used to mobilize
similar passions?
• What movements and regimes borrow
from the fascist toolkit or repertoire?
Elements of fascist ideology
• Exclusivist commitment to a particular
group, combined with a fear of its decay
• Belief in internal enemies which victimize
one’s group (conspiratorial thinking)
• Aesthetic appreciation of violence, belief in
unfettered authority
• Belief in the efficacy of non-traditional
formulas for purifying the group and
stopping its victimization and decay
The fascist repertoire (toolkit)
• Fascist movement
– The regimented mass meeting as a way of mobilizing assent and
enhancing the charisma of a leader
– Front and parallel organizations as a way of colonizing society
and making the fascist programme more viable
– Selective use of violence against political opponents (not the
– The deployment of particular symbols to enhance the unity of the
movement and distinguish it from the rest of society
– The use of mass propaganda to attract new adherents and to
make the movement’s ultimate goals more respectable
The fascist repertoire, cont.
• Fascist regimes
– The creation of dual institutions (state/party) and
parallel organizations which compete to fulfil
ideological purposes as defined by the leadership
– The categorization of arbitrary groups of people as
“objective enemies”: enemies defined not for what
they do, but for who they are
– The deployment of terror against objective enemies
– The use of indoctrination as a means of control
Generalizing about fascism
• Many political movements share similar ideologies with
fascism, even if they do not share the same context or
deploy the same repertoires, and even if they have no
chance of actually taking power anywhere (e.g., some
religious fundamentalisms)
• Many political movements and regimes have borrowed
and continue to borrow from the fascist repertoire,
adapting it to their particular circumstances. In particular
we may say that the “institutional repertoire” of fascist
regimes is simply a version of the institutional repertoire
of “totalitarian” regimes (e.g., Stalinist dictatorship).
• Few political movements could serve the same function
of fascism today, except in weakly institutionalized
democracies threatened by leftist movements