Fascism: Past, Present, Future

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9780195092455: Fascism: Past, Present, Future
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Mussolini's march on Rome; Hitler's speeches before waves of goose-stepping storm troopers; the horrors of the Holocaust; burning crosses and neo-Nazi skinhead hooligans. Few words are as evocative, and even fewer ideologies as pernicious, as fascism. And yet, the world continues to witness the success of political parties in countries such as Italy, France, Austria, Russia, and elsewhere resembling in various ways historical fascism. Why, despite its past, are people still attracted to fascism? Will it ever again be a major political force in the world? Where in the world is it most likely to erupt next?
In Fascism: Past, Present, and Future, renowned historian Walter Laqueur illuminates the fascist phenomenon, from the emergence of Hitler and Mussolini, to Vladimir Zhirinovsky and his cohorts, to fascism's not so distant future. Laqueur describes how fascism's early achievements--the rise of Germany and Italy as leading powers in Europe, a reputation for being concerned about the fate of common people, the creation of more leisure for workers--won many converts. But what successes early fascist parties can claim, Laqueur points out, are certainly overwhelmed by its disasters: Hitler may have built the Autobahnen, but he also launched the war that destroyed them. Nevertheless, despite the Axis defeat, fascism was not forgotten: Laqueur tellingly uncovers contemporary adaptations of fascist tactics and strategies in the French ultra-nationalist Le Pen, the rise of skinheads and right-wing extremism, and Holocaust denial. He shows how single issues--such as immigrants and, more remarkably, the environment--have proven fruitful rallying points for neo-fascist protest movements. But he also reveals that European fascism has failed to attract broad and sustained support. Indeed, while skinhead bands like the "Klansman" and magazines such as "Zyklon B" grab headlines, fascism bereft of military force and war is at most fascism on the defense, promising to save Europe from an invasion of foreigners without offering a concrete future. Laqueur warns, however, that an increase in "clerical" fascism--such as the confluence of fascism and radical, Islamic fundamentalism--may come to dominate in parts of the Middle East and North Africa. The reason has little to do with religion: "Underneath the 'Holy Rage' is frustration and old-fashioned class struggle." Fascism was always a movement of protest and discontent, and there is in the contemporary world a great reservoir of protest. Among the likely candidates, Laqueur singles out certain parts of Eastern Europe and the Third World.
In carefully plotting fascism's past, present, and future, Walter Laqueur offers a riveting, if sometimes disturbing, account of one of the twentieth century's most baneful political ideas, in a book that is both a masterly survey of the roots, the ideas, and the practices of fascism and an assessment of its prospects in the contemporary world.

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Review:

The history and theory of fascism has been explored in a great number of studies, yet its foundations and essential characteristics remain largely undefined. One reason for this confusion is fascism's distracting ideological neighbors: totalitarianism, nationalism, anti-Semitism, racism, and imperialism. In Fascism: Past, Present, Future, Walter Laqueur--a prolific writer, journalist, and historian--directs his keen attention to the resurgence of fascist parties in Russia, Austria, and France, while pointing toward the Middle East as a potential seedbed of future fascist developments.

Laqueur's assessment benefits greatly from his historical and scholarly knowledge of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. He is at his best on this historical ground. As Laqueur ventures into prescriptive forecasting, the conceptual outline breaks down and he develops tangential discussions of arms proliferation and religious fundamentalism. While our knowledge of the past, present, and future dangers of fascism are greatly increased by Laqueur's book, it adds only incrementally to our understanding of fascism itself.

About the Author:


About the Author:
Walter Laqueur was for twenty-five years the director of the Institute of Contemporary History and the Wiener Library in London, one of the world's leading institutes for the study of fascism. He is co-editor of the Journal of Contemporary History and serves as chairman of the International Research Council at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. His books, which have been translated into many languages, include Black Hundred, Russia and Germany, The Long Road to Freedom, The Fate of the Revolution, Terrorism, The Dream that Failed, and an autobiography, Thursday's Child has Far to Go.

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