Best Books to Understand Fascism and How It Works
It’s easy to see why Americans might believe that fascism was both a bad moment in history and something that could never have succeeded in a country that prides itself on its democratic ideals. By making it a problem that happens in other places, Americans have taken great pride in having “defeated fascism” with our Allies during World War II. But what happens when ideas connected with fascist ideology become popular among a large segment of American voters? Does the belief that fascism could never happen here prevent people from identifying fascism as fascism? Does a long history of dismissing those who throw the term “fascist” around make Americans oblivious to when the cry of “fascism” really should grab their attention?
But further studies of fascism — and the different forms of fascism that came to power in Italy, Germany, Spain, Hungary, China, Croatia, Vichy France, Japan, Portugal, Brazil, Chile and others — have allowed political scientists, philosophers, historians, and sociologists to identify common elements of fascist regimes. These characteristics vary in number, depending on which thinker is identifying them, but many of the same traits show up on all theorists’ lists. These include: the heralding of a mythic past when the nation was in harmony with its ideals; a reliance on propaganda to disseminate government information that is often a refutation of facts; anti-intellectualism that attacks rational thought as being out of touch with genuine emotional knowledge; hierarchy; a sense of victimhood that sees enemies both internal and external; an emphasis on law and order to protect citizens from undesirable elements; the control of language; sexual anxiety that the group at the top of the hierarchy is being weakened by “abnormal” sexuality and low birth rates; fear of homosexuality and of women; and a belief that hard work is the key to success.
In the works collected here, authors approach fascism from a variety of perspectives. Further elucidation of the elements of fascism are contained in the first five works listed here. The lived experiences of those who experienced life in fascist regimes; an experience of how knowledge is attacked by fascists in order to replace truth with fascist truth; how to resist fascism; the emphasis on physical perfection and its connections to attitudes toward women and sexuality; and the fascist emphasis on spectacle, or the performative aspects of fascism as shown in film and athletic competitions are also included in the nonfiction section. Included in the fiction list are novels that were written by Germans living during the Nazi years, while others speculate on what American fascism might expect of its citizens. These novels set against a fascist background increase the reader’s knowledge about how fascism operates on multiple levels in those countries where fascists have taken power.