The History of Fascism

History 158D.001

Spring 2018
101 Morgan
Day & Time: 
MWF 2-3
Class Number: 

Fascism was a form of rule created in Europe in the 1920s, when world communism was rising and liberalism steeply declining, when racist thinking pervaded all politics, and fears of decadence and secularization and loss of status melded within a rhetoric of the "people" and its sacred rights. Early fascists comprised a movement of a new quality, promoting salvation through recovery of lost wholeness. They enacted politics through violent and confident self-assertion of a "leader" and uniformed followers.

Fascism is a crucial subject to understanding the modern world. It was a break with all forms of political organization known to that point, and travelled speedily across national boundaries, to find representation in every European state west of the soviet Union. Yet it prospered very differently by place -- strong in Romania, weak in Poland -- and came to power only in Germany and Italy, and form there transformed our world, with destructive energies that were unprecedented, revealing the ultimate consequences of an ideology based in racial supremacy.

The course surveys all aspects of this movement, from intellectual origins in 19th century bourgeois Europe and World War I, through the extreme experience of WWII, and the question why fascist movements seized power in certain states but not others. We study how fascist regimes, once in power, cultivated popular support and legitimacy; how they developed their own systems of economics, aesthetics, science, and race; and how these regimes shaped the everyday lives of their subjects; and how they radicalized with the onset of war. We conclude by moving closer to the present and asking what of fascism remains in our contemporary world, as memory and practice. Unfortunately, the topic is of continued relevance.