What is Fascism?

In the second instalment of a two part article, Roger Eatwell chooses between rival definitions of a slippery word

In Part One of this article, which appeared in the last issue of History Review, I argued that it was vital to have a definition of fascism in order to assess major questions, such as which inter- war movements were truly fascist, or whether fascism is reviving today?

But this is easier said than done. Definitions of fascism have typically focused on socio- economic rather than political factors. In part 2, this emphasis is explained by the social history and Marxist tendency to view the probing of origins and functions as more sophisticated than the analysis of characteristics such as doctrine. Thus fascism has perhaps most frequently been defined as a movement of the middle class, or of capitalism, in crisis. The widespread belief that fascism was not a serious ideology, that it was little more than a violent form of nihilism or opportunism, has further encouraged this tendency.

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