Thursday, July 13, 2023

Fascism in America: Past and Present by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld and Janet Ward

Without a doubt this is a timely and needed volume that looks at the intersection of US history and fascism.  Numerous experts in a variety of fields offer a collection of chapters that explore American history and question to what extent we can lean on the framework of fascism to explain both events during the early twentieth-century as well as the recent Trump administration.  Some of the chapters offering theories and ideas in development, others lean on established work and positions, and some discuss more original research that helps readers, academics, and policy experts think about the possibilities open to them when it comes to leaning on comparisons to fascism and how to address growing right-wing animosity, rhetoric, and violence.  Personally, I found myself in agreement with the idea of 'fascism' as a mobile, moving target that is in part influenced by the time and place in question. The US will never find itself in a similar situation to Italy, Germany, Spain, or Japan in the inter-war period, yet all experienced a level of fascism. So it will be impossible to point to exact parallels and know when we are staring in the proverbial face of US fascism. However, looking at the US and our current political environment means appreciating both how historical US racism influenced the rise of German fascism and vice versa. As a transcontinental phenomenon, fascism should not be viewed in isolation but always contextualized and historicized with room left for taking into account future development based on transmitted ideas and the influence of successful policies. Thus there is certainly room for calling reactionary, right-wing policies fascistic, and personalities fascists, even if they do not perfectly line up with what happened in 1930s and 1940s Germany. They are an evolution that has built on previous authoritarian, racist rhetoric and actions and are abusing and subverting our current democratic system with the aim of turning it into something that will certainly taste the same, even if the recipe is different from what we know as 'fascism.'

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