Title: How Fascism Works:
The Politics of Us and Them
Author: Jason Stanley
Rating: 2 of 5
(Thank you to the author and publisher for give me a free review copy via NetGalley. This in no way affects the content of the review)
This could have been such a helpful, insightful book. The word fascist is hurled at political / ideological opponents so often that it has started to lose its meaning. I hoped that this book would provide a historical perspective on fascism by examining actual fascist governments and drawing some parallels to the more egregious / worrisome trends in US & European politics. The chapter titles in the table of contents were promising:
- The Mythic Past
- Law & Order
- Sexual Anxiety
- Sodom & Gomorrah
- Arbeit Macht Frei
Ironically (given the book’s subtitle) the author used his book divisively: to laud his left-wing political views and demonize virtually all distinctively right-wing views. He uses the term liberal democracy inconsistently throughout, disengenuously equivocating between the meaning of representative democracy as opposed to autocratic or oligarchic government (which most readers would agree is a good thing) and American left-wing political views (which he treats as equally self-evidently superior if you are a right-thinking person). Virtually all American right-wing political views are presented in straw-man form, defined in such a way that they fit his definition of fascist politics.
I was expecting there to be a pretty heavy smear-job on President Trump and his cronies (much of it richly deserved…the man’s demagoguery and autocratic tendencies are frightening), but for this to turn into “let’s find a way to define virtually everything the Republicans are and do as fascist politics” was massively disappointing. The absurdly biased portrayal of all things conservative and constant hymns of praise to all things and all people left-wing buried some good historical research and valid parallels under an avalanche of partisanism.
If you want a more historical, less partisan view of the rise of fascist politics, I would highly recommend Darkness Over Germany by E. Amy Buller (Review Here). It was written during World War II (based on interviews with Germans before WWII), so you will have to draw your own contemporary parallels…but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.