Robert Paxton’s interpretation of fascism, The Anatomy of Fascism (2003) or his preceding article “Five Stages of Fascism” The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 70, No. 1. (Mar., 1998), pp. 1-23 [Ella, History 260]


  1. Previous histories of fascism have over emphasized the use of terror and policy intimidation to explain the compliance of the Italian and German populations under Mussolini and Hitler respectively.
  2. Fascism had no one doctrine and what doctrines were proclaimed were typically subordinated to “action.” Doctrinal inconsistencies abounded; theory vs. practice.
  3. Fascist movements were widespread and not found only in Germany and Italy but in Spain, Austria, France, Britain, Hungary, etc.
  4. Fascist movements typically claimed to be hostile toward industrial capitalism, but in practice the successful movement in Italy and Germany allied themselves with “big business.”
  5. Successful fascist movements succeeded, much less through terror, than by mobilizing the passions and enthusiasms of large segments of the country’s population, gaining the support of traditional elites as well. The emotional appeal and content of fascism was a critical characteristic; ardent fascists decried contemplation and modern “rationality.”
  6. Previous historians of fascism have neglected the important role of the Great War on the rise of fascisms.
  7. Fascism was “the most original political novelty of the 20th century.”
  8. The future of fascism? More likely to arise in the United States than in developing countries or Russia.


Stages in the rise of successful fascist movements such as in Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany


1.      Initial creation of fascism movements combining doctrine, discontent, and growing numbers of adherents.

2.      Rooting of the movement as a regular political party in the country’s political system.

3.      Acquisition of power. Mussolini in 1921; Hitler in 1933

4.      Exercise of power: among other things, the elimination of competing political parties or organizations such as labor unions, and the “winning over” of the armed forces.

5.      Radicalization and degeneration, fragmentation, fall. Example in Nazi Germany, the growing restrictions on Jew, the appropriation of their property, and the destruction of the civil rights and “state citizenship.” Defeat in World War II.