Don’t Miss a Thing

Get our latest essays, archival selections, reading lists, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.

Search Website
Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, clad in uniform, speaks to a crowd, his left hand held aloft

Image: Wikimedia

Reading List October 21, 2022

What Does Fascism Mean Today?

And does it apply to the far right?

Proto-fascism, neo-fascism, post-fascism. As this proliferation of prefixes attests, observers of the political scene are searching for the right words to describe today’s xenophobic, ultranationalist far-right politics. While many hesitate to use the term fascism outright, citing differences between today’s historical context and that of the 1930s, the rise of parties with Nazi and fascist roots in countries such as Sweden and Italy—the birthplace of fascism—may make the unqualified use of the F-word more tempting.

Still, the differences between today’s far right, which mostly attempts to accommodate itself to the realities of electoral politics, and that of Hitler and Mussolini are large enough to merit caution when it comes to totalitarian taxonomy. As Noam Chomsky remarks in a recent interview, “The United States is leading the way to a kind of proto-fascism. It’s not the ’30s, but there’s enough reminiscence to make it feel severely unpleasant.”

Turning away from the classic model of European fascism, philosopher Alberto Toscano seeks an alternative perspective on the question of fascism’s aptness as a label. He looks instead to radical Black thinkers in the United States—Angela Davis and George Jackson in particular—who identified a uniquely American form of fascism that has its roots in slavery and Jim Crow. Attention to this tradition and its emphasis on racial terror as a form of political repression can “expand the historical and political imagination of an anti-fascist left,” Toscano argues, preparing it to counter the “extreme positions” taken up by today’s far right.

Alongside these essays other authors explore the nature of fascist and anti-fascist language, the potential of Germany’s politics of memory to stave off right-wing extremism, the symbiotic relationship between neoliberalism and neofascism, the techniques of contemporary authoritarianism, and more.

 

Tobias Hübinette

The recent electoral success of a party with Nazi origins must be understood as part of the long history of white Swedes’ desire for racial homogeneity.

Noam Chomsky David Barsamian

Noam Chomsky on lies, crimes, and savage capitalism.

Prabhat Patnaik

The neofascist assault on democracy is a last-ditch effort on the part of neoliberal capitalism to rescue itself from crisis. The only solution is a decisive retreat from globalized finance.

Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, clad in uniform, speaks to a crowd, his left hand held aloft
Justin H. Vassallo

As we confront rightwing extremism in our own time, the history of American fascist sympathy reveals a legacy worth reckoning with.

davisjackson2
Alberto Toscano

Radical Black thinkers have long argued that racial slavery created its own unique form of American fascism.

f20171110ah-1463_original
William E. Scheuerman

Not by repudiating democracy but by simulating it, a new book argues.

Samuel Clowes Huneke Susan Neiman
Samuel Clowes Huneke

Germany’s official policy of shame about its past is a model the United States should adopt. But it won’t protect either country from far-right extremism.

7_IfZ_MK_Uebersetzungen
Yuliya Komska

Far-right leaders often call for one nation united under one language. At the same time, they have always been good at using translation to spread their politics.

antifascist language boston review
Yuliya Komska

As Germans learned after World War II, combatting fascist language is harder than just deleting offending terms. Can we find a creative solution that serves today’s needs?

postfascism
G. M. Tamás

Its central characteristic is hostility to universal citizenship.

Our weekly themed Reading Lists compile the best of Boston Review’s archive. Previews are delivered to members every Sunday. Become a member to receive them ahead of the crowd.

Boston Review is nonprofit and reader funded.

Contributions from readers enable us to provide a public space, free and open, for the discussion of ideas. Join this effort – become a supporting reader today.

Sign Up for Our
Newsletter

Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.

Donate Today!


Most Recent

Protests in China are shining a light not only on the country’s draconian population management but restrictions on workers everywhere.

Eli Friedman

Support us with a donation this giving season. 

Joshua Cohen Deborah Chasman

Robin D. G. Kelley on the midterm elections.

Robin D. G. Kelley Deborah Chasman