Fascism as a Social Movement in a Transnational Context

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To treat fascism as a social movement in a transnational context is to buck the trend in studies of so-called ‘generic fascism’. The purpose of the latter is to derive a ‘model’, ‘definition’, or ‘ideal-type’ of fascism from observation of its primary ‘case’, the Fascist movement in Italy, perhaps supplemented with features of German National Socialism. This model would capture the essence of the phenomenon and its dynamic and permit us to recognize ‘cases’ of fascism even where protagonists rejected the label. Theories of generic fascism suffer from general and specific problems. Generally, they exaggerate the explanatory power of models of any type and they take for granted that ‘cases’ of fascism are national variants of the same essence. They also harden concepts that were contested and fluid in practical politics. Specifically, and directly relevant to this essay, models of generic fascism rely unwittingly on understandings of social action derived from late nineteenth-century crowd psychology, from which social movement theory has—in principle—liberated itself.

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... Kevin Passmore argued that 'fascism theories share a weakness of models' which 'harden concepts that were contested and fluid in practical politics'. 15 David Roberts found that models often 'delimit their questions-and thus the range of frequencies' that the bounded conceptual categories may capture. 16 Michael Mann criticised models of generic fascism as 'idealistic' and seriously lacking in awareness of the deeper power relations and organisations. ...
Fascism has always challenged, transcended, and redefined bounded entities. Its histories were also forged in and through permanent movement—geographic and ideological alike. Mobility—a fascinating kaleidoscope of complex flows, diffusion, translation, and reflexive adaptations—remains a supremely promising framework for the study of fascism, fitting its conceptual syncretism and protean nature. If we accept that interwar fascism was a phenomenon with international reach driven, then our models of interpretations must accommodate these local interpretations and adaptations as integral parts of the history of fascism. In this essay, I focus on the concept of ‘para-fascism’ that Griffin provocatively coined in an attempt to re-establish a conceptual dialogue between fascism and its supposed conceptual peripheries. With ‘para-fascism’, Griffin did more than any other scholar of fascism to bring into the fold of comparative fascism studies a range of radical movements and especially authoritarian regimes in the 1920s/1930s that were heavily influenced by the emerging political paradigm of ‘fascism’ but lacked a clear revolutionary orientation. I argue that these not-quite-fascists did arguably more to facilitate the appeal and political diffusion of ‘fascism’ as the supposedly pure regime examples of Fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany.
In the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, North American academics took a renewed interest in researching right-wing extremism. This scholarly agenda was further intensified by extremist activity related to the candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump, which was marked by political violence by right-wing groups like the Proud Boys, a dramatic increase in hate crimes, and an assault on the U.S. Capitol to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. This piece explores the origins of the concept of right-wing political positions and how scholars and researchers have used differing theoretical and disciplinary frameworks to best explain how social movements, like populism, transform into sources of political violence. The frameworks discussed include political science, cultural studies, social movement, criminological, and psychological perspectives. Relevant contemporary research resting in each of these five paradigms is discussed and research agendas for the “post-Trump” era, with regard to each perspective, are addressed.
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