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New Left Review 74, March-April 2012

Robert O. Paxton


It is not easy today to say something original about fascism. Exceptionally, Dylan Riley’s intelligent study succeeds in opening fresh perspectives. [1] Dylan Riley, The Civic Foundations of Fascism in Europe: Italy, Spain and Romania, 1870–1945, Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore 2010, $55, paperback 280 pp, 978 0 8018 9427 5 The book leaves aside many matters that are normally at the centre of a work on fascism: there is little here about such familiar issues as how fascist movements arose in the first place; the nature and appeal of fascist ideology; the social composition of fascist parties; the specific effects of World War i and the Bolshevik Revolution; or even the proper definition of the term fascism. Nationalism and anti-semitism receive only passing allusions. Instead, this monograph hews closely to its chosen subject and leaves the reader to relate it to the larger picture. A sociologist at Berkeley, Riley focuses his work closely on civil society, and especially on the tissue of associations that arose in Western societies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He finds that associationism is a neglected key to the question of why fascism succeeded in some places and not in others. The core of the book consists of three narrative chapters, sandwiched between more theoretical opening and closing sections, which examine the cases of Italy, Spain and Romania—chosen because, in his view, their authoritarian outcomes are anomalous in terms of classical Marxist or Weberian analysis. Riley’s re-examinations of these familiar cases are deeply researched and often illuminating.

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Robert Paxton, ‘Pathways to Fascism’, NLR 74: £3

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