How fascism works : the politics of us and them

by Jason Stanley

Paper Book, 2018

Description

"As the child of refugees of World War II Europe and a renowned philosopher and scholar of propaganda, Jason Stanley has a deep understanding of how democratic societies can be vulnerable to fascism: Nations don't have to be fascist to suffer from fascist politics. In fact, fascism's roots have been present in the United States for more than a century. Alarmed by the pervasive rise of fascist tactics both at home and around the globe, Stanley focuses here on the structures that unite them, laying out and analyzing the ten pillars of fascist politics--the language and beliefs that separate people into an 'us' and a 'them.' He knits together reflections on history, philosophy, sociology, and critical race theory with stories from contemporary Hungary, Poland, India, Myanmar, and the United States, among other nations. He makes clear the immense danger of underestimating the cumulative power of these tactics, which include exploiting a mythic version of a nation's past; propaganda that twists the language of democratic ideals against themselves; anti-intellectualism directed against universities and experts; law and order politics predicated on the assumption that members of minority groups are criminals; and fierce attacks on labor groups and welfare. These mechanisms all build on one another, creating and reinforcing divisions and shaping a society vulnerable to the appeals of authoritarian leadership. By uncovering disturbing patterns that are as prevalent today as ever, Stanley reveals that the stuff of politics--charged by rhetoric and myth--can quickly become policy and reality. Only by recognizing fascists politics, he argues, may we resist its most harmful effects and return to democratic ideals."--Jacket.… (more)

Status

Available

Call number

321.9/4

Publication

New York : Random House, 2018.

User reviews

LibraryThing member rivkat
I’m reading way too many books about fascism, which is the least bad thing that can be said about current politics. Stanley looks for continuities among fascist leaders, including creating a mythic past (in which a patriarch reigned supreme and the nation was glorious); engaging in propaganda to
Show More
corrupt the language of ideals; promoting anti-intellectualism; ultimately creating a context of unreality in which truth is meaningless. Fascism also requires maintenance of hierarchy (which he calls “the displacement of reality by power”); a politics of victimhood for the dominant population; law and order policies for the subaltern; and sexual anxiety driving many specific policies and metaphors. This is unfortunately all relatively easy to accomplish, as people like to be convinced that they’re the good guys. One depressing study he cites shows that when you describe historical perpetrators of violence against Native Americans as European, modern Americans are more likely to remember negative events than if you describe the perpetrators as Americans, and “what participants did recall was phrased more dismissively when the perpetrators were in-group members.” Fascists denounce corruption while being much more corrupt than previous administrations – I was puzzled by this in the US until I realized that what Trump meant by “corrupt” was “benefiting nonwhites”; this is by definition corruption as far as he and his supporters are concerned, while benefiting his friends is just doing what’s natural. Stanley characterizes this as “corruption” meaning “corruption of purity” or challenge to traditional order rather than corruption of law. Similar dynamics allow fascists to treat an independent judiciary as corrupt.
Show Less
LibraryThing member dono421846
Doesn't ask *whether* Trump acts like an authoritarian fascist. That is plainly obvious. Trump is just one example of how fascist politics works, whether or not it results in fascist governments. No pointless ponderings about what Trump is; recognize him for what he is, and start the analysis so
Show More
that we can understand how this happened, and where it is likely to lead. Absolutely refreshing.

The chapters are structured according to the various strategies used by fascist politics: a mythic past justifying the dominance of the majority group; propaganda that uses the language of virtuous ideals to unite followers behind objectionable ends; anti-intellectualism to remove any competing explanation and understanding of history and society; unreality resulting from the attack on shared premises for understanding and discourse by the use of conspiracy theories and attacks on the media; hierarchy to show that racial and gender equality is a lie and some groups are endowed by nature to rule over others; victimhood by majorities losing their former privileges in the face of advances from threatening minorities; law and order; sexual anxiety; appeals to the heartland; and dismantling of public welfare and unity.

These are all common not only in contemporary American society, but in all societies (the author discusses recent events in Hungary, Poland, and Turkey) experiencing a similar rise in right wing ideologues. I am actually saddened by how well he describes beliefs of dear friends who think they are being rational and objective when they defend their distrust of immigrants, suspicion of Muslims, nostalgia for the Confederacy, and disgust for those receiving welfare and social benefits. But here you have it: they are crypto-racists feeling threatened by the rise of minorities with their "inferior" culture, diluting our European superiority. Disappointing, but to solve a problem one must first recognize it for what it is.

This is a vitally important book.
Show Less
LibraryThing member drbrand
I was hoping for a nuanced examination of the political ideology of fascism, instead I got a just-so story in which Trump is basically Hitler and the Republicans are basically Nazis. Stanley's arguments are sloppy and guilty of too many fallacies to name. The only readers I can imagine enjoying
Show More
this book are ones predisposed to thinking of Republicans as crypto-Nazis and partial to the following kind of reasoning:

P1: "Social Darwinism [is] the basis of fascist politics"
P2: "Economic libertarianism is [...] the Manhattan dinner party face of social Darwinism"
∴ "Fascist ideology [is] akin to the libertarian ideal of self-sufficiency"

Anyone who finds that argument compelling will enjoy this book. Perhaps most frustratingly, I agree that Trump is dangerously authoritarian and that many Republican positions are (often deliberately) insufficiently articulated, resulting in co-option from ultra-nationalists. But Snyder focuses too much on low hanging fruit, relying on bad faith conflations between conservative perspectives and fascist perspectives to make his point. His use of equivocation and innuendo to imply fascist ideologies to mainstream conservative politicians is hyperbolic at best, but more likely disingenuous. Overall, I'd say anyone interested in a thoughtful account of fascism and its relationship to modern American politics would do best to look elsewhere.
Show Less
LibraryThing member mcdenis
Stanley offers some fresh reflections on Fascism based on his academic work and family experiences. Fascism is like a spider web that entangles its participants in a mythic propaganda drama that feeds on victimhood, sexual anxiety and ethnic dissonance. Anyone, men women and children who are not a
Show More
part of the fascist “Us” become rapists, murderers , lazy takers who must be put to work or eliminated. Law and order becomes an excuse for the power brokers to exercise control after which it is too late to retreat. These and other dangers are dark shadows in our current political environment. This is a must read and timely book for anyone concerned with America and its democratic ideals
Show Less
LibraryThing member pomo58
How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them from Jason Stanley is essential reading for anyone not wanting to live under a fascist regime.

In the U.S. we are about to get out from under our little orange fascist wannabe, but that doesn't mean that he didn't cause major damage to our democracy and
Show More
our standing in the world. This book will help us to understand what happened, what almost happened, and be alert to what will likely be attempted again by all those anti-democracy people who supported the moron.

In addition to speaking to our contemporary world, this book also presents a wonderful history of how and why these situations arise. It is an excellent read for those interested in polical science, history, social and intellectual history as well as current events.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via Goodreads First Reads.
Show Less
LibraryThing member richardderus
The Publisher Says: NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITORS’ CHOICE • With a new preface • Fascist politics are running rampant in America today—and spreading around the world. A Yale philosopher identifies the ten pillars of fascist politics, and charts their horrifying rise and deep history.

As
Show More
the child of refugees of World War II Europe and a renowned philosopher and scholar of propaganda, Jason Stanley has a deep understanding of how democratic societies can be vulnerable to fascism: Nations don’t have to be fascist to suffer from fascist politics. In fact, fascism’s roots have been present in the United States for more than a century. Alarmed by the pervasive rise of fascist tactics both at home and around the globe, Stanley focuses here on the structures that unite them, laying out and analyzing the ten pillars of fascist politics—the language and beliefs that separate people into an “us” and a “them.” He knits together reflections on history, philosophy, sociology, and critical race theory with stories from contemporary Hungary, Poland, India, Myanmar, and the United States, among other nations. He makes clear the immense danger of underestimating the cumulative power of these tactics, which include exploiting a mythic version of a nation’s past; propaganda that twists the language of democratic ideals against themselves; anti-intellectualism directed against universities and experts; law and order politics predicated on the assumption that members of minority groups are criminals; and fierce attacks on labor groups and welfare. These mechanisms all build on one another, creating and reinforcing divisions and shaping a society vulnerable to the appeals of authoritarian leadership.

I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA NETGALLEY. THANK YOU.

My Review
: The reason I want to review this right now is the 14 May Buffalo mass shooting and its root cause, the idiotic and racist replacement theory. It is a pernicious and evil set of beliefs demanding that white people remain in power forever because it's theirs by right. Colonialism and racism and fascism are in lock step, and their grip on the unintelligent, badly educated, and ill-informed is only strengthening.

I make no apologies for my opinions, or for expressing them in strong and probably insulting terms, as those who subscribe to these idiotic beliefs make no apologies for theirs or their own method of expressing them. I oppose these views. I oppose their open, uncontested expression. I oppose people who make their own need to control others, body, mind, and soul, their purpose for public action. And no, demanding that these True Believers NOT be allowed to dictate the continued lives, personal liberties, and rise to political power of those who are not them, is not at all the same thing.

This book is a compendium of pithily expressed, carefully researched, and very well-sourced conclusions that are not readily dismissable based on modern evidence. I cede the floor to Author Stanley:
Fascist politics does not necessarily lead to an explicitly fascist state, but it is dangerous nonetheless. Fascist politics includes many distinct strategies: the mythic past, propaganda, anti-intellectualism, unreality, hierarchy, victimhood, law and order, sexual anxiety, appeals to the heartland, and a dismantling of public welfare and unity.

On fascism's roots:
In book 8 of Plato’s Republic, Socrates argues that people are not naturally led to self-governance but rather seek a strong leader to follow. Democracy, by permitting freedom of speech, opens the door for a demagogue to exploit the people’s need for a strongman; the strongman will use this freedom to prey on the people’s resentments and fears. Once the strongman seizes power, he will end democracy, replacing it with tyranny. In short, book 8 of The Republic argues that democracy is a self-undermining system whose very ideals lead to its own demise. Fascists have always been well acquainted with this recipe for using democracy’s liberties against itself; Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels once declared, “This will always remain one of the best jokes of democracy, that it gave its deadly enemies the means by which it was destroyed.” Today is no different from the past. Again, we find the enemies of liberal democracy employing this strategy, pushing the freedom of speech to its limits and ultimately using it to subvert others’ speech.

–and–

In a 1922 speech at the Fascist Congress in Naples, Benito Mussolini declared: We have created our myth. The myth is a faith, a passion. It is not necessary for it to be a reality….Our myth is the nation, our myth is the greatness of the nation! And to this myth, this greatness, which we want to translate into a total reality, we subordinate everything. Here, Mussolini makes clear that the fascist mythic past is intentionally mythical. The function of the mythic past, in fascist politics, is to harness the emotion of nostalgia to the central tenets of fascist ideology—authoritarianism, hierarchy, purity, and struggle.

On racism's roots and branches:
“Check your privilege” is a call to whites to recognize the insulated social reality they navigate daily.

–and–

Hutu power movement was a fascist ethnic supremacist movement that arose in Rwanda in the years before the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

–and–

Nixon’s chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman: “You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks,” Haldeman quoted Nixon as saying in a diary entry from April 1969. “The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”

–and–

Mussolini denounce{d} the world’s great cities, such as New York, for their teeming populations of nonwhites. In fascist ideology, the city is a place where members of the nation go to age and die, childless, surrounded by the vast hordes of despised others, breeding out of control, their children permanent burdens on the state.

See also my review of [Cockroaches] for extra and personal information about the racist roots of Rwanda's genocide. See my review of [The Man Who Lived Underground] for a prescient prefiguring of the Othering that racism relies on's horrific costs.

Author Stanley doesn't, I think I've shown, pull punches. He also sources his claims with admirable clarity. There are dozens of notes in each chapter; there are dozens of reputable scholars cited. In his Epilogue, Author Stanley considers the hazards and risks we're running simply by normalizing (or really continuing to normalize) the ongoing fascist politicizations we see around us now.
Pratap Mehta wrote: 'The targeting of enemies—minorities, liberals, secularists, leftists, urban naxals, intellectuals, assorted protestors—is not driven by a calculus of ordinary politics….When you legitimize yourself entirely by inventing enemies, the truth ceases to matter, normal restraints of civilization and decency cease to matter, the checks and balances of normal politics cease to matter.'

–and–

In fascist politics, women who do not fit traditional gender roles, nonwhites, homosexuals, immigrants, “decadent cosmopolitans,” those who do not have the dominant religion, are in their very existence violations of law and order. By describing black Americans as a threat to law and order, demagogues in the United States have been able to create a strong sense of white national identity that requires protection from the nonwhite “threat.”

–and–

The dangers of fascist politics come from the particular way in which it dehumanizes segments of the population. By excluding these groups, it limits the capacity for empathy among other citizens, leading to the justification of inhumane treatment, from repression of freedom, mass imprisonment, and expulsion to, in extreme cases, mass extermination.

What's happening now is not the Will of the People. It's not the inevitable outcome of "them" becoming a threat. This is proof of "...a growing body of social psychological evidence substantiates the phenomenon of dominant group feelings of victimization at the prospect of sharing power equally with members of minority groups. A great deal of recent attention has been paid in the United States to the fact that around 2050, the United States will become a 'majority-minority' country, meaning that whites will no longer be a majority of Americans," threatening “...the lengthy history of ranking Americans into a hierarchy of worth by race, the “deserving” versus the “undeserving.” And I feel confident I need not say directly that deserving = white for you to get the full, appalling picture. If you're up for more, there's [On Tyranny], which I've reviewed; it's another, and shorter, work of synthesis and explication.

Where do we go from here? How do the majority of US citizens resist this ever-worsening attack on our bodies, our minds, our freedoms and rights?

First, VOTE. Second, read and learn from the folks farther along the trail through the thickets of trouble and outrage meant to scare and dishearten you. Nothing about the fascism threatening reason and freedom in the US is inevitable or unstoppable or, most importantly, right and correct. You've watched [The Handmaid's Tale] and read [Christian Nation]...you know what's at stake for women, and every single one of you knows a woman; also for QUILTBAG folks, and if you're reading this you know at least one of those (me). Act like this is an emergency.

Because it very much is.
Show Less
LibraryThing member ArlieS
This is a bad book. The author attempts to characterise fascist politics, but unironically commits commits most of the tactics he attributes to fascists. He defines what he means by "fascist" and by implication "fascist politics", and then appears to write parts of the book based on two other
Show More
definitions. I don't think the author is disingenuous or attempting his own propaganda - I think he's guilty of wooly thinking and/or wooly writing, possibly in an attempt to make the book accessible to lay readers. This "lay reader" was not impressed.

On page xiv, the author writes "I have chosen the label 'fascism' for ultranationalism of some variety (ethnic, religious, cultural), with the nation represented in the person of an authoritarian leader who speaks on its behalf." He continues later on the same page "My interest in this book is in fascist politics. Specifically my interest is in fascist tactics as a mechanism to achieve power. ... Fascist politics does not necessarily lead to an explicitly fascist state, but it is dangerous nonetheless."

His chapter titles provide a list of what he presents as fascist political tactics/stances/myths:
1. The Mythic Past
2. Propaganda
3. Anti-Intellectual
4. Unreality
5. Hierarchy
6. Victimhood
7. Law and Order
8. Sexual Anxiety
9. Sodom and Gomorrah
10. Arbeit Macht Frei

His evidence for the list is simple - he finds authors he can label fascist who wrote something of the kind. Or failing that, he finds historians who attribute such beliefs to one or other of the fascist states of the world war II era. He never looks for non-fascists doing the same thing. And as the book progresses, it becomes clear that not supporting various American left wing political beliefs (presumably those shared by the author), is adequate evidence for fascism, though he prefers to pick fascist examples at least associated with a political party or candidate labelled "right wing".

Worse, I routinely caught him using tactics similar to those he attributes to "fascist politics". Given my cynicism about political writing in general, this failed to surprise me - many of these are things politicians routinely do, regardless of affiliation. But I can surely use this book as an existence proof for several of these tactics not being limited to fascists - unless you want to argue that this book consists of "fascist politics" in support of modern American left wing causes.

This list might be useful to someone unfamiliar with what I'd prefer to call right wing preoccupations and shibboleths. Many of these do, in my opinion, turn up more frequently among right than left wing political tracts, platforms, shibboleths, etc. (I note, of course, that there's no clear definition of "right wing" to be had, particularly if you don't limit yourself to the last few decades of history in a single country.) Even fewer are the exclusive domain of the "right wing" - or "fascists", for that matter, unless you use a circular definition ("fascists are people who use any of these tactics").

And as for the politics of "us and them", well this author clearly sees fascists/populists/right wingers as very much "them". Whereas his book is addressed to an "us" that takes various mostly US left wing positions as self evident truths.

The best use of this book is for it to be read by "true believers" to who want to be confirmed in their beliefs, reinforce their negative views of their opponents, enhance their sense that those opponents' goals are catastrophically bad, all while adding a veneer of intellectualism and system to their chanting of The Political Truths (TM).

Sadly, this author is my political "ally", in the US two party system. I wish my allies would show some sign of bring better, on average, than my opponents, but it's all too easy to find gems like this that bring their average down - easier, for me, than finding similar rubbish among my opponents, where I can't as easily distinguish my own biases from reality. And to be fair, while this book is very disappointing, the average person-in-the-street I encounter regularly emits worse.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Aarg
I found this book a clear description of fascism. Scanning the table of contents summarizes the book's points, and I recommend that everyone read at least that much. The book's body, with its constant references to the politics of the day, scared the bejeezus out of me. I worry the references to
Show More
current events may make the book quickly seem dated. That would be a shame.
Show Less
LibraryThing member RajivC
This book by Jason Stanley is brilliant. I wish I could say the book has no relevance to our times, but this will be a lie.

Fascism is like diabetes. Unless you control it from the start, it will eat your insides. Diabetes eats your body, whereas fascism eats society.

In this brilliant book, Jason
Show More
Stanley has dissected the political belief system of fascism and fascists. The chapters explore the different facets of fascism and make for compelling reading.

Why is the book relevant? After all, Hitler and Mussolini died several decades ago. When you read the book, and analyse what is happening in democracies around the world, you understand the dangers and risks we face.

Once again, an excellent and relevant book.
Show Less

Language

ISBN

0525511830 / 9780525511830
Page: 0.1408 seconds