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How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them Paperback – May 26, 2020
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“One of the defining books of the decade.”—Elizabeth Hinton, author of From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime
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 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.
“With unsettling insight and disturbing clarity, How Fascism Works is an essential guidebook to our current national dilemma of democracy vs. authoritarianism.”—William Jelani Cobb, author of The Substance of Hope
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“By placing Trump in transnational and transhistorical perspective, Stanley sees patterns that others miss. . . . Stanley’s comparative perspective is particularly effective in illustrating how fascists use fears of sexual violence. . . . By calling Trump a ‘fascist’—a word that strikes many Americans as alien and extreme—Stanley is trying to spark public alarm. He doesn’t want Americans to respond to Trump’s racist, authoritarian offensives by moving their moral goal posts. The greater danger, he suggests, isn’t hyperbole, it’s normalization.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
“Jason Stanley’s staggering analysis has only grown in importance since the release of How Fascism Works in 2018. It is one of the defining books of the decade.”—Elizabeth Hinton, author of From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime
“Jason Stanley reveals how the liberties of the people wither when voters embrace politicians who promote the divisive politics of us versus them while denigrating cooperation, compromise, and respect for others. How Fascism Works builds on philosopher Stanley’s insightful How Propaganda Works to explain in concise and easily understood terms how people get tricked into reversing the expanding rights that made America great.”—David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of It’s Even Worse Than You Think and The Making of Donald Trump
“An endless question about history—does it repeat itself? The Allies triumphed over fascism nearly seventy-five years ago. But is it on the rise again? The national populism of Trump and Bannon; Brexit; Orban and the rise of the Hungarian right; the Italian five-star movement; Erdoğan—Jason Stanley has in this extraordinary book tried to answer these questions. For those in denial or in doubt, Stanley’s book provides overwhelming evidence that fascism is alive, well, and on the rise. It’s a clarion call to wake up, pay attention, and do something. No one has any doubt that fascism works; the question remains: How do we stop it? Stanley tells us that fascism is not a plan on how to govern but a plan on how to seize control. This is an important and essential book.”—Errol Morris, filmmaker and author of The Ashtray
“There are moments in which the fate of humanity itself hangs in the balance, and such times always bring with them the resurrection of ugly myths. And yet, as Jason Stanley, one of this nation’s most important philosophers, makes clear, when such myths are deconstructed and their history is laid bare, we remember the extraordinary ties that in fact bind us together. And in the fire of that powerful recollection, modern-day fascism—the current myth-dependent moment of intolerance, xenophobia, and fearmongering in which we find ourselves—can be rendered to ash.”—Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Blood in the Water
“Jason Stanley’s book comes at a most propitious time, when we must come to grips with the political consequences that may follow the rise of xenophobic populism. History teaches what those consequences are, and in his book Stanley, with great analytical and conceptual clarity, not only tells the story but more crucially provides a critical framework through which to see the insidious mechanisms at play that are threatening today’s democracies around the globe. How Fascism Works is a must-read for all of us who take seriously our responsibility as citizens.”—Jan T. Gross, author of Neighbors
“A sharply argued and timely guide . . . Stanley’s highlighting of the politics of sexual anxiety is particularly welcome and relevant.”—Ruth Ben-Ghiat, author of Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema
“With unsettling insight and disturbing clarity, How Fascism Works is an essential guidebook to our current national dilemma of democracy vs. authoritarianism. The fingerprints of the fascist past are visible in the present, and this volume bravely shines a light upon them.”—William Jelani Cobb, author of The Substance of Hope
About the Author
- Publisher : Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 26, 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0525511857
- ISBN-13 : 978-0525511854
- Item Weight : 6.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #14,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on September 9, 2018
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I submit that if you are unwilling to accept a harsh assessment of the GOP’s uses of fascist methods, unless it’s beveled by a list of bad things about Democrats, this book isn’t for you. If you require criticism of this sort to provide equal time for criticism of people on the other side, that says more about your psychological needs than it does about the value of this book.
Lastly, and dully, I’ll add this. I’m a leftist, but I don’t romanticize the left, or demonize conservative ideas. You don’t have to do either of those things to be appalled by the GOP’s attacks on science, expertise, intellectualism, “the media,” and so forth. Fascism is not the same as conservatism, but the GOP nonetheless seems willing to sully American conservatism by borrowing fascism’s methods, presumably because they are highly effective ways to gain and hold into power. People who don’t want to hear that will find ways to discredit this book.
These similarities are quite striking at times. But there are no arguments about why this is fascism, or why these similarities matter. The author seems to assume that these similarities are enough to convince the readers that these are the same. At times it becomes almost like the comic argument “Hitler was a vegetarian, therefore vegetarians are evil”. Which is terribly startling to find in a widely regarded book.
The author claims that fascists tend to create alternative histories:
“ The strategic aim of these hierarchal constructions of history is to displace truth, and the invention of a glorious past includes the erasure of inconvenient realities.”
While possibly true, and very interesting, the author then follow that up by spouting conspiracy theories with no evidence or arguments:
“The media largely ignored these motivations and, representing protesting black students as an angry mob, used the situation as an opportunity to foment rage against the supposed liberal political excesses of the university.”
Towards the end, the author simply stops following the similarity arguments to instead just list grievances with anyone not on the political left:
“Economic libertarianism connects both freedom and virtue with wealth. According to these principles, one “earns” one’s freedom by accruing wealth in struggle. Those who do not “earn” their freedoms in this way do not deserve it. Though fascism involves a commitment to group hierarchies of worth that is flatly incompatible with true economic libertarianism, which does not generalize beyond the individual, both philosophies share a common principle by which value is measured. Economic libertarianism is, after all, the Manhattan dinner party face of social Darwinism.”
“Within universities, fascist politicians target professors they deem too political—typically, too Marxist—and denounce entire areas of study. When fascist movements are under way in liberal democratic states, certain academic disciplines are singled out. Gender studies, for instance, comes under fire from far-right nationalist movements across the world. The professors and teachers in these fields are accused of disrespect to the traditions of the nation.”
This book is not about fascism. It’s about saying that Trump and other (people for economic liberalism, or people against gender studies) are fascists. I found one instance of numbers and fact regarding this argument. The rest is opinion.
So if you are interested in this political stance, this book is a very good read. If you are interested in learning about Fascism, this is not the book fo you.
The division of people into sub-groups is at the heart of the threat of the us and then mentality
Top reviews from other countries
However, to avoid having to accuse myself of living in an echo-chamber, I read only those reviews that awarded the book less than 3 out of 5. The most frequently recurring criticism was that it was unbalanced. I've some sympathy with that point of view. On the other hand, if you were writing a critical account of Hitler's actions, would you feel obliged to devote a substantial amount of space to describing how kind and thoughtful he could be to his secretaries, in order to achieve 'balance'? Probably not.
A beautifully well written and crystal clear analysis of the tactics used then and now by people who want us to be at each other's throats. A polemic certainly but do please read.
Naturally this book is engrossed with dissecting the Trump Whitehouse experience. From the readership position in 2021 we can breathe a collective sigh of relief that that specific car crash is all over. However, it is not. Those who voted for Trump live on and their poison remains. The Republican party has become an extreme right wing personality cult quite beyond reason. Their fascism promised to return power to the member of the chosen nation. To do this it had to turn myths into facts. A mythic past was resurrected for contemporary political purposes. To dispose of fact, they under-mined the position of education and experts by delegitimising their expertise. This was done with relentless lying and conspiracy theories which destroys the factual basis of the debate. Voters no longer knew what was true. The lying served its purpose – to disorientate rational thought and normalise the myths. All history became propaganda. The past can be portrayed as a glorious golden era that has been stolen. This fading glory can be felt as a loss. All empires in decline go through this. Italy. USA. Britain. You would have thought we would have got better used to our place in the world by now. Now the dominant group (white men) can be made to feel like the victim such that they lash out at the people who genuinely are victims. Fascist ideology rejects pluralism and tolerance. We have been here before. We know the score. Or do we?
Jason Stanley’s book is a good dissection of how fascism can seduce a nation. It is as relevant now as ever. He injects some nice personal touches when telling the story of how his Jewish grandmother stayed in Nazi Germany all the way up to 1939. In her memoires she described how the Jews didn’t see the warning signs and stayed. They simply could not imagine what was going to happen. We do not have that luxury. Essential reading.
A must read for anyone interested in politics.
Not a Trump fan, but fascism is a way more complex historical subject than 21st century American politics.