Mussolini's Intellectuals: Fascist Social and Political Thought

Mussolini's Intellectuals: Fascist Social and Political Thought

Mussolini's Intellectuals: Fascist Social and Political Thought

Mussolini's Intellectuals: Fascist Social and Political Thought

Synopsis

Fascism has traditionally been characterized as irrational and anti-intellectual, finding expression exclusively as a cluster of myths, emotions, instincts, and hatreds. This intellectual history of Italian Fascism--the product of four decades of work by one of the leading experts on the subject in the English-speaking world--provides an alternative account. A. James Gregor argues that Italian Fascism may have been a flawed system of belief, but it was neither more nor less irrational than other revolutionary ideologies of the twentieth century. Gregor makes this case by presenting for the first time a chronological account of the major intellectual figures of Italian Fascism, tracing how the movement's ideas evolved in response to social and political developments inside and outside of Italy.


Gregor follows Fascist thought from its beginnings in socialist ideology about the time of the First World War--when Mussolini himself was a leader of revolutionary socialism--through its evolution into a separate body of thought and to its destruction in the Second World War. Along the way, Gregor offers extended accounts of some of Italian Fascism's major thinkers, including Sergio Panunzio and Ugo Spirito, Alfredo Rocco (Mussolini's Minister of Justice), and Julius Evola, a bizarre and sinister figure who has inspired much contemporary "neofascism."


Gregor's account reveals the flaws and tensions that dogged Fascist thought from the beginning, but shows that if we want to come to grips with one of the most important political movements of the twentieth century, we nevertheless need to understand that Fascism had serious intellectual as well as visceral roots.

Excerpt

This book appears after almost four decades of study, conferences, discussion, and publication. Over those years, students of “fascism,” as a subject of inquiry, have seen its “essence” change, in the judgments of scholars, from a movement of the “extreme right” into one that was neither of the “right” nor the “left.” We are now told that “Fascist ideology represented a synthesis of organic nationalism with the antimaterialist revision of Marxism.”

From a political revolution entirely without any pretense of a rational belief system, we are now told, by those best informed, that “fascism's ability to appeal to important intellectuals … underlines that it cannot be dismissed as … irrational. … [In] truth, fascism was an ideology just like the others.” Moreover, it has been acknowledged that “Fascism was possible only if based on genuine belief.”

In effect, the study of Italian Fascism has delivered itself of significantly altered assessments over the past decades. Where, at one time, Fascism was simply dismissed as a phenomenon understood to be without intellectual substance, a right-wing excrescence that invoked violence and war, it is now more and more regularly understood to be a movement, and a regime, predicated on a reasonably well articulated belief system that engaged the rational commitment of many.

For all that, there remains a residue of opinion that continues to deny Fascism the same reasoned beliefs that everyone readily grants to the political movements and regimes of Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong. We are still told, for example, that unlike Stalinism and Maoism, “Fascism had few true believers who could also write articles and books.” Strange.

One of the principal purposes of the present work is to attempt to challenge such notions. Fascist intellectuals wrote and published as many arti-

Generally the lowercase “fascism” refers to a class of movements or regimes. The term
“Fascism,” capitalized, refers to Mussolini's political movement and regime.

“Fascism did not belong to the extreme Left, yet defining it as part of the extreme
Right is not very illuminating either. In many respects, fascism was not conservative at all in
inspiration.” Walter Laqueur, Fascism: Past, Present, Future (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1999), p. 13.

Zeev Sternhell, The Birth of Fascist Ideology: From Cultural Rebellion to Political Rev
olution
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 6.

Roger Eatwell, Fascism: A History (New York: Penguin Books, 1997), pp. xix–xx, 4.

Laqueur, Fascism, p. 27.

Ibid., p. 97.

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