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What is Fascism?


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What is Fascism?
Moral Stances   Of all the topics covered in World Civilizations or World History textbooks, the only human era or invention that the writers are willing to strike a moral stance towards is that of European fascism. Since everything that you face in the human world is a product of a culture's world view, this moral stance is also a product of our culture's world view. This moral stance, however, is very particular. You will not find world history textbooks striking similar moral stances about similar events in history, such as the conquests of Genghis Khan or the systematic extermination of non-combatants carried out by European crusaders. So why the moral stance against fascism? Part of the answer can be discovered in the sheer numbers of non-combatants that were killed by German and Italian fascists. That, however, is only a partial explanation.
   Moral condemnation has several purposes; its primary purpose is to distance one's own identity from the identity of the person or persons that one is condemning. Moral condemnation constructs another person or group of people as different , as something other than what you are. When an entire culture strikes a moral stance against another culture, it is identifying that other culture as completely different from itself. "We are not fascists," is the message that the world history textbooks are telling you.
   Often, however, the most stridently insistent moral condemnations of other groups or cultures are motivated by the refusal of one culture or group (or individual) to examine the similarities between themselves and the group they're condemning. This isn't hypocrisy; in an effort to rescue our own selves, we identify other groups onto which we project aspects of our group that we're not willing to face. In general, however, identifying a group similar to our own culture as being completely different stands in the way of our coming to terms with our own failings and our own potential to repeat the worst excesses of the group that we're condemning. Such is the case with fascism. We are eager to strike a moral stance because European fascism is so close to our own world view and the excesses of European fascism are still an integral part of our own, European and American, character.


What is Fascism?   All of the cultural issues which inspired the rise of fascism are still with us today and many of the solutions, promises, and attitudes of fascism are still part of normal political and cultural discourse in Europe and America. On this assignment, I want you to write an essay in which you explain how fascism was a response to modernity and evaluate how fascist ideas are still present in contemporary social and political discourse. In the second part of your essay, in which you discuss how fascist ideas are still with us, I want you to explain what cultural or social problems these ideas are dealing with. Focus on a single issue: political speech by democrats or republicans; newspaper editorials; radio personalities talking about social or political issues, etc. As part of your answer, I want you to tell me what other alternatives are available. If the cultural or social problems are inviting fascist solutions, what other solutions are available? Do you believe that the fascism still present in modern culture threatens the same excesses as early twentieth century fascism?
   Finally, I want you to go back and review your answer and other people's answers to the culture defense debate that opened this class. How similar are some of the arguments to fascist political or social theory? How are they different? How do you account for the similarities? What do you do about them? What are the alternatives?


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