A brief yet invaluable reassessment, from one of our most insightful and profound thinkers on the nature of fascism. Co-editor of the Journal of Contemporary History and author of nearly two dozen books (e.g., Fallen Soldiers: Replacing the Memory of the World Wars, 1990), Mosse has helped to shape our contemporary understanding of fascism—and, consequently, of 20th-century history. He's trained dozens of practicing historians, leaving the field indelibly altered. The essays collected here have all appeared previously in academic journals and scholarly volumes. In them Mosse examines facets of fascism. (Following the usual convention, "fascism" refers to the generic phenomenon, while "Fascism" alludes to the Italian variant.) His topics include fascist aesthetics, theater, and the avant-garde; fascism and the French Revolution; the nexus between fascism, nationalism, and racism; fascism and the role of intellectuals; fascism (or in this case, specifically National Socialism) and the occult; and fascism and homosexuality. The author opens his introduction by acknowledging the changing interpretations of fascism over the last five decades. His own method might be described as cultural analysis—or, to borrow a term from Clifford Geertz and cultural anthropology, "thick description." To be sure, class analysis, long favored by many Marxist and leftist historians, fails to fully capture fascism's essence. And yet even a cultural approach poses certain inherent difficulties. For, as Mosse and others have pointed out, a paradox lies at the heart of "fascist studies": Intellectuals have chosen to use rational analysis to study and explain a movement that's irrational by its very nature—as well as hostile to the West's humanistic tradition. Hardly an introductory work for the novice, but instead a fundamental summation of a lifetime.
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