Title: Fascism: A Very Short Introduction
Author: Kevin Passmore
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Rating: 3 out of 5
How I got a copy: Purchased from Kobo
I know I’ve probably said this before in other Books & Tea posts, but I’ve led a pretty happy, easy life. Family who love me. Solid middle-class upbringing. Good education. Relatively few hardships, except for the sudden death of my father as a teenager.
In other words, I got dealt a pretty good hand by fate. And that’s made me complacent. I’ve been the beneficiary of a political system designed to look after my interests by virtue of my being born white, straight, able-bodied and middle-class in Canada.
With the way things are going in the world, that kind of complacency is becoming increasingly dangerous. Which is why I decided to read Fascism: A Very Short Introduction by Kevin Passmore.
I keep on reading that the Trump administration is facist. But all my life, I’ve never really understood what that word meant — it always seemed like a shorthand for something bigger. I was hoping that Passmore’s book would help me get a grasp on what it actually means, and understand the expanded version of the shorthand explanation.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get as much out of this book as I hoped I would. The entire thesis can be summed up as this: fascism is so complex and took so many different forms in the first half of the 20th century that there is no simple, easy definition we can point to.
Very helpful, Mr. Passmore! A non-answer like that, throughout the entire book, was exactly what I needed in order to begin to come to grips with the times that we find ourselves living in right now. Knowing that this term is way too complex to pin down, even though everyone around me seems to have done so handily in the public discourse without your learned exposition to guide the way, makes me feel super well informed and prepared for the times ahead!
Before I let my bitterness go any further, I should say that part of my inability to appreciate this book stems from my general lack of knowledge about the politics and history of the early 20th century. Yes, I understand the big brushstrokes — WWI, WWII, the New Deal, etc — but the finer details of political movements are not something I’m familiar with. So all of the factions and regimes and betrayals and appeasements, the names and dates and locations, washed over me without leaving much impact.
I will say that I found the second half of the book, which deals with fascism’s intersection with social issues like race, class, and gender to be far more interesting and approachable than the earlier parts getting into the names and dates and details.
However, I think my problem is that I really wasn’t looking for an academic treatise when I bought Fascism: A Very Short Introduction. I wasn’t looking for a painstaking deconstruction of Weberian vs non-Weberian modes of thought.
I really just wanted a dictionary/instruction manual. What is fascism? What are its most common traits? How do fascists gain power? Most importantly, what can be done to fight it?
These are questions I’m still struggling to answer. I think I’ll have to find less academic sources of information to guide me.