In This Review

By Michael Mann
Cambridge University Press, 2004, 440 pp

This has been a good year for students of fascism. Soon after the release Robert Paxton's excellent study of fascism's historical development comes Mann's sociological analysis of six European countries where fascism-defined here as "the pursuit of a transcendent and cleansing nation-statism through paramilitarism"-became dominant: Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, and Spain. There are no radically new vistas in this book, but it is an eminently satisfying and absorbing account by a powerful and erudite mind, with Mann's exceptional analytical and theoretical skills on full display. Although Mann is critical of class and economic development theories, he addresses the influence of class and interest conflicts, as well the identity of the Fascists, the weakness of their opponents, and the impact of World War I and the Great Depression. Unfortunately, he considers no counterexample such as France, where fascism existed but did not prevail. With regard to a possible revival, Mann dismisses the notion of "Islamic fascism," which lacks the key ingredients of nationalism and a strong state. He contends that the various elements that give rise to fascism are "almost never found together" and are unlikely to occur soon-unless, that is, the United States and its allies continue "besmirching the attractions of mild and democratic nation-statism through their capitalist exploitation, American military imperialism, and widening north-south inequalities."