Stanley G. Payne: describe and analyze to compare

von macchiato

The most useful device for venturing into a subject as difficult to circumscribe as generic fascism, is probably Stanley G. Payne’s effort to typologically describe it (see last post on this blog). Professor Emeritus at the History Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison is not only considered to be one of the world’s leading experts in modern Spanish history („Fascism in Spain 1923-1977 and recently „Spain, a Unique Historyare just two of his many books). He is also the first historian of inter-war fascism who, after analyzing more than 18 countries, has come up with an inventory of what dozens of reputedly fascist movements had in common (and what not), i.e. an analytical device for comparative purposes, and useful interpretations of a phenomenon as varied and a term as vague as fascism.

When Stanley Payne published his first book on the subject, „Fascism. Comparison and Definition (Madison) back in 1980, this was already welcomed by the „American Historical Review“ as „an impressive review of reputed fascist movements, at once setting them apart from other authoritarian nationalist organizations and bringing them together within a qualified generic category. plus a careful critique of major debates that divide scholars on this most unintelligible ‚ism‘ of them all.

Fifteen years later he wrote „History of Fascism 1914-45″(UCL Press, 1995). This has become a standard work in fascist studies, is widely quoted (i.a. in this blog’s last post of 11th July: „Towards a definition of generic fascism„), and -according to the New York Times Book Review- likely to be the definitive study of its subject for a considerable time„.

Perhaps revealingly though, quite a number of years had to pass by before this reference book for comparisons was translated into German („Geschichte des Faschismus, Aufstieg und Fall einer europäischen Bewegung“, Propyläen Verlag, München 2001), and even much longer before it was made available to Italian-speaking readers („Il fascismo. Origini, storia e declino delle dittature che si sono imposte tra le due guerre„, Universale Storica Newton, Newton Compton, 2010).

This is one of the reasons why this blog will continue to quote Stanley G Payne, perhaps not only in English but in Italian and/or German language as well – another reason being that this Texas-born historian lives far away enough from the original sites of this blog’s theme: so every additional non-continental overview adds to ours, helping us to get the bigger picture.

N.B. Other fascism-related books include „Civil War in Europe, 1905-1949 (Cambridge University Press, 2011) by the same author, and The Sacred in Twentieth-Century Politics: Essays in Honour of Professor Stanley G.Payne (Palgrave, 2008).