Reactions from USA and Israel

von macchiato

Leonard Weinberg,University of Nevada:


Griffin is engaged in the practice of ‚conceptual stretching‘ or conceptual straining. By seeking to make fascism travel in both time and place, the danger is like that of many political concepts subject to the same excursions i.e. amorphousness or vagueness. An observation by Giovanni Sartori about concept misformation in comparative politics seems applicable here:“even though we need universals, they must be empirical universals, that is, categories which are somehow amenable, in spite of their…very abstract nature, to empirical testing. Instead we seem to verge on the edge of philosophical universals, understood -as Croce defines them- as concepts which are by definition supra-empirical. For Sartori then, the danger involved in stretching a concept such as ‚fascism‘ well beyond its original place (i.e. Italy) and time (i.e. inter-war Europe) is the loss of precision and, consequently, the ability to empirically evaluate what concrete phenomena conform to the definition. (…)

The cost of achieving a ’new consensus‘ among Anglophone scholars has required Griffin and others to ascend the ladder of abstraction to a point where the concept of ‚fascism‘ has become so wide in scope and abstract in expression that it captures too much to achieve empirical meaning. If ‚fascism‘ is an ideology „whose …mythic core is a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism…“ then where does it stop? Sure many of the successor states of the old Soviet Union and the ex-Yugoslavia should abound with fascist movements and parties. (…)

One consequence of stretching ‚fascism‘ and thereby making its meaning progressively vaguer is that it leads to the same kind of promiscuity of usage that has characterized the use of the term as an epithet, a form of name-calling, in popular political discourse. (…)

At this point, another observation by Sartori seems appropriate:“Stones and rabbits cannot be compared. (…) We obtain comparability when two or more items appear ’similar enough‘, that is neither identical nor utterly different…In this perspective to compare is ‚to assimilate‘, i.e. to discover deeper or fundamental similarities below the surface of secondary diversities.

The dispute between Griffin and those German scholars who insist on the uniqueness of National Socialism appears to revolve around the claim of comparability. Griffin’s claim, as I understand it, is to have discovered „deeper or fundamental similarities below the surface of secondary diversities„, while the German scholars assert the diversities are not secondary but primary and, as a consequence, make Nazism incomparable or non-fascist. (…)

Is there a way out, one which would satisfy all or most parties to the dispute? Probably not. (…) A

t present thediscussion about ‚the nature of fascism‘ seems much like the poet Robert Frost’s observation about free verse – it is like playing tennis without a net.



Stanley Payne, University of Wisconsin-Madison:


Even within the limited consensus, however, there is no precise agreement about an exact definition or precise parsimonious description of generic fascism. Griffin’s own definition has the elegance of parsimony, but suffers from the defect that it is possible to find „palingenetic forms of populist ultra-nationalism“ which many proponents of the generic fascist approach would not recognize as fascist, such as in the cases of various Latin American, Middle Eastern or African palingenetic and populist ultra-nationalisms. (…)

Nearly all „ultra-nationalisms“ are „palingenetic“ and „populist“. Under this definition, nearly all of them become ipso facto fascist. (…) Most radical and revolutionary groups are palingenetic in one sense of another, and many are populist. (…)

Political formations that become candidates for a concept of neofascism can only be included in an historical generic concept at the cost of unacceptable conflation and dilution. Ideal types are useless without certain boundaries.



Alexander De Grand, North Carolina State University:


(relies much less on ideology:) I do not want to diminish the importance of ideology and of intellectuals who rallied to fascism, but they have to be seen in a proper relationship to what was really going on.

Griffin abandons long lists of attributes that many historians include in any definition (leader principle, single party, control of information, imperialism).

Some reservations:

First, the nature of the palingenetic myth needs to be defined more clearly. (…)

Second, by reducing the consensus to a relatively vague myth of national rebirth, the new „fascist minimum“ becomes a bit too minimal.

fascism offered a compelling myth of unity more than it did of national rebirth

I believe that all the various fascist movements and their related myths have a powerful element of exclusion from the political community that outweighs any talk of a „new type of humanity“. Exclusion of enemies(…) Fascism and nazism as ideologies were fundamentally programs of exclusion of those who threatened unity of the nation or race.

In both the Nazi and the Fascist versions unwanted elements were subjected to varying degrees of violence. Although the Fascists never went to the extremes of the Nazi indiscriminate violence in Europe, they had no inhibitions in Africa where they used mass extermination and cultural obliteration.



David D. Roberts,University of Georgia:


At issue, most basically, is the sense in which fascism is/was an ongoing possibility, presumably based on some ahistorical psychological propensity, and the sense in which it was historically specific, whether as a uniquely „modern“ possibility or as a still more delimited „epochal“ phenomenon (…).

Griffin’s concern with the new right tends to make his framework at once too unspecific and too restrictive. On the one hand, he stretches and thereby thins his definition and thus insists on the contingency of aspects of interwar fascism long taken as definitional. (…) In Griffin’s current characterization, however, a sense of contemporary decadence conflates with dislike of the mainstream order, and palingenesis conflates with any desire for systematic renewal. (…) Yet, on the other hand, even as he thins his ideal type, Griffin freights it with more a priori content. Racism, etthnocentrism, and xenophobia become more central to the underlying fascist core.

Indeed, despite his protestations to the contrary, Griffin tends, ever so subtly, to reify the categories in the ideal type, which produces a tendency towards question-begging circularity overall and at least a relative essentialism in approaching historic fascism. (…)

But a deeper alternative is necessary and possible in a world that, I suggest, is more radically historical than Griffin allows– and thus less susceptible to understanding through Weberian ideal types.(…)

I contend that „travesty“ is essential to fascism, precisely because fascism, as more an event than a thing, cannot be characterized apart from the action itself, the often out-of-control dynamic let loose.(…)

Fascism was about a certain sense of the scope for the concentration of power for new collective action, and it became what it did because it had concentrated and used power as it did.



Mario Sznajder,The Hebrew University of Jerusalem:


I agree that through the use of serious comparative politics methodology it is possible to include Nazism within a more general category of Fascism. (…)

It is true that Nazism without biological racism would not exist, but Fascism itself contains the confrontational categories that make the criteria of inclusion and exclusion central to its vision and serve as the basis for its very discriminatory and violent ways.

There is no doubt that Fascism is a political ideology (…) The primacy of political power over economic, social and cultural considerations is salient. The warlike character of Fascism and the values associated with it are a main ingredient of its brand of extreme nationalism. (…)

The problems in Griffin’s definition are located in the second, and central, part where he deals with the contents -or mythic core- of this ideology. Are all the permutations of Fascism „a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism?“ Does this definition contain the „ineliminable attributes“ of every type of Fascism? Is this definition encompassing enough without falling into the realm of the vague, or the difficult to pinpoint? If Fascism is perceived as the first political ideology born after the impact of the industrial revolution and secularization on Europe, then the answer is no.



Jeffrey M. Bale, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey:


I completely share Griffin’s view that only an accurate understanding of what constitutes the „fascist minimum“ can enable us to to recognize and properly assess the potential significance of its diverse manidestations since 1945, but as a convinced „Sternhellian“ I cannot entirely agree with Griffin that fascism is „a political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultranationalism.“ This definition is not su much incorrect as it is incomplete. If one views original fascism as the ideological result of attempts by dissident elements within the fin-de-siècle European intelligentsia to conjoin particular currents of right- and left-wing thought, specifically a radical, romantic, populist, and authoritarian current of nationalism with virulent anti-bourgeois and anti-democratic sentiments, (…) with a revolutionary, voluntarist, elitist and mythopoetic current of socialism with strong anti-rationalist and anti-materialistic sentiments, then one can hardly be satisfied with Griffin’s exclusive focus on the nationalist component within this potent but volatile ideological brew.




(Source: EWE, Erwägen Wissen Ethik – Deliberation Knowledge Ethics, vormals „Ethik und Sozialwissenschaften“ EuS, Streitforum für Erwägungskultur, herausgegeben von Frank Benseler, Bettina Blanck, Reinhard Keil-Slawik, Werner Loh, Jg.15/2004, Heft 3, Lucius & Lucius Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart 2004)

(Source: EWE,Erwägen Wissen Ethik – Deliberation Knowledge Ethics,vormals „Ethik und Sozialwissenschaften“ EuS, Streitforum für Erwägungskultur, herausgegeben von Frank Benseler, Bettina Blanck, Reinhard Keil-Slawik, Werner Loh, Jg.15/2004, Heft 3, Lucius & Lucius Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart 2004)