Fascism Comes to America
A Century of Obsession in Politics and Culture
Fascism Comes to America
A Century of Obsession in Politics and Culture
From the time Mussolini took power in Italy in 1922, Americans have been obsessed with and brooded over the meaning of fascism and how it might migrate to the United States. Fascism Comes to America examines how we have viewed fascism overseas and its implications for our own country. Bruce Kuklick explores the rhetoric of politicians, who have used the language of fascism to smear opponents, and he looks at the discussions of pundits, the analyses of academics, and the displays of fascism in popular culture, including fiction, radio, TV, theater, and film. Kuklick argues that fascism has little informational meaning in the United States, but instead, it is used to denigrate or insult. For example, every political position has been besmirched as fascist. As a result, the term does not describe a phenomenon so much as it denounces what one does not like. Finally, in displaying fascism for most Americans, entertainment—and most importantly film—has been crucial in conveying to citizens what fascism is about. Fascism Comes to America has been enhanced by many illustrations that exhibit how fascism was absorbed into the US public consciousness.
264 pages | 22 halftones, 1 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2022
History: American History
Political Science: American Government and Politics
"Popcorn doesn’t come with books published by respected university presses, but in the case of Fascism Comes to America, maybe it should. The book is as much about Hollywood as it is about a movement or ideology. Mr. Kuklick, an accomplished historian of ideas, turns his skills to Hollywood’s treatment of fascism. He explains why American entertainers, intellectuals, and others have so often resorted to the term 'fascism' to denounce things they don’t like: FDR’s New Deal, the Reagan Revolution and much else....Readers may need whiskey to accompany that popcorn when they come to Mr. Kuklick’s brief excursus on American government and the Founders’ 'agony' over democracy. He surmises that Americans’ obsession with fascism is the flip side of a collective inability to reckon with the calamitous gap between the Founders and contemporary America."
The Wall Street Journal
"Since the election of Donald Trump, a specter has haunted the United States—the specter of fascism. From The New York Times to The Atlantic, from CNN to The New York Review of Books, liberals and socialists alike have asked the same question: Is it happening here? Answers have run the gamut...Into this fray enters the intellectual historian Bruce Kuklick, whose Fascism Comes to America provides an entirely new perspective."
The New Republic
"If you were to ask me to name the five living American historians I read with the greatest interest, I would dither a bit, but Bruce Kuklick would certainly be among them. I admire him for his immense intellectual range...He combines intellectual curiosity with steely integrity, rare common sense, resistance to fads, withering scorn (when scorn is due), and mordant irony...I urge you to read Fascism Comes to America and make up your own mind."
"In Fascism Comes to America, historian Bruce Kuklick provides the newest analysis—a brief but reasonably comprehensive survey of the bewildering variety of ways in which the 'f-word' has been used in the United States during the past century....The author employs an impressively broad lens that goes beyond politics and what passes for theory to culture and entertainment. This produces a thoroughly engaging work that, more than any previous account, reveals the bewildering range of usage and conjecture associated with the term in the United States."
"The cumulative force of the evidence Kuklick brings to bear over the course of the text is undeniable."
"[The] incongruity between the utter absence of fascist regimes in the contemporary world and the pervasiveness of fascism in contemporary discourse is brought to light in Bruce Kuklick’s new book, Fascism Comes to America. In 200-odd pages, Kuklick deftly chronicles America’s preoccupation with fascism over the past 100-odd years."
Front Porch Republic
"In the eyes of different beholders, fascism has many variant meanings. A Stalinist might call anyone who disagreed with his ideology a fascist; a liberal-leaning reporter might call an ambitious, right-leaning politician a fascist; and countless observers might call Donald Trump a fascist. The concept of fascism, writes Kuklick, 'belongs in a category of what may be designated the ‘less than cognitive’ in that it does not so much refer to anything that exists as it accomplishes disapproval.'"
"[Fascism Comes to America] is a stimulating and even delightful book, filled with American political wackiness as it traces the use of 'fascist' as an insult (or, occasionally, term of praise) over the last hundred years. For those of us caught up in present-day political discourse, one of the book’s main virtues is its reminder that what may seem to us new departures in stupidity and craziness are actually par for the American course."
The Brooklyn Rail
"Fascism Comes to America comprehensively illustrates how fascism’s life as a concept across US journalism, academic discourse, and popular entertainment accrued meanings that cannot all hold together."
American Literary History
"Kuklick’s exploration of how critics of the Progressive movement, the New Deal, the architects of the Vietnam War, the New Right, and Donald Trump appropriated the label of fascism to brand their targets as disreputable or 'unclean' blends historical, political, and cultural analysis in an arresting fashion."
“Fascism as both an idea and a political reality in America is an important, even urgent, topic, and it has found the ideal author for its examination in Kuklick. He draws on an impressive variety of sources—from political theory, philosophy, novels, movies, the popular press, and more—to knit together a century-long history of American ideas about and images of fascism. This important book shows persuasively, and with considerable writerly flair, the specter and appeal of ‘fascism’ in American political thought and culture.”
Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, University of Wisconsin–Madison
“Briskly narrated and perfectly timed, Kuklick’s study examines a concept that has enjoyed a central, if disputed, place in American political and cultural discourse for exactly a century. Surveying academic analyses, journalistic jeremiads, popular novels, and Hollywood films from the 1920s to the present, Fascism Comes to America shows how people across the American political spectrum have employed the concept of fascism as a multivalent signifier to express their fears and fantasies about the country’s democratic well-being. This is a must-read for anyone seeking to make sense of present-day rightwing trends in the United States.”
Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, Fairfield University
“Fascism Comes to America is amazing for the range of sources it analyzes and for the effectiveness with which it mobilizes theories of politics, language, and culture. Epoch by epoch, decade by decade, international crisis by international crisis, domestic election by domestic election, Kuklick takes the reader through the last hundred years with a firm hand, showing how movies reflected contemporary politics at home and abroad without being directly caused by them."
David Hollinger, University of California-Berkeley
Table of Contents
Part I: 1909–49
1 Fascism before Fascism, 1909–35
2 Franklin Roosevelt and Political Culture, 1932–36
3 Perplexity at Home and Abroad, 1934–38
4 Foreign and Domestic Contradictions, 1938–40
5 The Coming of the War, 1939–42
6 Fascism Penetrates Popular Life, 1936–49
Part II: 1942–2020
7 Fascism on the Right, 1942–70
8 Europeans Bring Fascism to the States
9 Fascism Triumphs over Communism
10 Scholars Approach Fascism
11 Fascism Everywhere, 1970–2020
12 Democracy and Fascism
Conclusion: Fascism without Fascism
Notes, Sources, and Methods
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