Making the Fascist Self: The Political Culture of Interwar Italy

Making the Fascist Self: The Political Culture of Interwar Italy

by Mabel Berezin


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In her examination of the culture of Italian fascism, Mabel Berezin focuses on how Mussolini's regime consciously constructed a nonliberal public sphere to support its political aims. Fascism stresses form over content, she believes, and the regime tried to build its political support through the careful construction and manipulation of public spectacles or rituals such as parades, commemoration ceremonies, and holiday festivities. The fascists believed they could rely on the motivating power of spectacle, and experiential symbols.

In contrast with the liberal democratic notion of separable public and private selves, Italian fascism attempted to merge the public and private selves in political spectacles, creating communities of feeling in public piazzas. Such communities were only temporary, Berezin explains, and fascist identity was only formed to the extent that it could be articulated in a language of pre-existing cultural identities. In the Italian case, those identities meant the popular culture of Roman Catholicism and the cult of motherhood.

Berezin hypothesizes that at particular historical moments certain social groups which perceive the division of public and private self as untenable on cultural grounds will gain political ascendance. Her hypothesis opens a new perspective on how fascism works.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801484209
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 07/10/1997
Series: The Wilder House Series in Politics, History and Culture
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 1,014,116
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.66(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Mabel Berezin teaches Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

What People are Saying About This

Lynn Hunt

"This is a deeply researched, elegantly argued book that makes an important contribution both to the study of fascism and to theories of political mobilization more generally.... It is the best study we have for making sense of how fascism worked as politics and as cultural politics in inter-war Italy."

Craig Calhoun

"Making the Fascist Self is an exciting contribution to historical sociology and the politics of culture. Mabel Berezin sheds new light on Italian fascism, on the relationship of personal identity to political commitment, and on the ideological mobilization of memory."

Charles S. Maier

"Mabel Berezin draws on extensive historical knowledge and familiarity with social theory to claim the critical importance of fascist ritual. Ritual in the broadest sense, she argues, was constructed to serve as the core of the fascist experience—displacing the church, claiming the town center, fusing the private self with the public cause. Berezin explains to what degree the fascist project worked, and why contemporary xenophobic movements can still draw upon its mystique."

David Kertzer

"The focus on Fascist spectacle is intrinsically interesting, and Mabel Berezin's cultural analysis reflects cutting-edge developments in cultural sociology."

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