Fascism: History, Ideology, and Influence

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  • 0:02 Fascism Defined
  • 3:58 History
  • 4:55 Influence
  • 5:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
Fascism is a political ideology that literally wreaked havoc across the globe in the first part of the 20th century. In this lesson, you'll learn about what fascism is, its history and its influence. A short quiz follows.

Fascism Defined

Fascism is arguably one of the most dangerous political ideologies. Let's see why.

Fascism is a political ideology that developed after World War I in Italy and Germany. Fascism is characterized by strong nationalism, an extreme level of authoritarianism, corporatism, militarization and hostility towards both liberalism and Marxism. Let's break this definition down into its component parts to get a better handle on fascism.

Fascism involves a high degree of nationalism, which is a strong feeling of patriotism to your state and its people. In fact, the nationalism of fascism is so strong that it often involves feelings of national and racial superiority over others. The darkest example of this is the Jewish Holocaust brought about by Nazi fascism during World War II.

Fascist governments employ an extreme form of authoritarianism. Authoritarian governments have power concentrated in one small group of people or even one person. Citizens often are not permitted to form opposition parties, and free elections are often not held. Propaganda and secret policy are tools of state. Authoritarian leaders usually are not subject to the rule of law - the laws don't apply to them. Perhaps no historical figure depicted 20th century authoritarianism better than Benito Mussolini, the leader of Italy from 1925-1943, who was known as 'Il Duce' - 'The Leader.'

Fascism is also characterized by militarism, where military institutions and military force have a heavy influence in society. Militarism can be characterized by four factors. First, it involves the participation of military officers in the civilian government. Second, the state focuses on a foreign policy predicated on a strong military and projection of power. Third, military values and norms are persuasive within the society's culture. Finally, there is a focus on war preparation in cultural, political and economic institutions.

Corporatism is also a part of the fascist state. Corporatism occurs when a government brings certain privileged business, labor and social groups into the government to directly participate in the formulation and implementation of policy. Note that this is different from communism, as the state does not own the industries or control the labor. In fact, corporatism often promotes capitalism but directs it towards state objectives. It's also different than American-style pluralism, where interest groups try to influence government through lobbying. Instead, the interest groups participate directly in the policy-making process.

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