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Ideological and Praxeological Definitions: Roger Griffin’s and Sven Reichardt’s Approaches to Fascism

For this study of Lithuanian and Austrian interwar dictatorship two concepts of fascism will be applied – that of Roger Griffin and that of Sven Reichardt.
Griffin believes to get a grip of the fascist phenomenon by defining what he calls a ‘fascist minimum’. One of his most prominent formulations is the following:
Fascism is a political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism.”

Griffin’s approach has been criticized harshly. Also to my mind there are problematic aspects to it. Griffin’s definition reduces the militant and paramilitary aspect of fascism, its inherent cult of activity, dynamic, of physical violence as well as its radical anti-marxism to secondary and eliminable elements. Yet, the stress laid on palingenetic nationalism (the strife for national rebirth) has great and undoubtable heuristic value. This central ideological element of fascism in fact provided fascist movements with constant inner dynamic and in its radicality lead to readiness to use violence as means of achieving national rebirth.

In a way Sven Reichardt’s approachto fascism can be used complementary to Griffin’s definition. Seeing cult of action and violence as well as its violent anti-marxism as central elements of fascism Reichardt published most valuable empirical works on Italian squadrism and the German SA:
For the here-treated paramilitary formations [squadristi and SA] action first of all means violent action. Thus a central feature of fascism comes into view. Both the origin and the end of European fascism were characterized by violence.”

Reichardt also points out the ideological importance of “national rebirth” which in the concept of “palingenesis” is central in Griffin’s analysis of fascism. Reichardt links this palingenesis with the otherwise often stressed “anti-positions” of fascism.

With these two definitional elements – palingenetic nationalism in Griffin’s terms and cult of action and violence as displayed by Reichardt – I want to attempt the analysis of the role of fascist ideas in the political crises of the dictatorial regimes of Lithuania and Austria in the interwar period.

Johannes Thaler

Initiativkolleg "Europäische historische Diktatur - und Transformationsforschung"
Universität Wien

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