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How Fascism Works

The Politics of Us and Them
Written by: Jason Stanley
Narrated by: MacLeod Andrews
Length: 5 hrs and 44 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"A vital read for a nation under Trump." (The Guardian)

“No single book is as relevant to the present moment.” (Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen)

New York Times Book Review editors’ choice

Fascist politics are running rampant in America today - and spreading around the world. A Yale philosopher identifies the 10 pillars of fascist politics, and charts their horrifying rise and deep history.

As the child of refugees of World War II Europe and a renowned philosopher and scholar of propaganda, Jason Stanley has a deep understanding of how democratic societies can be vulnerable to fascism: Nations don’t have to be fascist to suffer from fascist politics. In fact, fascism’s roots have been present in the United States for more than a century.

Alarmed by the pervasive rise of fascist tactics both at home and around the globe, Stanley focuses here on the structures that unite them, laying out and analyzing the ten pillars of fascist politics - the language and beliefs that separate people into an “us” and a “them”. He knits together reflections on history, philosophy, sociology, and critical race theory with stories from contemporary Hungary, Poland, India, Myanmar, and the United States, among other nations. 

He makes clear the immense danger of underestimating the cumulative power of these tactics, which include exploiting a mythic version of a nation’s past; propaganda that twists the language of democratic ideals against themselves; anti-intellectualism directed against universities and experts; law and order politics predicated on the assumption that members of minority groups are criminals; and fierce attacks on labor groups and welfare. These mechanisms all build on one another, creating and reinforcing divisions and shaping a society vulnerable to the appeals of authoritarian leadership.

By uncovering disturbing patterns that are as prevalent today as ever, Stanley reveals that the stuff of politics - charged by rhetoric and myth - can quickly become policy and reality. Only by recognizing fascists politics, he argues, may we resist its most harmful effects and return to democratic ideals.

"With unsettling insight and disturbing clarity, How Fascism Works is an essential guidebook to our current national dilemma of democracy vs. authoritarianism." (William Jelani Cobb, author of The Substance of Hope

©2018 Jason Stanley (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Jason Stanley reveals how the liberties of the people wither when voters embrace politicians who promote the divisive politics of us versus them while denigrating cooperation, compromise, and respect for others. How Fascism Works builds on philosopher Stanley’s insightful How Propaganda Works to explain in concise and easily understood terms how people get tricked into reversing the expanding rights that made America great.” (David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of It’s Even Worse Than You Think and The Making of Donald Trump

“An endless question about history - does it repeat itself? The Allies triumphed over fascism nearly seventy-five years ago. But is it on the rise again? The national populism of Trump and Bannon; Brexit; Orban and the rise of the Hungarian right; the Italian five-star movement; Erdoğan - Jason Stanley has in this extraordinary book tried to answer these questions. For those in denial or in doubt, Stanley’s book provides overwhelming evidence that fascism is alive, well, and on the rise. It’s a clarion call to wake up, pay attention, and do something. No one has any doubt that fascism works; the question remains: How do we stop it? Stanley tells us that fascism is not a plan on how to govern but a plan on how to seize control. This is an important and essential book.” (Errol Morris, filmmaker and author of The Ashtray

“There are moments in which the fate of humanity itself hangs in the balance, and such times always bring with them the resurrection of ugly myths. And yet, as Jason Stanley, one of this nation’s most important philosophers, makes clear, when such myths are deconstructed and their history is laid bare, we remember the extraordinary ties that in fact bind us together. And in the fire of that powerful recollection, modern-day fascism - the current myth-dependent moment of intolerance, xenophobia, and fearmongering in which we find ourselves - can be rendered to ash.” (Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Blood in the Water

What members say

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  • Chip Auger
  • 30-10-18

A Warning Too Clear to Ignore

Setting aside Dr. Stanley’s far-left-of-me political history and the fact that he studied at MIT in the same department where Noam Chomsky teaches, this short work is a clear, concise, and a relatively non-polemic look at what fascism is and its current rise in the world: Poland, Brazil Norway, North Korea, Italy the US, etc. Many of us who came of age in the shadow WWII long believed that our parents and grandparents had defeated fascism once and for all in the 1940’s. Apparently, we were quite mistaken.
In just ten chapters Dr. Stanley explains how fascism takes hold. We stood in wonder and confusion when we looked at what the fascist did in the twentieth century. We asked how the good people of these countries could have committed these atrocities. He lays out the template used by the fascists to gain and then solidify power: focus on community decline, focus on loss of status – both personal and national, the rise of victimhood culture, relief sought from violent extremist organizations stressing some form of a more pure citizenship, nationalistic militancy, co-opting tradition power structures, creation of emergent scenarios requiring the suspension liberal democratic liberties and constitutional guarantees, and cleansing of scapegoat classes and non-aligned political groups, and of course gas-lighting with continual Big Lie.
The Polish journalist, Anne Applebaum, just published an interesting long-form piece in the October 2018 edition of “The Atlantic” corroborating many of Dr.’s Stanley’s claims concerning the current re-emergence of fascism in Europe. Reading Stanley’s book and Applebaum’s piece should give any lover of liberal democratic liberty pause.

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  • Scott
  • 14-09-18

Accessible, penetrating & critically important.

A concise yet penetrating and encompassing exploration of 10 critical dimensions of fascism through history - and how specifically they are on our doorstep (& in our lives) today. This is an extremely well organized, accessible and enlightening book - critical for all Americans. Would that these insights had been available in 1932. We shouldn’t overlook or discount them now.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Jean
  • 18-02-20

A Must Read

The author is the son of immigrants who fled Nazi Germany. He states that he is troubled that fascist politics is on the rise throughout the world again.

The book is well written and researched. Stanley analyzes the many strategies that fascist regimes employ: publicizing the idea of a mythic past, use of propaganda and conspiracy theories, anti-intellectualism, the replacement of reasoned debate with fear and anger, casting doubt on media, denial of equality, white male superiority, culture of victimhood, perpetuation of the Us and Them based on ethnic, religious and racial identities just to list a few the author discusses.
I felt the main message of the book was about his worry of complacency. He states his grandmother’s generation refused to acknowledge the Nazi threat until it was too late. He states that today the “normalization of extreme policies” poses an urgent challenge. Stanley is calling on democracies to resist the insidious encroachment of fascism.

The book is five hours and forty-four minutes. MacLeod Andrews does a good job narrating the book. Andrews is an actor and audiobook narrator. He has won the Audie Award for “Steelheart” and numerous EarPhone Awards.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ahmed Ebrahim
  • 31-12-19

Critically important

This is a critically important book. The ongoing “Normalization” process is the tool of modern time Fascism.

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  • Ben
  • 10-12-19

a must read in today's troubled times

I thought going in that I would already know and agree with much of what this author had to say but he surprised me. I'll leave you to discover the content yourself. What I'll say here is that this book is short, easy, and extremely relevant. you should read it. as simple as that.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 19-10-19

the reality of the times we live in <br />

i saw the book on " the damage report." John introduced it so well. it related to an essay on the first amendment and the c street fellowship. thanks exelent representing of the facts

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  • Greg Isaacs
  • 25-09-19

great book

I really liked this book. I felt it had a lot of light bulb moments that I thought were really interesting. a lot of stereotypes and bigotry can be traced back to Hitler.

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  • Jacob
  • 23-09-19

Knolegebel with excellent daily sample

Good narataied, and explained for political fascism. great experience and learning, recommend for all people

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  • Lee
  • 22-08-19

Just What It Is

The comparisons with various countries as they move into fascism helps a lot to see what's happening in the world and in our own country. The US is not the only country heading into trouble claiming those not like "us" are therefore enemies. Forcing "them" into dehumanizing situations should awaken each of us to the dangers we face ourselves unless we join the in-group. Having spent much time studying the 1920s, 30s and 40s, I had already recognized much of what is happening now. We still have some who are willing to fight for the rights of ALL, including ourselves. We have to actively work to maintain our democracy.

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  • Tom
  • 24-10-18

Scary Portrait of the Dangers of the Fascist State

Stanley makes a powerful argument against Fascism and the parallels with Trump’s America. He constructs the character of the Fascist State based on its foundational pillars:

1. Evocation of the Mythical Past
2. Propaganda
3. Anti-Intellectualism
4. Unreality
5. Hierarchy
6. Victimhood
7. Law & Order
8. Sexual Anxiety
9. Cosmopolitan City vs Heartland
10. Hard-Working Chosen Nation vs Parasites

The Fascist State uses Propaganda and Lies to create an unreal World of Us vs Them, of Real Americans (White Hard-Working Heartlanders) vs the Others (Urban Blacks, Rapists, Immigrants, Homosexuals, Feminists, et al) to protect the Poor Victims (Us) from the constant elitist attacks of Them (Globalist Citydwellers) and Make America Great Again.

Sound familiar.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-09-19

Read this to have insight into modern politics

Regardless of your political leanings, this is a must read to appreciate the manners in which Fascism manipulates your perception of history, reality, and the future.

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  • ROSS JENKIN
  • 15-08-19

listened to twice

informative and useful, easy chapters dealing each with separate elements of fascist politics.
using modern and historical examples.

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  • phphoto
  • 04-07-19

Read them now.

We'll worth a read/listen. It has a lot to say about politics in the modern era which allowed for a deeper understanding of subject matter.

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  • Neal Romanek
  • 18-10-18

Essential Reading

A thorough description of what the transition taking place all around the world right now. An essential addition to your freedom fighter’s toolkit.

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  • Warwick Frederikson
  • 14-01-20

Avoid<br />

This book has nothing to do with how socialism work from an academic view. It is some kind of propaganda and anti Trump driven view. If you want a real book on socialism avoid this one. Ripped off.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-04-19

A good, basic introduction to fascist politics

A decent general overview, however the author sweeps the 'Coddling of the American Mind' occuring at US universities under the rug, and implies anyone concerned with this problem is engaging in fascist discourse. Read Johnathan Haidt's aforementioned book. He also makes a hilariously bad and disingenuous critique of Steven Pinker's work, which frankly, the author should be ashamed of. For a more serious look at fascism, see Roger Griffin's work, or the recent book by Madeline Albright.