Paxton has focused his work on exploring models and definition of fascism.
In his 1998 paper “The Five Stages of Fascism,” he suggests that fascism cannot be defined solely by its ideology, since fascism is a complex political phenomenon rather than a relatively coherent body of doctrine like communism or socialism. Instead, he focuses on fascism’s political context and functional development. The article identifies five paradigmatic stages of a fascist movement, although he notes that only Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy progressed through all five:
- Intellectual exploration, where disillusionment with popular democracy manifests itself in discussions of lost national vigor
- Rooting, where a fascist movement, aided by political deadlock and polarization, becomes a player on the national stage
- Arrival to power, where conservatives seeking to control rising leftist opposition invite the movement to share power
- Exercise of power, where the movement and its charismatic leader control the state in balance with state institutions such as the police and traditional elites such as the clergy and business magnates.
- Radicalization or entropy, where the state either becomes increasingly radical, as did Nazi Germany, or slips into traditional authoritarian rule, as did Fascist Italy.
In his 2004 book The Anatomy of Fascism, Paxton refines his five-stage model and puts forward the following definition for fascism:
Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic libertiesand pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.
Works by Paxton:
- Parades and Politics at Vichy (1966), Princeton University Press, ISBN 9780691051420.
- Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940-1944 (1972), Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 9780394473604.
- Vichy France and the Jews (1981), with Michael Marrus.
- “The Nazis and the Jews in Occupied Western Europe, 1940-1944” (1982), with Michael Marrus, The Journal of Modern History vol. 54, no. 4.
- French Peasant Fascism: Henry Dorgere’s Greenshirts and the Crises of French Agriculture, 1929-1939 (1997).
- “The Five Stages of Fascism” (1998), The Journal of Modern History vol. 70, no. 1.
- The Anatomy of Fascism (2004).
- “Vichy vs. the Nazis” (2008), The New York Review of Books.
Source: Robert Paxton – Wikipedia