This article considers four aspects for understanding the greatly over-used term ‘fascism’: its place in space and also in time, the basis of its social support, and its modus operandi. While agreement exists on where and when fascism reached its apogee, there is little concurrence of opinion over the extent to which the world wars were determinative in its birth and death, and how far beyond European boundaries it has ventured. There are also wide-ranging discussions concerning the identity and extent of its backers, with some writers pointing to the formative role of the lumpen body politic, or various class fractions, and others to that of an elite vanguard, or even individual alienation. A similar spectrum of opinion over the basis of fascism’s appeal extends from studies emphasizing, and elucidating, its ideational content to those that focus on the pragmatic value of action. Such a great diversity of analyses brings both considerable empirical richness and the challenge of fragmentation. This article responds by reflecting on fascism as both a social phenomenon and a field of study, in the hope of bringing some analytical structure to what remains a vast, and continuously developing, literature.