The origins of fascism remain a major concern to social scientists. Because fascism emerged in societies seeking transitions to democracy, a better understanding of these failed attempts at democratic transitions improves our understanding of both democracy's possibilities and the strengths and weakness of democratic theory. Indeed, theoretical arguments employed to explain fascism have their analogues in theories of democracy. Three arguments have been advanced to explain both democracy and fascism: class, civil society, and rational choice. This research examines the rise of fascism in Italy, 1919–21. The evidence contradicts the class theory of fascism and offers mixed evidence for the civil society theory, while supporting the rational choice theory. Fascism will always be a minority movement. It cannot move beyond the cities.
Mussolini (1919)This paper is developed from research sponsored by the National Science Foundation under Grant SBR-94-2281. The Foundation's support is gratefully acknowledged. The Istituto Cattaneo of Bologna, the Dipartimento di Politica, Istituzioni, Storia of the University of Bologna, the Ministero dell'Intero, and the Istituto Nazionale di Statistica in Rome also provided invaluable assistance. Preliminary findings of this research were presented at the Organization and State Building Workshop, University of Chicago, May 11, 1998, and the Workshop on Political Processes and Spatial Analysis, Florida International University, March 5–6, 2001. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the European Consortium for Political Research Workshops in Torino, Italy, March 22–28, 2002. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation, the Istituto, the Dipartimento, or the Ministero. Particular thanks are extended to Professor William Brustein of the University of Pittsburgh for his comments on early drafts and for sharing his data. Additional gratitude is extended to Professors Paolo Pombeni and M. Serena Piretti of the Dipartimento di Politica, Istituzioni, Storia of the University of Bologna, to Professors John Grove and Rob Preuhs of the University of Denver, and to Gary King of Harvard University for comments on an early version.