HS 335 - Italian Fascism: the First Totalitarian Political Religion

The course is an introduction to the history of Italian Fascism with particular emphasis on the sacralisation of politics. Under Fascism, the political arena became permeated with myths, rites, and symbols of a secular religion, imbued with fundamental values, and intended to mould the moral consciousness and meaning of the existence for all Italians. This was not a completely new concept. Since the American and French Revolutions, politics has often taken on the features of religion, claiming as its own the prerogative of defining the fundamental purpose and meaning of human life, asking faith, loyalty and reverence for secular political entities as the nation, building its temples, lamenting its martyrs. With Italian Fascism, however, the civic religion of the country (a religion open to every citizen) transformed itself into the intolerant, exclusive cult of the symbol of a single party, of its values, of its commandments, of its chief. In this way, Italian Fascism opened the way to many modern totalitarian political religions of the 20th Century, from Nazism, to Stalinism, from Europe to Asia.

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