Taking Asian Fascisms Seriously
Maggie Clinton. Revolutionary Nativism: Fascism and Culture in China, 1925–1937. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017. 280 pp. $25.95 (paper).
Reto Hofmann. The Fascist Effect: Japan and Italy, 1915–1952. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015. 224 pp. $35 (cloth).
Both Maggie Clinton and Reto Hofmann are clearly aware that writing about “fascism” means dealing with a topic whose relevance is not simply historical—tarring something, even in the seemingly defunct past, with the “f-word” always involves taking a political stance. Still, they probably did not imagine that their books would see the light at a time when “fascists,” either self-professed or identified by others as such, take to the streets of cities around the world with rekindled arrogance, and “fascism” unabashedly claims a place in the supposedly free “marketplace of ideas.” It was therefore difficult, at least for this reader, to approach these volumes without an eerie feeling, a ringing echo of sorts. But it would be a disservice to the work that Clinton and Hofmann have done to let ourselves be too reflexively swayed by what French historian Marc Bloch called “the virus of the present” and fall into simple analogies. The temptation, I must admit, is strong...