Is it possible, or desirable, to attempt to formulate a “generic” theory of the fascist phenomenon?
When prompted to define the nominal concept of his essay, the “Temporary Autonomous Zone” (TAZ), Hakim Bey deflected the responsibility by saying “I [merely] circle around the subject, firing off exploratory beams.”1 Although this tactic might be as much of an admission of scholarly negligence as an explanation, it leads to an interesting conclusion about political taxonomy. Bey questions whether it is the duty of the writer to fit an irrational or anti-rational concept into a rigid rubric. While I take his point, I also feel that the study of fascism demands at least a flexible definition to work of off, regardless of whether or not it should need to be cast of in the end. The definition I would offer then is that fascism is a dynamic national-populist movement. Fascist followed a trajectory from left to right. Initially, it was formulated in France and Italy as a modern, socialist, and nationalist theory on the left that the Italian Fascist program attests to. Eventually, the movement served conservative middle class interests, shifting to the right. Stanley Payne identifies this trend as the differentiation between fascist movements and regimes. The establishment of a fascist regime required the cooperation of the middle class that fascism that never developed beyond the movement form was free to espouse more social revolutionary theories.