This lecture seeks to draw out some of the implications of the new research agenda for fascist studies that Constantin Iordachi recently proposed in a special issue of the journal East Central Europe. Becoming less concerned with definition and classification, we can become more attentive to creative responses on the new nationalist Right in all parts of Europe during the era of the two world wars. And we can better appreciate the importance of the web of interaction among those responses. While considering some obstacles to the sort of transnational history at issue, this lecture seeks to show how we might make better sense of the fluidity, uncertainty, and open-endedness of that web of interaction. Above all, it seeks to show how the long controversial "totalitarianism" category, though it might seem especially problematic in light of Iordachi's concerns, can be conceived more flexibly to serve the new agenda. The meaning and desirability of "totalitarianism" was centrally at issue in the interaction at the time, but the category was deeply uncertain and contested. So we must be prepared for fluidity, disparity, and blurred lines as we consider how "totalitarianism" was understood then—and probe its potential uses as an analytical category today.
David D. Roberts is Albert Berry Saye Professor of History, Emeritus, at the University of Georgia (U.S.A.). After taking his B.A. at Stanford University in 1965, he received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1971. He taught at the Universities of Virginia and Rochester before joining the faculty at Georgia in 1988. He served as president of the Society for Italian Historical studies from 2001 to 2003. Among his recent publications are The Totalitarian Experiment in Twentieth-Century Europe (2005), Historicism and Fascism in Modern Italy (2007); "'Political Religion' and the Totalitarian Departures of Interwar Europe," Contemporary European History (November 2009); and "Reconsidering Gramsci's Interpretation of Fascism," Journal of Modern Italian Studies (March 2011). Together with Roger Griffin, he guest co-edited "‘The Fascist Revolution’: Utopia or Façade? Reconciling Marxist and Non-Marxist Approaches," a special issue of European Journal of Political Theory (October 2012).