In modern political discourse, words like ‘fascist’ and ‘nazi’ are hurled at different groups with reckless abandon almost constantly in a process that has been described as ‘Nazinflation’ to the point where the word is vague and rarely describes anything concrete. Famous authors like George Orwell observed this phenomenon in the 1940s and wrote in his essay Politics and the English Language (1946):

“The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’. The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of régime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way”

Of course, following much of Orwell’s essential points in this essay about how political language and discourse is less about informing and more about persuasion, much like the ancient dichotomy between philosophy and mere sophistry. Fascist, then, or ‘nazi’ are used more as insults to polarize,demonize and cheaply discredit opponents and to avoid engaging them, or persuading your audience, with anything of substance.  Academia hasn’t reached anything approaching a consensus in locking down a definition either since the definition of fascism or nazism changes depending on who you read and whether or not they focus solely on the ideological aspects or the actually existing political system in fascist states, or states that are accused of being fascist. In this module, we aim to help you begin to untangle this discourse by looking at key aspects of historical fascist states and ideas, both in terms of ‘ideology’ as well as the actually-existing political system. Many people talk about, or define themselves by ‘fighting fascism’ or that fascism is a kind of ‘contagion’ to be eliminated, but how can one fight against something if there is no clear understanding of what that thing is? By the end of this module, you should be able to develop and justify a definition of fascism/nazism and then apply it to modern conditions to determine whether or not fascism/nazism continues to be a relevant ideological or political force.

Intended Learning Objectives:

  • For learners to familiarize themselves with key aspects of fascist ideas and political system
  • To engage in critical evaluation of fascist ideas in theory and practice
  • For learners to further develop their reading, researching, writing and analysis skills to a high level

By the end of this short course, learners should be able to engage intelligently in discourse on the topic of fascism in both historical and contemporary senses, develop a working definition of fascism and apply it in independent analysis and works.

This module is targeted for a Year 10 level and above. 

Challenge level: Moderate

Estimated time for completion: This course is fully self paced

Content Warning: This module may contain images and other content some may deem offensive. Such images are content are here for strictly educational purposes only.