In her examination of the culture of Italian fascism, Mabel
Berezin focuses on how Mussolini's regime consciously constructed a
nonliberal public sphere to support its political aims. Fascism
stresses form over content, she believes, and the regime tried to
build its political support through the careful construction and
manipulation of public spectacles or rituals such as parades,
commemoration ceremonies, and holiday festivities.
The fascists believed they could rely on the motivating power of
spectacle, and experiential symbols. In contrast with the liberal
democratic notion of separable public and private selves, Italian
fascism attempted to merge the public and private selves in
political spectacles, creating communities of feeling in public
piazzas. Such communities were only temporary, Berezin explains,
and fascist identity was only formed to the extent that it could be
articulated in a language of pre-existing cultural identities.
In the Italian case, those identities meant the popular culture
of Roman Catholicism and the cult of motherhood. Berezin
hypothesizes that at particular historical moments certain social
groups which perceive the division of public and private self as
untenable on cultural grounds will gain political ascendance. Her
hypothesis opens a new perspective on how fascism works.
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