Liberalism, Fascism, or Social Democracy: Social Classes and the Political Origins of Regimes in Interwar Europe
This work provides a sweeping historical analysis of the political development of Western Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Arguing that the evolution of most Western European nations into liberal democracies, social democracies, or fascist regimes was attributable to a discrete set of social class alliances, the author explores the origins and outcomes of the political development in the individual nations. In Britain, France, and Switzerland, countries with a unified middle class, liberal forces established political hegemony before World War I. By coopting considerable sections of the working class with reforms that weakened union movements, liberals essentially excluded the fragmented working class from the political process, remaining in power throughout the inter-war period. In countries with a strong, cohesive working class and a fractured middle class, Luebbert points out, a liberal solution was impossible. In Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Czechoslovakia, political coalitions of social democrats and the "family peasantry" emerged as a result of the First World War, leading to social democratic governments. In Italy, Spain, and Germany, on the other hand, the urban middle class united with a peasantry hostile to socialism to facilitate the rise of fascism.
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