Skip to main content

Black History Month: Select Books 30% Off

Harvard University Press - home
The Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy

The Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy

Emilio Gentile

Translated by Keith Botsford

ISBN 9780674784758

Publication date: 09/01/1996

Fascism was the first and prime instance of a modern political religion. Rereading signs, symbols, cults, and myths, Italy's leading scholar of Fascism offers a new history of Italian nationalism as a civic religion, albeit in its extreme form, and of Italian Fascism as a vital catalyst for contemporary mass politics. Emilio Gentile decodes Italy culturally, going beyond political and social dimensions that explain Italy's Fascist past in terms of class, or the cynicism of its leaders, or modernizing and expansionist ambitions.

By looking back at the Risorgimento's civic and moral renewal of the Italians as a free people educated in the faith and worship of a "national religion," at the jarring countereffects of the secularized nation-state not trusting mass political mobilization, and at Fascism's retrieval of history from Rome, the French Revolution, and Romanticism, Gentile reconstructs the cultural configurations of a sacred politics. He shows how Mussolini used the concept of propaganda as a project in civic pedagogy, and how the Fascists thus cultivated a new consciousness that filled the void left by the decline of traditional religion. Fascism mobilized the masses through spectacle and public ceremony in an effort to conquer and shape the mentality and customs of a still emerging nation.


  • [This book] has precipitated both new research into, and vigorous theoretical debate about the myths, rituals, symbols, monuments and other spectacles of Fascist Italy...[Gentile's] account is undoubtedly the best brief introduction to the Italian Fascists' use of public spectacle, ranging from annual commemorations of the March on Rome and other key events in the Fascist calendar to the construction of monumental architecture.

    —Tobias Abse, South European Society & Politics


  • Emilio Gentile is Professor of Contemporary History in the Faculty of Political Science at the University of La Sapienza, Rome.

Book Details

  • 222 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press