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In “The Fascist Effect,” Reto Hofmann, a postdoctoral fellow at Waseda University, argues that it is pointless to ask whether Japan was fascist in the years leading up to and during World War II — until we listen to what Japanese at that time thought about fascism.

Hofmann’s overarching argument is that fascism was a flexible concept that Japan had as much a hand in shaping as did Italy and Germany. He moves from a look at the cultural reception of Italian fascism, from early adopters like Shimoi Harukuchi, who claimed personal friendship with Benito Mussolini, to kabuki plays and biographies of Mussolini that emphasized his ability to unify Italy against capitalists on one hand and communists on the other.

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