Dissertation Defense: Katy Hull
Candidate Name: Katy Hull
Advisor: Michael Kazin, Ph.D.
The Machine Has a Soul: American Sympathizers with Italian Fascism
Americans across the political and cultural spectrum sympathized with Italian fascism in the interwar years. This dissertation demonstrates that American fascist sympathizers believed that Italy was coping better with the challenges of modernity than the United States. Fascist sympathizers argued that Mussolini revived older values of service and self-restraint, even as he kept pace with a fast-moving society. They claimed that the corporate state was an up-to-date form of government, which protected Italians from the worst effects of the global depression. And, as the fascist state became increasingly totalitarian, they represented Italy as a place where men and women could transcend the grit and grind of modern life to find inner peace.
American fascist sympathizers had various goals when they invoked Italy’s apparent successes in managing the challenges of modernity. First, they aimed to expose faults in their own society: the numbing effects of standardization; the erosion of higher ideals; the failure of government to protect Americans from the ravages of industrialization. Second, they suggested solutions to the United States’ problems: the reform of government to promote expertise in policymaking; and measures to create jobs and support the return to simpler ways of life. Finally, they aimed to send the reassuring message that Americans, too, could combine the best of the traditional and the modern, and have a government that was both effective and inspiring—a machine with a soul.
This dissertation accesses fascist sympathizers’ views through the intellectual biographies of four prominent Americans, analyzing their journalism, lectures, books, and unpublished letters, and records of their contacts with officials in both Italy and the US. In contrast to the preexisting scholarship, this study shows that anxieties about modernity united American fascist sympathizers of various political persuasions and cultural tendencies. It thereby sheds lights onto fascism’s own Janus-faced relationship with modernity. It also illuminates issues that animated American public opinion and policymaking in the interwar years, including the cultural and social consequences of mass production, consumption, and urbanization, and the need to forge institutions and policies to ensure that men and women made their way through modernity with their souls intact.
Tuesday, December 12 at 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Edward B. Bunn, S.J. Intercultural Center, 450
37th and O St., N.W., Washington