In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Fascism and International Law

  • Introduction

International Law Fascism and International Law
Yolanda Gamarra
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0242


This article is an annotated and selected bibliography of materials on the topic of fascism and international law as it stands in contemporary debates. Fascism tends to encompass a set of practices and ideas associated with reactionary national populism, despotism, or supremacism. As a political and social movement, it goes beyond the totalitarian impulse to go through life and the entire society. There has been an exponential growth in the number of publications from political, historical, or philosophical approaches. International legal scholars began to examine more intensively the role of international law during the fascisms in the 1990s and early twenty-first century. One of the reasons for this interest is that there are international legal scholars who establish analogies between Carl Schmitt’s critique of liberalism and the postcolonial authors’ critique of (neo)liberalism, in particular the imperial hypocrisy and the discourse of domination and subordination. Interest in fascism is related to the turn to history in international law. The argument here is that international law conducts politics in a complicit response to fascism. Fascism and international law may be said to comprise five parts: (1) the fascism in the history of international law; (2) the representations of fascism as a movement based on nationalism and corporatism with three distinct lines plus the pan-Germanism and the movements outside, namely pure fascism, National Socialism, National Catholicism, and “generic” fascism; (3) the anti-fascism, the resistance, and collaborationism; (4) the institutions of fascism, that is, (re)designing the law and the state of exception as instruments to legitimize and legalize their actions and to project internationally a “new order”; and (5) the crimes of Nazism with the creation of the Nuremberg trials and the compensation to victims. Pre-1989 bibliographies have been excluded. Reissues of previous works are included due to their relevance and timeliness. The article does not distinguish between historiography proper and legal work that uses fascism as a central part of the argument. This is because the exploration of fascism requires history, political science, and international relations. The article focuses on publications in English, with references to other language materials. Literature in Italian, German, Spanish, and French will be included in the appropriate sections. Materials have been arranged in sections that reflect the issues that prevail in the current debates of scholars.

Current Debates about Fascism in the History of International Law

Several authors have asked if the current trends are part of the fascist movement of the interwar period. Fascism is a complex movement. It is a many-structured phenomenon that does not have any internal coherence. For this reason, it is difficult to turn to history to extract lessons with which to avoid falling into the mistakes of the past. Nevertheless, it is necessary to go back to history to analyze the ideas, the nature, the characteristics, or the facts, among other elements, that promoted fascism in the interwar period in order to establish analogies with the current movements called “fascist.” Debates on fascism focuses around five core themes: (1) the proto-fascist movements, (2) the cultural and legal origins of fascism, (3) the history (events/ideas) of fascism and de-fascism (“de-fascistization of fascism” in the words of Gentille. For example, there are authors who have affirmed that fascism had no ideology, that it had not built a totalitarian regime, or that it was reduced merely to ‘Mussolinism.’ To some extent it is the trivialization of fascism), (4) the nature of fascism, and (5) the current critique of liberalism implemented by the Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL). This article will explore the five debates in turn.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.