Was the dictionary definition of fascism changed by USA ?

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psidney

New Member
Australia english
Could someone tell me, if the United States of America -
at least 10 years ago - changed the definition
of the word fascism in their dictionary
from the general (government) to the specific (individual) ?
(and if so, which dictionary?)
 
  • cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Hello Psidney- It's difficult to answer because (1) your question implies, with or without your intent, that a national entity, in this case the U.S., has changed a dictionary definition. Were this the U.S.S.R in the 1980's that may have been the case, but here and now it is highly doubtful. (2) there are dozens, if not hundreds, of dictionaries. You do point this out in your final line.

    More useful, perhaps, is the way the word is used in common speech. I recall that a major newspaper, the N.Y. Times, used the term 'neo-fascist' to refer to the government of Spain in the 1970's. This struck me as curious, as the regime was the same one that called itself fascist, and had been in power for decades.

    Now, to your question: I've just checked three pre-1990 dictionaries and one current one. The all give the same definition, though in different words, for fascist: a member or a fascist organization. Fascism is used by all to describe a political philosophy.

    Hope this is of some use to you.
    Cuchufléte
     

    Rumbarumba

    New Member
    English - Canada
    This is an old thread, but since it is here I'll reply. Yes, I too noticed that the definition of fascism was altered within the last couple of decades. In the 90's fascism was defined in the Oxford, and other mainstream dictionaries, generally as "corporate or business controlled governments", and now all the main dictionaries have removed any reference to corporations or business from their entries. The only dictionary I can find with the original "business controlled government" definition is Wiktionary- "...ideologically based on a relationship between business and the centralized government, business-and-government control of the market place...". Orwell would certainly be impressed.
     

    waltern

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    In the 90's fascism was defined in the Oxford, and other mainstream dictionaries, generally as "corporate or business controlled governments", and now all the main dictionaries have removed any reference to corporations or business from their entries.
    Hmm, do you have a cite from any actual dictionary for this "orginal" definition? I thought it derived from "fascio":
    In Italy: an organized political group, typically advocating radical or revolutionary change and active within a particular region or locality; spec. any of a number of nationalist groups formed in the period around the First World War (1914–18) which were ultimately given coherent organization by the formation of the National Fascist Party in 1921.

    The earliest fasci were democratic or socialist popular movements, most prominently the Fasci sicilian (more fully Fasci siciliani dei lavoratori, ‘Sicilian Workers' League’). Subsequently, political organizations of this kind became associated with nationalist and anti-communist groups, especially those formed and led by Benito Mussolini.

    (OED)
     

    Rumbarumba

    New Member
    English - Canada
    Hello Waltern. No I don't have any original references or citations. I just going by my memory of some past research I did. Good point of course. I wonder where I would find old dictionary definitions? I'll do some more research.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The 1984 unabridged Random House dictionary, which I have in hand (actually, on a table; it's too large to hold in my hand while I use a keyboard) does not mention business control of government in any of the three meanings it gives for Fascism. Those who suggest that it is part of the "original" definition, and those who suggest that the U.S. Government can somehow exercise sinister control over the hundreds (if not thousands) of dictionaries to promote some "official" definition, are (in my opinion) trying to use WRF to promote their personal political agendas - especially if they have no posts so far on other language topics. Regardless of the merits of those agendas, regardless of my personal agreement or disagreement with them, WRF is not an appropriate place to do that. Besides, even if they were to convince everyone here that their positions were correct, the readership of WRF is such that it would have negligible effect on political discourse.

    In other words, please stop wasting our - and your - time.
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I found a dictionary on my shelf published in 1992. It's Random House Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. The definition of fascism and fascist are substantially identical to the one at dictionary.reference.com website (note says "dictionary.com unabridged, based on the Random House Dictionary"). There has not been a change in this particular dictionary.

    Online today, fascism definition:

    1. a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
    2. the philosophy, principles, or methods of fascism.
    3. a political movement that employs the principles and methods of fascism, especially the one established by Mussolini in Italy 1922–43.


    Dictionary from 1992:

    1. a totalitarian governmental system led by a dictator and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism, militarism and often racism.
    2. the philosophy, principles, or methods of fascism.
    3. a movement toward or embodying fascism, esp. the one established by Mussolini in Italy 1922–43.



    I think all will agree that this represents no real "change in definition."
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    The online Oxford English Dictionary (available to those having a subscription or with access to a library site which has a subscription) has the current definitions of fascist and fascism dated to 2014 and these same entries each have a link to a previous version from 1989. None of the definitions mention "corporation," "industry," or "commerce."
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    From Merriam-Webster II (1934):
    Fascism the principles of the Fascisti; also, the Fascist movement in Italy, or, by extension, any similar movement elsewhere.
    Fascisti an Italian organization, originated by loyal patriots to oppose all radical elements in the country, as, Bolshevists, Communists, and the like. It was organized in 1919; under Benito Mussolini, it became identical with the government of the state.

    From Safire's New Political Dictionary (1993), by William Safire (he was for many years the New York Times Magazine "On Language" columnist):
    fascist originally, a believer in the corporate state; now a derogation imputing totalitarianism to the far right.
    Fascio is the Italian word for "bundle" or "group"; in 1895 a political organization called itself fasci dei lavoratori, and in 1915 the fascio interventista were called the fascisti. The movement grew in the early twenties as an especially brutal alternative to Communism, and under Benito Mussolini, controlled Italy from 1922 to 1943.
    In current use [still from the 1993 source], the word is an epithet directed often from the far left toward anyone on the right . . .
     

    Rumbarumba

    New Member
    English - Canada
    Thanks for the informative replies and the interest. As I mentioned, I am going by memory regarding the earlier definitions I mention, so I will spend a bit of time doing some research, and will report back accordingly. My next question is in regards to the proper pronunciation of niche, but I'm sure that there is an on going thread for that.
    Thanks again.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    As I mentioned, I am going by memory regarding the earlier definitions
    You would need to have a good memory for someone who was reading about fascism in 1922, when the word first appeared in print in English. :)

    The original meanings were the nationalist political movement in Italy which formed the government from 1922-1943, and the general political principles of those who shared its views. It then also came, from 1939, to mean
    Any form of behaviour perceived as autocratic, intolerant, or oppressive; esp. the advocacy of a particular viewpoint or practice in a manner that seeks to enforce conformity
    before, in 1958, gaining a modifier "specifying the particular aspect of life or sphere of activity concerned."
    A. Ellis Sex without Guilt xiv. 168 Sex fascism is a major subheading under what I call intellectual fascism—which I find..to be perhaps the most pandemic and virulent psychosocial disease of our times.
    I'm relying on the OED rather than memory.

    << --- comment deleted --- >> :D
     
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    TemeculaPaul

    New Member
    English - USA
    Hi psidney, yes, the definition of Fascism has changed in American dictionaries since at least 1984. The change was by the publisher(s), not by the government. Here is the definition from my childhood dictionary that I provide as a reference.
    Fascism:
    A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with a belligerent nationalism.
    The American Heritage Dictionary 1976
     
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    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Yes, the definition of Fascism was changed in American dictionaries since 1984. Here is the definition from my childhood dictionary.
    Fascism:
    A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with a belligerent nationalism.
    The American Heritage Dictionary 1976
    Welcome, Paul:)

    (1) That's one American dictionary.
    (2) You don't give us the dictionary's new definition.
    (3) If the American Heritage did change its 1976 definition, it's most likely because it realized it was an extremely poor one.
     

    KHS

    Senior Member
    Here's my 1992 definition from the American Heritage Dictionary (it seems very similar, but I think the rewording makes a difference - merging state and business leadership becomes stringent socioeconomic controls):

    1. Often Fascism. (a) A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism. (b) A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.
    2. Oppressive, dictatorial control.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I believe the distinction psidney is asking about in post 1 is that between fascism as a system of government in a state and fascism as an attitude of mind in an individual.

    I believe it is true to say that dictionaries originally gave only the first of these two meanings and that now they give both.

    Of course, that is not due to a government decision, but is a normal development in dictionary production, because the second meaning is derived from the first, and the dictionaries reflected people's new use of the term. I imagine the new meaning was noted earlier than the 1990's.
     

    TemeculaPaul

    New Member
    English - USA
    Welcome, Paul:)

    (1) That's one American dictionary.
    (2) You don't give us the dictionary's new definition.
    (3) If the American Heritage did change its 1976 definition, it's most likely because it realized it was an extremely poor one.
    (1) The definition is from The American Heritage Dictionary 1976
    (2) The post asked:
    Could someone tell me, if the United States of America -
    at least 10 years ago - changed the definition
    of the word fascism in their dictionary
    from the general (government) to the specific (individual) ?
    (and if so, which dictionary?)​
    (3) The newer definition was provided by others, I was providing a historical reference directly from my older dictionary. YOU may find the older definition "extremely poor" or not to your liking. I didn't realize my contribution would be critiqued. I signed onto this site to answer the same question without having to pull out my very worn dictionary from 1976. I didn't realize my contribution to this Reference web site would be judged!

     

    TemeculaPaul

    New Member
    English - USA
    KHS, thank you for your research and your observation. It is ironic that the definition changed as dictionary publishers were acquired through business mergers and acquisitions as government socioeconomic controls were relaxed to benefit corporations. The older definition may have been too revealing in its simplicity and accuracy.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    The quotation by KHS (post #15) from the AHD 1992 is identical with that in the Fourth Edition (2000), of which I have a copy. The current AHD online (www.ahdictionary.com) definition, from the Fifth Edition (2014), where the headword is lower-cased:

    1. often Fascism. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, a capitalist economy subject to stringent governmental controls, violent suppression of the opposition, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
    b. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.

    2. Oppressive, dictatorial control.
     
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    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Here's from the 1970 Webster New Twentieth Century Dictionary (a 2000-page whale of a dictionary of which I have a copy):

    fascism

    1. The doctrines, methods, or movement of the Fascisti.
    2. a system of government characterized by rigid one-party dictatorship, forcible suppression of the opposition (unions, other, especially leftist parties, minority groups, etc.) the retention of private ownership of the means of production under centralized government control, belligerent nationalism and racism, glorification of war, etc.: first instituted in Italy in 1922.
    3. (a) the political philosophy and movement based n such doctrines and policies; (b) fascist behavior. See also Nazism.

     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I was rather startled to see that my OED doesn't even list the word, but I found it in the Supplement.

    Fascism. Also in It. form Fascismo, and with small initial. The principles and organization of Fascists. Also, loosely, any form of right-wing authoritarianism.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I was rather startled to see that my OED doesn't even list the word, but I found it in the Supplement.

    Fascism. Also in It. form Fascismo, and with small initial. The principles and organization of Fascists. Also, loosely, any form of right-wing authoritarianism.
    We mentioned the OED earlier in the thread. Fascism first appeared in A Supplement to the New English Dictionary (1933) then in OED Second Edition (1989). In that the definition was as you quote it. The later version with additional meanings (post #12) appeared in OED Third Edition (June 2014) - fully updated. The difference between the Oxford definition and the one being discussed here is that the Oxford editor has not conflated political opinion with meaning. Safire's New Political Dictionary (post #9) could justify a biased definition - it is, after all, a political dictionary.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The difference between the Oxford definition and the one being discussed here.
    The topic question is about two definitions, not one:
    I believe the distinction psidney is asking about in post 1 is that between fascism as a system of government in a state and fascism as an attitude of mind in an individual.
    I believe the essential query is 'When did the latter definition first appear in a dictionary?'
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    The definition I am referring to is the one which has been repeatedly quoted, with slight variation
    a system of government characterized by rigid one-party dictatorship, forcible suppression of the opposition (unions, other, especially leftist parties, minority groups, etc.) the retention of private ownership of the means of production under centralized government control, belligerent nationalism and racism, glorification of war, etc.: first instituted in Italy in 1922.
    Post #1 asked if the USA changed the definition, and post #3 made an incorrect attribution to an Oxford dictionary and said, wrongly, that it had been changed. I don't know how you get to 'When did the latter definition first appear in a dictionary?'

    As far as I can see from this thread, some dictionaries published in the US had and still have a definition of Facism that is politicised and of questionable accuracy (The political concept of fascism goes back to at least the 1890s and Fascism emerged as a political force immediately after the First World War). Various dictionaries, published in the US and elsewhere have added wider definitions as the use of the word has changed. The thread was kicked back into action by another post which supported the false premise that the definition in American dictionaries had changed, rather than being added to.
     

    gramman

    Senior Member
    My thought regarding a definition of fascism is to agree with the view expressed in that Wikipedia article — a highly disputed subject that has proved complicated and contentious.

    I'd say this is a familiar pattern for a number of words that relate to political systems. People will argue at length about what constitutes democracy, socialism, communism, etc. This is the nature of politics.

    The idea brought up in this thread, that fascist can have a meaning outside of politics, is an interesting one, in my opinion. Perhaps we can agree, in loose terms at least, that fascist behaviour and attitudes tend to be associated with conformity and perhaps its enforcement.
     

    Morgana Le Fay

    New Member
    English-American
    The elimination from the definition of fascism of the relationship between the state and business interests is significant because it then puts the focus of the definition on racism and nationalism manifested by people rather than on the economic reasons behind those manifestations. Racism rears its ugly head mostly during hard economic times. The times are hard for working people while the upper class rakes in massive profits and uses economic and political power to subvert democracy: Citizens United, gerrymandering, purging people from voter rolls, gutting the Voting Rights Act, stashing money in offshore accounts, moving production to countries that enable them to maximize profits for themselves while overburdening working people with increasing taxes, higher costs and wages that have been stagnant since the '70's. The focus of the definition changes from those who cause and benefit from the suffering and economic hardship to those who suffer from the effects. The result is the Balkanization of the people running to their own real or perceived clans to fight each other rather than uniting to fight those who are causing all of us to suffer.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    There has been no elimination of the relationship between the state and business from dictionary definitions of "fascism". If you had read the various posts in this thread which refer to dictionary definitions you would have noted that each dictionary has remained consistent in its definition. Some dictionaries have a definition which lays emphasis on commerce, others do not.

    Your analysis is not actually relevant to the meaning of the word, but there are few parallels between modern America and the only country which has had a strongly fascist government - Italy in the years before the Second World War. The fascist state had a robust social welfare policy, it had universal healthcare, and the state-run railways ran on time. The fascists followed, in part, the philosophies of Karl Marx - they fostered economic development as the path to socialist revolution. Even after Mussolini took control, the socialist welfare and health structures remained an important part of the state's activities. I'm not proposing a fascist state as a solution to the world's woes. I'm merely commenting on the meaning of a word, and your apparent misuse of it.
     

    JJdra

    New Member
    english
    I find that it is true, I also find the fascism is not a synonym for socialism as some would want you to believe. Check Oxfords and you will find that it clearly states that fascism is "right-wing system of government". Verified by Gentile and Mussolini in "Doctrine of Fascism (1932)":

    "Outside the State there can be neither individuals nor groups (political parties, associations, syndicates, classes). Therefore Fascism is opposed to Socialism,"
    <...>
    [Italian text removed from the English Only forum. DonnyB - moderator]

    Now to the crux of the matter.

    It seems to me that some of the other posters either didn't look hard enough or purposefully omitted some dictionary definitions.

    I bring you a definition from my library, The American Heritage Dictionary cc July 1989: "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism"

    Recent (as of today 11/11/18

    "A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, a capitalist economy subject to stringent governmental controls, violent suppression of the opposition, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism."

    Clearly there is a hugh difference

    I also have a similar difference from a 1989 version of Websters Lexicon vs today's on-line Websters dictionary version. 1989 version, fascism: "Any political or social ideology of the EXTREME RIGHT.... (caps mine)

    Recent (today 11/11/18) "a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition"

    Notice the "extreme right" part was dropped. And no, that does not mean it is now extreme left, it means they are now avoiding it.
     
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