Reproductions of Banality was first published in 1986. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
An established fascist state has never existed in France, and after World War II there was a tendency to blame the Nazi Occupation for the presence of fascists within the country. Yet the memory of fascism within their ranks still haunts French intellectuals, and questions about a French version of fascist ideology have returned to the political forefront again and again in the years since the war. In Reproductions of Banality, Alice Yaegar Kaplan investigates the development of fascist ideology as it was manifested in the culture of prewar and Occupied France. Precisely because it existed only in a "gathering" or formative stage, and never achieved the power that brings with it a bureaucratic state apparatus, French fascism never lost its utopian, communal elements, or its consequent aesthetic appeal. Kaplan weighs this fascist aesthetic and its puzzling power of attraction by looking closely at its material remains: the narratives, slogans, newspapers, and film criticism produced by a group of writers who worked in Paris in the 1930s and early 1940s — their "most real moment."
These writers include Pierre Drieu la Rochelle, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Lucien Rebatat, Robert Brasillach, and Maurice Bardeche, as well as two precursors of French fascism, Georges Sorel and the Italian futurist F.T. Marinetti, who made of the airplane an industrial carrier of sexual fantasies and a prime mover in the transit from futurism to fascism. Kaplan's work is grounded in the major Marxist and psychoanalytic theories of fascism and in concepts of banality and mechanical reproduction that draw upon Walter Benjamin. Emphasizing the role played by the new technologies of sight and sound, she is able to suggest the nature of the long-repressed cultural and political climate that produced French fascism, and to show—by implication — that the mass marketing of ideology in democratic states bears a family resemblance to the fascist mode of an earlier time.