Journal Article

Crimes against the State and the Intersection of Fascism and Democracy in the 1920s-30s: Vilification, Seditious Libel and the Limits of Legality

Stephen Skinner

in Oxford Journal of Legal Studies

Volume 36, issue 3, pages 482-504
Published in print September 2016 | ISSN: 0143-6503
Published online December 2015 | e-ISSN: 1464-3820 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ojls/gqv034
Crimes against the State and the Intersection of Fascism and Democracy in the 1920s-30s: Vilification, Seditious Libel and the Limits of Legality

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Situated in relation to on-going critical discussion of the theory and practice of the rule of law in historical perspective, this article undertakes a comparative analysis of the offences of vilification of the State in the 1930 Italian Penal Code and the crime of seditious libel in English common law during the interwar period. It argues that there were important commonalities in the scope and objectives of these offences, which indicate that the apparently divergent legal systems of Fascist Italy and democratic Britain shared a similar approach to the conception and protection of State interests and their relationship with the rule of law. The article uses that historical comparison to highlight key continuities and tensions within each system, in order to question the meanings and significance of legal certainty and the rule of law, to reconsider theoretical interpretations of State power and law in the twentieth century, and to challenge understanding of common European (liberal) legal traditions as a positive force today.

Keywords: comparative legal history; vilification; seditious libel; legality; rule of law; Fascism; democracy

Journal Article.  11573 words. 

Subjects: Law ; Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law ; Law and Society

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