Paxton taught at the University of California, Berkeley and the State University of New York at Stony Brook before joining the faculty of Columbia University in New York, where he is now Mellon Professor Emeritus of Social Science in the Department of History.
Paxton was called to testify at the trial of Maurice Papon (1910–2007), who was convicted for crimes against humanity in 1998.
In April, 2009, the French government awarded Paxton the Legion d'honneur.
Paxton is best known for his book Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940-1944 (1972), in which he argued that collaboration with Nazi Germany was voluntarily entered into by the Vichy government, and not forced upon it by German pressure. It is considered one of the path-breaking works on France in the Vichy era. Its thesis has earned respect among both American and French historians.
Paxton has put forward a definition of fascism:
- "Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."
References and notes
- Paxton, Robert O. (1966). Parades and Politics at Vichy. Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691051420.
- Paxton, Robert O. (1972). Vichy France, Old Guard and New Order, 1940-1944. Knopf. ISBN 9780394473604. (a revised edition was published in 2001 by Columbia University Press, ISBN 0231124694)
- Paxton, Robert O.; Marrus, Michael (1981). "Vichy France and the Jews". (a new edition was published in 1995 by Stanford University Press, ISBN 0804724997)
- Robert O. Paxton and Michael Marrus, "The Nazis and the Jews in Occupied Western Europe, 1940-1944," The Journal of Modern History vol. 54, no. 4 (December 1982).
- Robert O. Paxton, French Peasant Fascism: Henry Dorgere's Greenshirts and the Crises of French Agriculture, 1929-1939, 1997.
- Robert O. Paxton, "The Five Stages of Fascism," The Journal of Modern History vol. 70, no. 1 (March 1998).
- Robert O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism, 2004.
- Paxton, Robert O. (6 March 2008). "Vichy vs. the Nazis". Retrieved 25 September 2012.
- "Robert O. Paxton - Mellon Professor Emeritus of Social Sciences". Columbia University Website. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
- Evans, Martin. "Robert Paxton: The Outsider". History Today 51 (9). Retrieved 25 September 2012.