Sunday, September 27, 2015

By any other name...

I've written before on how easily the building blocks of fascism fall within the realm of acceptable political ideas. Here's a quote that could have come from some of the more hostile responses to when I reveal my political leanings:
"Against individualism, the [public-minded] conception is for the State; and it is for the individual in so far as he coincides with the State... It is opposed to [libertarianism], which arose as a reaction to absolutism and exhausted its historical function when the State became the expression of the conscience and will of the People. [Libertarianism] denied the State in the name of the individual; [Public spiritedness] asserts the rights of the State as expressing the true reality of the individual... In this sense [public spiritedness] [may be forced upon citizens]... The [responsible] State, the highest and most powerful form of personality, is a force, but a spiritual force, which takes over all the forms of the moral and intellectual life of man. It cannot therefore confine itself simply to the functions of order and supervision as [libertarians] desired." 
While illiberal, this isn't way off the spectrum of politically acceptable speech. Until you return the taboo words that have been replaced:

"Against individualism, the fascist conception is for the State; and it is for the individual in so far as he coincides with the State... It is opposed to Classical Liberalism, which arose as a reaction to absolutism and exhausted its historical function when the State became the expression of the conscience and will of the People. Liberalism denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism asserts the rights of the State as expressing the true reality of the individual... In this sense Fascism is totalitarian... The Fascist State, the highest and most powerful form of personality, is a force, but a spiritual force, which takes over all the forms of the moral and intellectual life of man. It cannot therefore confine itself simply to the functions of order and supervision as Liberalism desired."
 - Benito Mussolini, 1932
If all that's troublesome about fascism is its name in modern political discourse, we need to devote more time to understanding why it leads to despotism (it's not because of evil leaders) if we want to understand why we should be concerned.

H/t to Steve Horwitz and Facebook's throwback feature for the quote.

2 comments:

jon wup said...

I think if you replaces "the State" with "Society" in the first form of the quote you would get modern Liberalism. In fact, in the preamble of the Liberal Constitution is the phrase "individual freedom within a framework of a Just Society". What's interesting is the question, who gets to decide what a "Just Society" is? Of course it's "the State". So Liberalism is just neo-Fascism.

Janet Neilson said...

Only if you expect "society" to be unitary instead of pluralistic, which liberalism in its broader incarnation doesn't assume, though some modern liberalism does, just like a lot of modern conservatism does.

The point of the post is to point out the seductiveness of fascist tendencies to those on both the left and the right because of that assumption that either society or the state can produce such a unity of purpose.