20 October 2012

Liberal Fascism, or the meanness of being Nice

I've been reading this book off and on since it was published in early 2008. It rested among my stored books for four years and now sits on my nightstand. It's not at all what you might think.

Basically, Goldberg argues that the Left in American politics is a "kinder, gentler" form of European fascism. He delves into the history of the movement, starting with Mussolini, and marks out how fascism is a thoroughly leftist ideology. 

He also traces the history of how fascism became associated with the political Right in the U.S. He quotes liberally from 1930's fascist propaganda, noting that many American Leftists at the same praised Mussolini and Hitler for their forward-looking grasp on economics and social engineering.

He's quick to say that he's not claiming that American Leftists are Nazi's, etc. But he does draw some frightening parallels between fascistic "mass movements" in pre-WWII Europe and the student movements of the 1960's and current "identity movements" on contemporary campuses.

I'm not a political philosopher or historian, so I can't judge the truthfulness of his claims in these areas. I can tell you that as a reformed Leftist, many of his claims about the "politics of meaning" and "identity politics" are spot on.

1 comment:

  1. In Volume II, Book 4, Chapter 6 of Democracy in America, de Tocqueville writes the following about soft despotism:

    Thus, After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

    I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.

    Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions: they want to be led, and they wish to remain free. As they cannot destroy either the one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large who hold the end of his chain.

    By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master and then relapse into it again. A great many persons at the present day are quite contented with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people; and they think they have done enough for the protection of individual freedom when they have surrendered it to the power of the nation at large