Sunday, August 30, 2009

Resisting the Totalitarian Temptation

Even after a second read, Liberal Fascism is almost as difficult to evaluate as the term fascism is to define. Parts of the book are quite excellent. For instance, Jonah Goldberg is generally successful in proving that Italian Fascism is a phenomenon of the left. His chapters on Wilson and Roosevelt are not only quite engaging; they are also persuasive. Still, the book possesses a number of flaws. It was a mistake to approach the subject both chronologically and thematically: the result is a good deal of repetition.

In the introduction, George Orwell laments: “The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable'.” (p.4) In modern discourse, this often means anyone who is not sufficiently progressive. This is a tendency Liberal Fascism seeks to rectify. To an extent, Goldberg avoids slinging around the term Fascism as a generic pejorative. However, he has the annoying habit of pointing out insignificant coincidences between fascists of yore and modern liberals. This not only detracts from his more substantial arguments, it also ensures that almost everyone fits under the ever-expanding definition of fascism.

One gets the impression, then, that Goldberg is confused about his subject. Granted that fascism is a bit nebulous, one would hope that the writer of a book on the matter would be able to use the term correctly—or at least consistently. He gives the following definition: “Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politics and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian in that it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good.” (p. 23)

Proceeding with his definition, it is unclear how a number of the examples Goldberg cites can be construed as fascistic. While the students in Dead Poets Society may invite parallels to a militarized culture (pp. 373-4), they cannot be seen as fascists since the State nowhere enters into the picture. Likewise in V For Vendetta, “The villains and the hero alike are all fascists.” (p. 375) In what manner dismantling a totalitarian regime is fascistic I leave for the exasperated reader to decide.

The book ends by urging conservatives not to avoid adopting a religious significance about the State. This is a laudable endeavor, but it would have been more successful had Goldberg presented a clearer alternative to fascistic government. He explains that “if libertarianism could account for children and foreign policy, it would be the ideal political philosophy.” (p. 344) However, since political philosophy deals with imperfect man, flaws will be inherent in any system. But this is no reason to dismiss libertarianism. After all, it is difficult to see another group in America which better recognizes that there is a realm outside the State, and which is, therefore, better suited to resist the temptations of totalitarianism.

There are, it is true, extensive references to “classical liberalism”, usually in the context of explaining how it differs from progressivism. He notes that conservatism “is the conviction that a properly ordered republic has a government of limited ambition.” (p.402) But I have trouble remembering the last time conservatism thought such a thing. Although they are not fascistic, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—which Goldberg supports—are hardly indicative of “limited ambition.”

Blemishes aside, Liberal Fascism provides a good history of the Left. It is now time for conservatives to begin the introspection Liberal Fascism insisted that liberals take. Justin Raimondo's Reclaiming the American Right provides a good place to start.

6 comments:

troutsky said...

Fabulous intellectual foundation to re-build the movement. You are more lost than I ever suspected.

Anonymous said...

I inclination not concur on it. I think polite post. Especially the title-deed attracted me to review the unscathed story.

Anonymous said...

Amiable post and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Thank you seeking your information.

Anonymous said...

buy levitra online canada
buy

Anonymous said...

Urteter nuytre: http://genrodaci.001webs.com

Anonymous said...

Urteter nuytre: http://semyayesitfu.t35.com