What Liberal Thought Has in Common with Fascism

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 17, 2008 | Go to article overview

What Liberal Thought Has in Common with Fascism


Byline: Larry Thornberry, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Jonah Goldberg's book is a major contribution to understanding the history of political ideas and attitudes over the last two centuries and change. It's also elucidates the present intense culture clash between traditionalists and folks calling themselves liberals, leftists, progressives, etc. The current favorite with the latter lot is "progressive" because it sounds benign.

Mr. Goldberg's case is that American liberalism has much more in common intellectually and attitudinally with fascism than conservatism does. The American variety of fascism, liberal fascism, is a mild business compared to what's taken place in Europe. It's fascism with a smile. A mommy fascism.

Fascism is one of those words used by many who have no clue what it means or what its pedigree is. This is partly because the concept is vague. Political scientists don't even agree what fascism is. We could say of fascism what philosopher George Santayana said of snobbery, another difficult concept to define, that to be called a fascist, like being called a snob, "is a vague description but a very clear insult."

Almost always when the term fascism is used today the intent is insult rather than precision. The word has a toxic association with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. So leftists in America (and elsewhere in the West) freely and intentionally use it to tar anyone who disagrees with them or their policies. The word is a polemical weapon rather than a clarifying term of description.

Comes now Mr. Goldberg, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and a contributing editor to National Review, to provide clarification and history. Readers of Mr. Goldberg's column and articles are warned that they will find little of his usual humor and whimsy. "Liberal Fascism" is not a tome. But it's a relentlessly analytic treatment of a large, serious and complex subject.

Fascism, in its various incarnations, is a kind of supercharged nationalism that rejects individual liberty in the name of the state and is often, but not always, racialist, militarist, and expansionist. It's usually hostile to religion, firing God and replacing Him with a secular dictator. Mussolini invented the word totalitarian "to describe a society where everybody belonged, where everyone was taken care of, where everything was inside the state and nothing was outside: where truly no child was left behind."

Mr. Goldberg locates fascism's theoretical beginnings in Hegelian historicism, Rousseau's "general will," Darwin's survival of the fittest. These ideas, the last stop on all of whose lines is totalitarianism, have long been in competition with the ideas of the Enlightenment and America's Founding Fathers.

They're also directly crosswise with the teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The first ugly incarnation of fascism followed the French Revolution, which gave us perhaps the first two recognizably modern dictators in Robespierre and Napoleon.

Mr. Goldberg dispels the commonly-held idea that communism and fascism are left/right opposites. He argues fascism is simply communism with a national rather than an international and class-based spin, and is a phenomenon of the left. Communism and fascism are both forms of socialism (Hitler's party was, after all, the National Socialist German Workers Party). They are, "closely related, historical competitors for the same constituents, seeking to dominate and control the same social space."

It's also important to recognize that all fascisms are not alike. As fascism is a national phenomenon, it takes on the character of its host country. Italian fascism, for example, was not nearly as jack-booted as the German variant, and wasn't even anti-Semitic until the Nazis forced the Italians late in the game to be allies in "Final Solution" thinking. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

What Liberal Thought Has in Common with Fascism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.