Fascism's Return: Scandal, Revision, and Ideology since 1980

By Richard J. Golsan | Go to book overview

Reed Way Dasenbrock


Slouching toward Berlin: Life in a Postfascist Culture

Let me begin by admitting that my title is provocative, but not, I think, needlessly so. The era in which we live has been repeatedly labeled as post. Postmodern, poststructuralist, postcolonial, post-Marxist, and even post-theory are a few of the labels in circulation for the current moment, and undoubtedly other "posts" are being put into circulation as I write. As a prefix, "post" is somewhere between hopelessly ambiguous and utterly oxymoronic: one claims the label "post"-anything only if one claims to have moved past that thing, yet the habit of defining something by reference to something one claims to have superseded implies a relationship, which further implies that the supersedence is not absolute. The claim to be "post" implies that one is not yet fully "post." So with all the leading contemporary "posts": poststructuralism, though presented initially as a sharp reversal of structuralism, can now easily be seen to be in important respects a continuation of it; postcolonial theorists now explicitly acknowledge that their object of study includes the colonial as well as the postcolonial period or world; and postmodernism stands in a close relation to the modernism it defines itself against. So too with my term postfascism: I use it to refer to a kinship we are particularly reluctant to acknowledge, but a kinship nonetheless. Some relatives are easier to acknowledge than others; this particular skeleton is just now, after fifty years, emerging from the closet named denial.

I want to make two claims here. Initially, I'd like to state them baldly and without supporting detail, and then take a somewhat roundabout route to provide that supporting detail. The first is that the era in Euro-American culture in which we find ourselves is described much more accurately by the term "postfascist" than by anything else, at least by any of the rival "posts" I have referred to. (I would certainly leave open the possibility that we are pre- or for that matter in the middle of a period best described in other terms, though we are unlikely to have a clear sense of what those terms are just yet.) The second point is

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