Sunday, November 11, 2018

Fascist complexities

A fundamental question, which admits of no easy answer, is this. Is fascism some sort of unified phenomenon - a genus with many national components or species - or is it a much looser amalgam, best studied only in separate contexts? 
Clearly this issue pertains to outlier manifestations, such as the Peronist movement in Argentina. And it also arises at the opposite pole with regard to the egregious German phenomenon, Nazism, which may rank either as essentially the intensification of the qualities of the overall trend, or something sui generis - basically internal in origin - stemming, most of all, from the indigenous Völkisch movement. 
To be sure, that movement may be regarded as the Germanic inflection of a broader trend, with a romantic focus on folklore and the "organic", i.e., a "naturally grown community” characterized by a mystical one-body entity (Volkskörper) ostensibly uniting the entire population. This xenophobic trend thrived in Germany and Austria during the period running from the late 19th century up until the Nazi era
Even if one adopts the diversity approach to fascisms, there are affinities. For its part, the Germanic Völkisch trend may rank as a version of populism, which certainly has links with socialism. 
The similarities and contrasts of symbolism with Mussolini’s foundational movement are revealing: the fasces were an ancient Roman symbol, while the swastika ostensibly has roots much earlier in Indo-Germanic antiquity. Both countries, Italy and Germany, deployed mass gatherings of followers, together with the pageantry associated with them.  The role of the Führer was modeled on that of the Duce.
And so forth. Unfortunately, the discussion - is it one thing or several? - will never end.


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