Sunday, December 09, 2007

Fascism as Faith

Seriously? - Megan McArdle

Historians of the 30s and 40s had such a terrible time trying to explain fascism because they were trying to put fascism in line with other traditional forms of ideology and government. But fascism defied those categories because it wasn't a traditional political ideology but politics experienced as faith. More than any other ideology of the last century, fascism relied on the mass experience to drive its ideology, to turn culture in political culture where everything you do is done for the state. Theocracies have similar characteristics but the difference is those under a fascist rule worship the state and its leader, not a god and a religion. Fascism is nationalism turned into a faith.
This is why the term 'totalitarianism' is such a misleading one; it encompasses to much while blurring the clear distinctions between authoritarian government like Communism, theocracy and fascism. It's not a helpful term in that way because you have a hard time figuring out why a counter to a communist ideology doesn't work for a fascist ideology. The idea of totalitarianism does help somewhat when describing the differences between it and democracy but beyond that the term becomes less useful in understanding the totalitarian system. They all commit terrible crimes but the why of those crimes is still important and categorizing any authoritarian rule as totalitarian makes it difficult to understand and undermine that rule.

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