The Key to All Mythologies

by Scott McLemee on June 28, 2007

Liberal Fascism, the forthcoming opus by Jonah Goldberg, has undergone a subtitle change, as perhaps you have heard. Formerly it warned of “The Totalitarian Temptation From Mussolini to Hillary Clinton.” Said temptation will now run “…From Hegel to Whole Foods.”

The delays in publication must have been necessary given the burdens of fresh scholarship demanded by this broadening of scope.

The pub date at Amazon is December 26, which is not the part of the season when trade publishers bring out books they are going to push very hard. Somebody at Doubleday probably had the same thought recently expressed elsewhere:

I assume Frederick Kagan, Bradley Schlotzman, and Jonah’s mom are already getting complementary copies; Dinesh von Souza will probably do his patriotic duty; which leaves – ? A mule train a half-mile long will have to be rounded up to ship the remainder of the edition to the respectively vice-presidential and presidential libraries of Dan Quayle and George W Bush, where they will serve to fill out the echoing bookshelves and glut the hungry silverfish.

Hint to Goldberg: Make it a little more “campaign friendly.” That’s where dropping Hillary from the subtitle is probably going to hurt you some. How about “The Totalitarian Temptation from Dialectics to the Democratic Candidates”? Plus you’d get that extra alliteration—a real bonus, catchiness-wise.

{ 78 comments }

1

Patrick Nielsen Hayden 06.28.07 at 11:14 am

“December 26, which is not the part of the season when trade publishers bring out books they are going to push very hard.”

Not entirely true. The publisher I work for has had some notable successes with hardcovers published immediately after the holidays; there’s a lot of post-holiday traffic in bookstores, driven at least partly by gift exchanges.

Imagining who might want to avidly exchange their holiday pelf for Jonah Goldberg’s book is a bit more of a challenge.

2

wissen 06.28.07 at 11:15 am

The night in which all tofu burgers are black?

3

KCinDC 06.28.07 at 12:27 pm

It seems pointless to change the title unless they also change the cover art. Are they doing that, or is Goldberg doomed to the same ridiculous “don’t blame me — it’s the publisher’s fault” book tour that Ponnuru had with The Party of Death? Then again, if the cover art changes, the “controversy” goes away, and with it most of the book tour appearances and sales.

4

JP Stormcrow 06.28.07 at 12:37 pm

a real bonus, catchiness-wise.

Or he could use a classic poetic scheme worthy of the level of discourse that his book will surely represent.

“The Totalitarian Temptation: Marx Marx, Bo Barack. Obama Fama Fo Farx, Fe Fi Mo-arx. Hilary!”

5

SamChevre 06.28.07 at 12:39 pm

Leftism: from de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse was at least written by someone who knew what they were talking about.

(It was the first political theory book I ever read.)

6

HP 06.28.07 at 1:37 pm

More title suggestions:

The Totalitarian Temptation: Yeah, Baby, That’s What I’m Talking About

The Totalitarian Temptations: From Motown to Yo’ Town

The Tiny Timptation: From Tiptoe to Tulip

Totalitarianism’s been most everywhere,
From Zanzibar to Berkeley Square.
But Jonah’s only seen the seen the sights
A guy can see from Shaker Heights –
What a crazy pair!

7

P O'Neill 06.28.07 at 1:40 pm

My guess is that Doubleday wouldn’t go with Jonah’s desire to refer to “Hitlery Clintoon” in the title, which he knew would appeal more to his target audience. So a new subtitle entirely then.

8

zaoem 06.28.07 at 1:45 pm

From the book description:

“Jonah Goldberg shows that the original fascists were really on the Left and that liberals, from Woodrow Wilson to FDR to Hillary Clinton, have advocated policies and principles remarkably similar to those of Hitler’s National Socialism.”

Making these types of Hitler comparisons ensures that you will a) get a lot of attention and b) will not be taken seriously. Only the latter is deserved, but that’s life.

9

SamChevre 06.28.07 at 1:58 pm

Jonah Goldberg shows that the original fascists were really on the Left.

Well, yes–is that really seriously in dispute?

In other news, SamChevre shows that Jefferson was really a slave-owning aristocrat.

10

Matt Weiner 06.28.07 at 2:10 pm

Well, yes—is that really seriously in dispute?

Yes.

11

Matt Weiner 06.28.07 at 2:11 pm

This has been another episode of Simple Answers to Misguided Rhetorical Questions.

12

Michael Bérubé 06.28.07 at 2:20 pm

I dunno, Matt. Hitler’s National Socialism had “socialism” right there in the word “socialism.”

13

SamChevre 06.28.07 at 2:24 pm

It wasn’t a rhetorical question.

Why would anyone think that an explicitly socialist party, drawing most of its support from the poor and working class, and opposed by the traditional elites and especially the aristocracy, was NOT on the Left?

(I’m assuming that in saying “Fascism”, Hitler’s party is primarily in view rather that Mussolini’s, or the academic theories on which either was based.)

14

eric 06.28.07 at 2:27 pm

Further hint to Goldberg: Whole Foods (a.k.a. Organic Wal-Mart) is a union-busting corporation whose CEO is an Ayn Rand devotee.

15

CJColucci 06.28.07 at 2:39 pm

There’s probably an article or blog post to be written about why conservatives flock to books of this sort, and the similar productions of the Coulters, Hannitys, Limbaughs, DeSouzas, and O’Reillys of the world, while liberals rarely show any enthusiasm for the liberal equivalents, of which there are a few. Fact-free left-wing jeremiads usually sink like a stone, ignored even by people who fervently agree with the point of view, unless they are screamingly funny or have some other redeeming quality beyond being a rant on our side.
Why is this?

16

KCinDC 06.28.07 at 2:59 pm

P O’Neill, you misspelled “Klintoon”.

17

Matt Weiner 06.28.07 at 3:23 pm

Convinced of the necessity, indeed, the value, of violence to achieve its ends, the party soon organized the Sturmabteilungen (Storm Troops), or SA, to defend its meetings; to disrupt the meetings of liberal democrats, socialists, Communists, and trade unionists; and to persecute Jews, especially Jewish merchants. It was aided in these activities by some disaffected army officers, notably Ernst Röhm.

Kuehnelt-Leddihn may have a typology on which Hitler counts as “left,” but that’s going to be seriously in dispute.

Also, questions with “really” and “Why would anyone think” are rhetorical.

18

will 06.28.07 at 3:24 pm

SamChevre: Whatever socialist elements the NSDAP had were expunged in the Night of the Long Knives with the murder of Ernst Rohm. Economics aside, I wouldn’t call hierarchy or the Fuhrerprinzip particularly left or egalitarian.

19

Matt Weiner 06.28.07 at 3:25 pm

I have a comment awaiting moderation, but go to the second page of the MSN Encarta article about Nazism and read about the Storm Troopers’ relation to liberal democrats, socialists, and unions.

20

Thom Brooks 06.28.07 at 3:31 pm

Great. Another book that links Hegel with Hitler? I thought we had enough with Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies—the single worst book written on Hegel’s political philosophy—where even Popper admitted later it was his “war effort” and that he had several facts wrong. Now another one.

If only people who commented on Hegel actually read his work…

21

Marc 06.28.07 at 3:34 pm

Sam, I hope you’re joking. This is a staple of far-right thought in the USA, and the logic goes something like this:

Fascists are bad.
Liberals are bad.
Therefore, fascists are liberals.

Fascism has strong ties to religion, nationalism, and is typically strongly tied to corporate interests. Fascist parties were bitter, bitter enemies of communists and socialists. The Nazis were the “National Socialist” Party, but that has no more connection with socialism than the Holy Roman Empire was holy or roman. Or that the People’s Democratic Republic of Germany was democratic.

This is a cousin of libertarian word games, in which all bad things arise from government or are made possible by the presence of a government.

22

Kestutis Misevicius 06.28.07 at 3:40 pm

13 – Why would anyone think that a party that fought pitched battles with both Communists and Social Democrats (and shipped most of them off to Dachau shortly after gaining power) and -was- supported by many aristocrats and traditional elites was in -any- way on the Left?

I eagerly await the parallels that can be drawn between the Democratic Party and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, given that they both clearly have the word “Democratic” in their names.

23

KCinDC 06.28.07 at 3:55 pm

Kestutis, you shouldn’t be posting spoilers for Goldberg’s book like that.

24

engels 06.28.07 at 4:11 pm

([Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn] was the fırst book on polıtıcal theory I ever read.)

Sounds like it was also the last book on political theory you ever read.

25

abb1 06.28.07 at 4:25 pm

Heil Hegel! The synthesis, the fuhrer, the nation.

26

Jon H 06.28.07 at 4:27 pm

“The Totalitarian Temptation: From Justin to Kelly”

27

engels 06.28.07 at 4:28 pm

Why would anyone serıously dıspute that Unıon of Sovıet Socıalıst Republıcs was sımılar to the Amerıcan Republıcan party? After all they both had the word Republıc ın there.

Laıssez les Chevres troller!

28

Ben Alpers 06.28.07 at 4:28 pm

In defense of von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s way with a title (if not political thought), it’s worth noting that he also published a book entitled Das Ratsel Liebe: Leidenschaft, Lust, Leid und Laster, which means he also beats Jonah Goldberg in the alliteration game.

29

Seth Finkelstein 06.28.07 at 4:32 pm

Hail, the Thousand Year Retch

30

Kestutis Misevicius 06.28.07 at 4:36 pm

Hmm–now I feel slightly silly for piling on.

31

Slocum 06.28.07 at 4:36 pm

Whatever socialist elements the NSDAP had were expunged in the Night of the Long Knives with the murder of Ernst Rohm. Economics aside, I wouldn’t call hierarchy or the Fuhrerprinzip particularly left or egalitarian.

I’d have thought the relevant history show fascism emerging from socialism would be Mussolini’s prominent role among Italian socialists before breaking with them over WWI.

With respect to hierarchy, Hitler wasn’t egalitarian, but nor was Stalin. If the ‘socialism’ in ‘national socialism’ was meaningless, so was the ‘egalitarianism’ of the USSR (or Maoist China). The extreme cult of personality surrounding Hitler was no stronger than that surrounding Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and others.

32

Raphael 06.28.07 at 4:47 pm

Samcheve:

First of all, you’re assuming that political movements can clearly get sorted into “left, without anything that isn’t” and “right, without anything that isn’t”. It seems to me that the nazis are a pretty good counter-example for that.

Second, where do you get the “opposed by the traditional elites, and especially the aristocracy” from? Sure, there were individual members of both groups who opposed Hitler; but there were many others who supported him. The backroom politicking that made Hitler chancellor was done by aristocrats and members of the traditional elites.

As for the “support from the poor and working class” part, yes, there was a lot of that, but at the time the Nazis took power, membership in the NSDAP was proportionally strongest in the lower middle class.

Michael Bérubé: That’s assuming that we can believe the Nazis all they said about their goals. But one of the main specialities of Nazi propaganda was to tell everyone what he wanted to hear and to hope that he wouldn’t pay attention to what they were telling everyone else. Keep in mind that Hitler, aside from being a very evil mass murderer, was a politician, too. He has held both speeches in front of factory workers where he talked about evil jewish capitalism and the need to fight it, and speeches in front of entrepreneurs’ clubs where he talked about evil jewish communism and the need to fight it.

(Later, during World War 2, international Nazi proaganda tended to be about fighting for the survival and power of the white race when it was directed at whites, and about fighting British and American imperialism when it was directed at non-whites. (As George Orwell pointed out at the time.))

Now that I think of it, that might be one of the reasons why Nazi comparisions are so popular: Since Hitler claimed to support almost any kind of group or issue at some time during his life, you can almost always find examples of him supporting you opponents’ causes, or at least something that looks a lot like your opponents’ causes.

33

SamChevre 06.28.07 at 4:54 pm

First of all, you’re assuming that political movements can clearly get sorted into “left, without anything that isn’t” and “right, without anything that isn’t”. It seems to me that the nazis are a pretty good counter-example for that.

Actually, I’m arguing AGAINST that view.

The Nazi’s racism was (I’d argue) neither left or right; it was idiosyncratic. To the extent that their policies can be described as “left” or “right”, it seems that a lot of their policies were “left”, and very few were “right”. That doesn’t mean that ALL their policies were “left”.

34

richard 06.28.07 at 4:58 pm

umm. Sounds like we could do with clear, commonly-accepted definitions for “socialist,” “social democratic,” “liberal,” “libertarian,” “left wing” and “right wing.”

Pretty much the only one I feel any confidence about right now in US politics is “libertarian.” Perhaps the most slippery term of all is “liberal,” which has been applied to people from all over the political spectrum.

35

abb1 06.28.07 at 4:59 pm

…Hitler wasn’t egalitarian, but nor was Stalin…The extreme cult of personality surrounding Hitler was no stronger than that surrounding Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and others.

Ah, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, the famous liberals.

36

Kestutis Misevicius 06.28.07 at 5:00 pm

Samchevre,

I think the point several of us are trying to make is that even a cursory examination of the Nazis shows that some of their rhetoric was “left”, but most of their actual policies were “right” by any generally-accepted definition of the terms. You seem to think that they were essentially a left-wing party that happened to be anti-semitic. That’s crazy wrong.

37

Slocum 06.28.07 at 5:21 pm

Ah, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, the famous liberals.

I’m not supporting Goldberg’s silly argument that Hilary is a fascist — just pointing out that the fact that Hitler’s cult of personality and NAZI party hierarchy doesn’t distinguishes him from the other totalitarian genocidal dictators of the day (with their Communist Party hierarchies). They paid lip service to egalitarianism as he did to socialism, but it was BS in all cases.

38

will 06.28.07 at 5:34 pm

“With respect to hierarchy, Hitler wasn’t egalitarian, but nor was Stalin. If the ‘socialism’ in ‘national socialism’ was meaningless, so was the ‘egalitarianism’ of the USSR (or Maoist China). The extreme cult of personality surrounding Hitler was no stronger than that surrounding Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and others.”

Slavoj Zizek has an interesting article in the LRB regarding this:
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n06/print/zize01_.html

“under Stalin, the ruling ideology presupposed a space in which the leader and his subjects could meet as servants of Historical Reason. Under Stalin, all people were, theoretically, equal.”

For the Nazis, hierarchy was natural and biologically rooted; Communism is a universalist ideology. The Fuhrerprinzip demanded submission and obedience to an arbitrary will; the will of “Historical Reason,” while determined and carried out by the Party, is putatively rational.

Another example is that left authoritarian Gaddafi, who styles himself the mere guide of his Green Revolution.

39

ed 06.28.07 at 5:35 pm

Fascists are bad.
Liberals are bad.
Therefore, fascists are liberals.

Not quite. It should read:

Fascists are generally perceived to be bad.
Liberals are anti-Right Wingers, so they are bad.
Therefore…

40

Hidari 06.28.07 at 5:39 pm

‘Why would anyone think that an explicitly socialist party, drawing most of its support from the poor and working class, and opposed by the traditional elites and especially the aristocracy, was NOT on the Left?’

Could I just point out the non un-apposite point that literally every word of this is complete and total bollocks?

The Nazis were not an ‘explicitly’ socialist party, they did not draw most of their support from the working class, they were not opposed by the ‘traditional elites’ (whoever they were) and they were not ‘especially’ opposed by the aristocracy.

Incidentally:

‘With respect to hierarchy, Hitler wasn’t egalitarian, but nor was Stalin.’

This is true but ignores the relevant fact of rhetoric. The rhetoric of Stalinism was egalitarian. Stalinists were hypocrites. Hitlerian Nazis were not: Hitler never pretended to be an egalitarian. There is a difference.

41

Hidari 06.28.07 at 5:42 pm

‘Hitler’s National Socialism had “socialism” right there in the word “socialism.”’

It was crafty how they hid it there wasn’t it? Damned clever, the Boche.

42

Glenn Reynolds 06.28.07 at 6:40 pm

Sam, you really need to study up on the Nazis, and only after that decide what you think.

I’ve seen pretty good arguments that the Nazis were a something new and modern, distinctly different from the old reactionaries and traditionalists. This doesn’t make them leftist. On pretty much every issue they were anti-left and anti-liberal (in any sense of the word liberal). Their strong belief in class hierarchy and opposition to unions were probably their two most important rightist traits. Old conservatives mostly supported the Nazis, though without loving them.

Hitler and Mussolini deliberately picked up and adapted leftist tactics, rhetoric, and forms of organization, but their goals were rightist.

If you cherrypick your data, it’s possible to show that Roosevelt was much like Hitler, but you just make a fool of yourself that way.

43

christian h. 06.28.07 at 7:19 pm

Just to reminisce, the first time somebody told me that Nazis were really socialists I (and the person making that claim) were in first grade. Nothing changes, it seems.

The traditional elites in Germany – the landed aristocracy, military, heavy industry – thought they could use the Nazis for their own aims (revanchism vis-a-vis Versailles, emasculation of the politically organized working class), even though many of them viewed the Nazis in general, and Hitler in particular, as rabble (Hindenburg famously spoke of Hitler as “that Bohemian [in the sense of "being from Bohemia", not "artist"] Sergeant”).
At the time the Enabling Law was passed, the communist MP’s were already in jail or hiding or had fled to the Soviet Union (where many were later shipped to Siberia or killed in Stalinist purges); the only party to vote “no” in the Diet were the Social Democrats (read Otto Wels’ speech if you can find a translation) – the bourgeois parties all voted “yes” (to be fair, most of them expected that the Hitler regime would not last long in any event).

44

Raphael 06.28.07 at 7:19 pm

Since you’re talking about similarities and differences between Hitler, Stalin and Mao, I’d say on a theorethical level, the main difference seems to be that Communism is fanatically utopian while fascism is fanatically anti-utopian. (And fanatical anti-utopianism is clearly more right-wing than left-wing.)

45

josh 06.28.07 at 7:20 pm

As noted above, the ‘left-right’ dichotomy is a fairly simplistic, schematic way of thinking, which often doesn’t fit reality very well. Nazism had some elements in common with ‘Left’ parties and movements, and some elements in common with ‘Right’ ones. As pointed out, many of the more ‘Left’ elements were purged in the Night of the Long Knives — but that’s part of the point: there were ‘Left’ elements there to begin with, which had to be purged. The arguments that Nazism couldn’t be left-wing because it was a) opposed to leftist parties, b) drew its support from disaffected soldiers, and c)was fundamentally inegalitarian, all seem less than conclusive to me. Communism often opposed (other) left- or liberal parties; it too was pretty inegalitarian in practice, fully embracing the cult of the great man as a matter of ideology as well as practice under Stalin and Mao (as noted above. And this did enter pretty thoroughly into the ideology of the movement. So, under Stalin, did nationalism). True, Communism’s rhetoric was more ‘universalist’. But, as with Nazism, Communism (by which I mean the Communist International from the ‘20s on, NOT Marxism) centred on seeing one group of people – the proletariat – as the heroes of history, and another group as the villains; and was devoted, as a matter of practice, to the elimination, the forced extinction, of those villains (e.g. the kulaks).And the fact that a movement draws support from (disaffected and ex-) soldiers doesn’t make it right-wing (think of all the veterans who have become anti-war protesters, god bless ‘em).
All of which is not to say that Nazism was left-wing. But (and perhaps I’m being overly generous here), I didn’t think that was the claim here (as opposed to in Goldberg’s book, which I would guess rests on appealing to, but warping, claims such as this). Rather, I took the claim to be that, in its early years, before Hitler’s purge and reorientation of Nazism right-ward (for partly political reasons — that is, for the sake of alliances with the more traditional German Right, which allowed for Hitler’s rise to power), Nazism (and Fascism) drew on both ‘right-’ and ‘left-’ wing elements. Certainly, it was FAR removed from the traditions of the European Left; then again, it also broke in important ways with the traditional European Right (clericalism, monarchism, etc,.) I think it was always more ‘Right’ than ‘Left’, and it certainly moved further ‘Right’ over time. But to ignore its early similarities, and debt, to Communism, and to certain strains of left-wing populism, would be to leave out a part of the story.
This, by the way, is a point that’s been by scholars who aren’t libertarian ideologues or GOP hacks.
The more relevant point, I should have thought, is that there’s a more crucial distinction to be made here between authoritarian/totalitarian parties/ideologies/movements, and democratic/constitutional parties/ideologies/movements. That is to say, in this case, between Bolshevism, Nazism, Fascism, Action Francaise, Falangism, etc. on the one hand, and liberals and social democrats (and anarchists) on the other. The latter tended to be the most consistent and courageous opponents of Fascism/Nazism (and also, in many cases, Bolshevism/Stalinism); the record of those of Goldberg’s ideological ilk was rather less stirling, at that point in time and others.

46

will 06.28.07 at 7:54 pm

For large part, I agree with you, Josh; European fascism was eclectic, had some roots in the left, e.g. in Sorel’s revolutionary syndicalism. I maintain (and I think you’d agree) that Communism was far more purely left, and that in practice Mussolini and Hitler abandoned the anti-capitalist elements of fascist ideology. Organized working class power was either crushed or co-opted in corporatist arrangements — benefiting German and Italian industrialists, even though the fascist state was far from their executive committee.

However, I must take exception with this:

“ut, as with Nazism, Communism (by which I mean the Communist International from the ‘20s on, NOT Marxism) centred on seeing one group of people – the proletariat – as the heroes of history, and another group as the villains; and was devoted, as a matter of practice, to the elimination, the forced extinction, of those villains (e.g. the kulaks).”

Kulak isn’t a biological category. Many of the most ardent of Mao’s Red Guards had “suspect” class backgrounds, i.e. were the sons and daughters of former landlords. While they were excluded from power on this basis, they could embrace the redemptive universalism of Communist ideology and become more Red than the Party bureaucracy.

47

Martin Bento 06.28.07 at 8:11 pm

On the Night of Long Knives, yes, there was an ideological component in that Rohm seemed authentically to want to do something for the general population, and a personal one in that Rohm and many of his associates were apparently gay. All that aside, the decisive issue was structural.

The SA was a private army/police force that helped the Nazi’s by doing a lot of beating up on enemies, but also by providing genuine police services – protection of little old ladies who joined the Party against muggers, that sort of thing. Once Hitler was in the establishment, he could not keep both the established military and elite behind him and maintain a private army of 2.5 million that owed neither personal nor institutional allegiance to that elite. So he made the choice he had to make, reportedly weeping as he signed the order.

Regardless of Rohm’s personal attitude, how is a private organization that has effective police power a leftist institution? It fits nowhere in leftist or liberal ideology, nor does it fit in Burkean conservatism, as it was, in fact, not traditional in that society. The SA had to become part of the state to be accepted by the conservative elite, which is effectively what happened, but only by destroying the existing SA leadership, who would not have accepted such a thing.

If we try to locate privatizing police and army power on the contemporary ideological map, though, it is certainly not liberal, nor leftist, nor conservative in the Burkean sense; it is libertarian. And it is the division of libertarian that has taken hold in the Republican party with its privatization of prisons and many military functions.

48

abb1 06.28.07 at 8:17 pm

…more crucial distinction to be made here between authoritarian/totalitarian parties/ideologies/movements, and democratic/constitutional parties/ideologies/movements.

I disagree that there is a meaningful distinction here. The structure of a movement/government is only a tactic, dictated by its nature and surrounding circumstances, not a goal in itself.

Suppose you have a liberal capitalist society where private property is above all. The elite may realize that the democratic/constitutional structure will provide stability and will be profitable, so it’ll institute a democratic (to a degree) political system, but as soon as their property rights become threatened they’ll instantly turn authoritarian/totalitarian. Chile/Pinochet for example or pretty much any Cold War conflict in Latin America.

So, I don’t think there’s really such a thing as “democratic movement” in the sense that its main goal is to be democratic.

49

novakant 06.28.07 at 8:44 pm

opposed by the traditional elites and especially the aristocracy

Flick, Hugenberg, IG Farben, Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, von Ribbentrop, von Schirach – duh

50

Hidari 06.28.07 at 9:10 pm

‘But to ignore its early similarities, and debt, to Communism, and to certain strains of left-wing populism, would be to leave out a part of the story’.

I think this has an element of truth in it, but only if you look at Nazi-ism as a whole. But it’s not clear that that’s the best way to look at it. The whole history of the Nazi party is one of Hitler slowly but surely gaining a stranglehold, with other sources of opposition being dealt with. By the late 1930s, it is irrelevant to look at other ‘left wing’ Nazis (they did exist), as they had all been killed, expelled, or had voluntarily left the party (and usually the country).

It’s true that Hitler could sometimes sound left wing. But this fails to grasp what Hitler was all about.

The absolute key and most important point in Hitler’s life was the defeat of Germany in World War 1, and his whole political life is an attempt to find an answer to the question: ‘Why did we lose?’.

The answer, Hitler came to believe, was that there was a conspiracy of people in Germany who had ‘stabbed Germany in the back’ (this ‘had’ to be the case, as Germany had been ‘winning’ in 1918). And Hitler, over time, came to identify these people more and more with the Jews. And, again, over time, Hitler began to see this as a method of explaining world history (or at least 20th century world history). The Jews were behind the scenes, manipulating things, and, more specifically, planning and plotting to bring down Germany.

In this view, Germany was menaced in the East by the Soviet Union, but also to the West by the United States. Russia was, ‘of course’ run by the Jews (after all Marx was a Jew, so was Trotsky, and so forth and etc.).

But then so was the United States. It was a leitmotiv of the extreme Nationalist ideologies that Hitler immersed himself in, that global capitalism was run by the Jews (and make no mistake, this is how Hitler interpreted the ’29 Crash and the Great Depression).

And so Hitler can sound very ‘left wing’ in his railing against Capitalism. But this should always be interpreted as not so much Capitalism per se, as JEWISH capitalism. Or Jewish-American capitalism if you want to be precise. As his actions showed Hitler had no problem with capitalism when the capitalists themselves were Aryan (other ‘left wing’ Nazis were much closer to the ‘left’ on this issue, but to repeat, you musn’t confuse their views with Hitler’s).

In other words, the key points to Hitler’s political philosophy are Nationalism and anti-Semitism. When he glorifies the State it is to glorify the Nation, or the German racial entity (the Volk) not (as with communism) to glorify the State per se, let alone advocating the State as a force for social change.

51

Martin Bento 06.28.07 at 9:45 pm

This all relates, I think, to the things I said here in a recent thread (comments #93, previously #94, there seems to have been some renumbering, #124, and #129). After WW1 and the Bolshevik coup, the conservatives gradually came to see that Burkean conservatism had not and would not cut it. The 20th century was going to be one of radical change. So they developed radical conservatism, which adopted tools and rhetoric from the communists – and the background of Mussolini and others was quite useful here – but towards right-wing, though not Burkean, ends. That failed spectacularly, discrediting, to a degree permanently, things that had long been accepted or part of the discussion in the West – anti-semitism, racism generally, eugenics, authoritarianism, and militarism, for example. All of these were conservative positions except eugenics, which had support from both sides. So conservatives will not go there again, at least not in the same way. But there is no return to Burkeanism for them because the status quo is no longer theirs to defend.

After WW2, the compromise on the key economic conflict – laisser-faire vs. socialism – was basically clear. Private enterprise, but with state regulation and with a state commitment to the general welfare, often enforced through redistributive policies. In the US, this was called “liberalism”; in Europe, it tilted further towards the socialist pole and was called “social democracy”, but we haven’t really seen a purely socialist nor a purely laisser-faire country in the West since. The third quarter of the 20th century is very easy to defend in terms of the standard of living of the majority. The last quarter less so, in my view, but still the Reagan/Thatcher era just moved the overton window within the parameters of the existing compromise. However, the objective was always to find a way out of the compromise, which is way the conservatives are the radicals in this era: they are the ones who are not committed to the status quo. In this respect, they are indeed the heirs of the Nazi’s and fascists, though they have (hopefully) learned something about going too far too fast. They also have dropped non-essentials like anti-semitism, of course.

Nonetheless, during this era it is primarily the liberals who are defending a status quo that is a practical compromise that has worked out pretty well, but that was mostly evolved rather than planned, reflecting organic rather than synthetic design. This is why there are fewer liberal arguments from first principles these days; liberals are now the Burkeans, defending what has worked out in practice rather than what is most defensible in the abstract. Socialists and Libertarians are the great masters of arguments from first principles, but the liberal view is that neither of those positions have worked out optimally in practice.
In the case of liberal social positions – against racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. – these are defended on first principles, but also are status quo at this point.

When I said more-or-less this before, some liberals seemed to cheer at the prospect of welcoming Burke to the fold. I then pointed out why I think Burkeanism is a losing hand, and the cheering went silent.

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Martin Bento 06.28.07 at 11:43 pm

abb1 wrote:

“The structure of a movement/government is only a tactic, dictated by its nature and surrounding circumstances, not a goal in itself.”

Dear God, man, you are a Marxist. People get involved in politics to fight for various ideals, but those can certainly be at the meta level, and one’s meta commitments should take priority, generally speaking. On your example of private property, it is quite reasonable for me to suppose that I do not know which is better: individual or some sort of collective ownership of land. However, I can suppose that the best way to answer this question is to ensure that all views are heard, and all interests represented equally. This meta concern leads straight to a liberal democratic solution without requiring a commitment on the substantive question. Procedural ideologies are real and important.

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John Quiggin 06.28.07 at 11:58 pm

I’m suffering from parallel universe intrusion problems here. I’m pretty sure mule trains are only in use in the parallel universe, and that Jonah Goldberg is an actual person in this one, but I can’t work out the book, let alone the subtitles.

The book sounds just about the kind of thing the putatively real JG would produce, as does the original subtitle, but the new one is straight from the Delta Quadrant.

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SG 06.29.07 at 12:03 am

Martin, you sound like William Lind. But I think there is something wrong in your view of how Burkeanism is a losing hand. I can’t put my finger on it because I’m stupid, but it seems that your analysis (on that other thread) relies on the assumption that modernity is somehow an environmental phenomenon. But the same concept you describe (disorienting change) manifests in examples (such as gay rights) which you blame on political movements. There is no dizzying rate of change going on in our society that we are not causing ourselves. So we don’t need to “grab onto it” and constantly reorient ourselves to the new changes – when we decided that gay rights was accceptable, we had already reoriented ourselves.

The world is not scary, and we don’t need to use some radical new revisioning process to adapt to it. It is only as scary as we choose to make it, these things aren’t out of our control, and only conservatives benefit from saying so.

I think.

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josh 06.29.07 at 1:21 am

Martin Bento, Will, Hidari: I don’t have any major disagreements with what you say. There are a few points on which I’d dissent a bit, though:
On Nazism as a whole vs. Hitler: agreed that Hitler was pretty purely ‘Right’ in some sense, and that he made Nazism pretty purely ‘Right’. But I do think that Nazism, over the course of its history (and not only during the years when it was in power) was more (if not much more) than Hitler’s personal agenda or vision. And, if one is talking about ‘fascism’, as we originally were, I think one does have to go beyond a Hitler-centric approach.
Also, Will’s objection to my comparison of kulaks, etc., to the targets of Nazism, and statement that members of the rentier class in China could “embrace the redemptive universalism of Communist ideology and become more Red than the Party bureaucracy.” Well, first of all, we may just disagree about what ‘redemption’ means. And I certainly don’t want to _equate_ Nazi racism with Communism’s war on ‘class enemies’. But there does seem to me some relevant similarities, as well as differences, between defining your mission in terms of combatting a racial (or, indeed, ideological) opponent, and a class one: in both cases, one is dedicated to the elimination of a whole category of people. And while being a kulak isn’t genetic, it is something one is born into. The Red Guard may have been forgiving of class origins — at least some of the time. The policy of Communist governments wasn’t always so forgiving. But, granted — there are important differences in the way in which Communism and Fascism/Nazism selected certain groups as targets, and (often) in the way that they treated members of those groups, and I’m sorry that I made a comparison seem like an equivalence.
Abb1: But there was a movement in favour of democracy, before democracy was an established part of Western political life. And a movement can be characterised by its tactics as well — whether it favours democratic means, or non-democratic ones. So I think a movement can be democratic, or the property of being democratic can apply to movements, in two ways: democracy can be the goal/system at which the movement aims, or it can set a standard for the way the movement goes about pursuing its aims. And to fail to recognise that these questions of what means are to be used in pursuing political ends is a crucial question is a grave error — one that, I’d argue, has cost a good many lives.
Of course, I doubt that you’ll agree.

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Martin Bento 06.29.07 at 2:24 am

sg, I have no idea whether I sound like William Lind because I have not read him. These ideas did for me actually largely did gel in response to Alegria. Perhaps I will read Lind.

I wouldn’t say I “blame” a political movement for gay rights because I favor such rights. I do credit such a movement, however.

I’m not saying that modernity is environmental or independent of human will. I’m saying that currently – as pretty much continually since the industrial revolution, but let’s stick to currently – the status quo cannot be sustained. It doesn’t even seek to be: Capitalism constantly seeks to innovate and grow, following Schumpeter’s creative destruction. But also our lifestyles are not physically sustainable: too much pollution, too much energy use, too much population growth. Technology continues to progress rapidly and is radically destructive of old approaches even as it enables new ones. That’s why I mentioned designer babies; that will be the first human action that changes human evolution itself, transfoming human beings, potentially, into industrial products. One can be scared of it, or one can be thrilled at its potential, but to pretend it is unimportant is unserious. And it is not inevitable: civilization could collapse (seriously, ask Jared Diamond) or draconian measures could be imposed to prevent it. But each of those options also represents drastic change, so the status quo is still a goner. There are many other strains of technology that are comparably radical in their implications – extending the human brain, for example. At this time (not always), th only bet that makes sense is dramatic change, for good or ill. And it could be good or ill; I reject Burkeanism and progressivism both because both presume to take a stance with regards to change per se.

Modernity is a river you cannot hold still because it is not still now. Its essence is motion, and it moves with great momentum. You can divert it this way or that. You can build things in it that temporarily obstruct part of its flow. You can dam it – but then you will have a lake not a river, and the dam will eventually be breached or topped if you do not let the river out somehow.

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Martin Bento 06.29.07 at 2:36 am

Josh, You’re basically saying that Nazism was left-wing in some respects particularly early on, because it was like Stalinism in some respects. So you don’t hold Nazism as definitive of what it means to be “right”, but you do hold Stalinism definitive of what it means to be “left”. Why? As you partly acknowledge, leftist ideology generally was not sympathetic to the cult or personality or the nationalism that Stalin brought to communism. Fascism, Nazism, and to a fair degree traditional conservatism were sympathetic to these things. So why does their presence in both Nazism and Stalinism suggest something leftist in Nazism rather than something rightist in Stalinism? Stalin himself seemed to suggest this when he attack his communist anti-authoritarian critics as “irresponsible leftists” and accused them of being idealistic dreamers, rather a standard conservative attack on the Left. The Orwell of Catalonia also saw the Stalinists as the rightists, not the leftists, in the anti-fascist movement.

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SG 06.29.07 at 3:37 am

Martin, the Lind comment was a kind of throw-away not funny joke. He is a monarchist who also believes that liberalism of the leftist sort is now the status quo, only he hates this fact and blames it all on America`s entry into World war 1 (and WW1 itself, also, let`s share the blame around here). So really you aren`t like him at all. You can read him at Defense and the National Interest if you want a laugh. (I enjoy reading him because I like watching conservatives eat their young, and really if he could, William Lind would have Dick Cheney for breakfast).

You still seem to be portraying modernity as an environment rather than a collection of conscious decisions. Also although i see where you are pointing with the designer babies thing (I`ll have 2 green ones, thanks), the concrete example you gave – gay rights – has nothing to do with technological advances, as far as I can tell (unless one wants to blame modern scientific understanding of sexuality). So I don`t know that you are necessarily comparing eggs and oranges there. Couldn`t you be conflating 2 separate aspects of modernity (changing consciousness and runaway technology) and overemphasizing their interrelationship? I mean, Hitler wanted designer babies. He didn`t want gay rights. And in a sense I think he wanted to create the perfect “modern” human, all machine and no soul. I think I`m losing myself here, so I`m off to lunch…

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floopmeister 06.29.07 at 3:49 am

I’d suggest Sam go read On the Marble Cliffs by Junger if he seriously thinks the Nazis were Socialists, or that they were somehow ‘against’ (or ‘for’, for that matter) the aristocracy.

The relationships between the Nazis and the ‘aristocracy’ (by that I take he means the Prussian military aristocracy) were much more ambivalent that his Manicheist argument makes out.

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mijnheer 06.29.07 at 5:45 am

Were the Nazis socialists? Of course. But what they meant by “socialism” was something right-wing, not left-wing. Here — let Joseph Goebbels explain it (in a 1926 speech entitled “Lenin or Hitler?”):

“The Socialism that we want has nothing at all to do with the international-Marxist-Jewish levelling out process. We want Socialism as the doctrine of the community. We want Socialism as the ancient German idea of destiny.”

If equality is a key ideal of the left, then fascism, in its Italian or German variety, was ferociously anti-left. Mussolini was explicit on that score (the rejection of Marxist egalitarianism), and Hitler never stopped ranting about the evils of Marxism (which included Social Democrats as well as Communists).

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abb1 06.29.07 at 7:47 am

So I think a movement can be democratic, or the property of being democratic can apply to movements, in two ways: democracy can be the goal/system at which the movement aims, or it can set a standard for the way the movement goes about pursuing its aims.

Josh, I certainly disagree. A successful genuine democratic movement will destroy the unpopular system and then inevitably it’ll have its Thermidor. That’s just how it is, the law of nature. Society can gradually evolve into a limited, managed democracy, but as soon as the elite is threatened, the gloves will go off. It’s just a method of maintenance/operations, among many other methods.

It’s like franchising in business vs. the traditional vertical model. The goal is to make money, franchising is a method. As long as McDonald’s make you money you keep it, or else you’ll sell it and buy GE.

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thag 06.29.07 at 10:45 am

two comments:

either #42 above is by the real Glenn Reynolds of instapundit or it’s not. If it is, then I have to revise my estimates of his sanity, honesty, and ability to write full sentences. (Usually he manages to express delusion and deviousness with a mere fragmentary “heh.”) Who knew the guy could think?
If it’s not GR, then I think CT should delete the comment, because it not only falsely uses someone else’s handle, but it even gives a link to his site. I don’t mind parody handles (signed, “glenn reynoldswrap”), but this is too much.

second thought: Jonah is clearly changing his title for the *second* time here, not the first. To judge from the cover art, and from his asinine aspirations to alliteration, the original original title was “from Hitler to Hillary Clinton”.

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Thom Brooks 06.29.07 at 11:52 am

#25 says Heil Hegel! The synthesis, the fuhrer, the nation.

Of course, anyone who has ever read Hegel knows that he never uses the word “synthesis” and most certainly not for his views on dialectic. Instead, it was J. G. Fichte who argued for “thesis, antithesis, synthesis” whereas Hegel argued for sublation and a vanishing of differences between thesis and antithesis, rather than a synthesis of them.

Yet again more proof that we constantly hear people talk about Hegel. If only more people would read him first!

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SamChevre 06.29.07 at 2:26 pm

I’m short on time: I’ll give the definitions of “left” and “right” (and, as a special bonus, “liberal”) that I find most helpful.

Left–primarily concerned with the good of the society (with “who’s part of the society” a subject of debate).

Right–primarily concerned with the good of traditional elites. (Note: this means that a policy favoring Baptists over Catholics is “right” in Lynchburg, but not in Italy.)

Liberal–primarily concerned with the good of individuals as perceived by those individuals. (Note: the balance between protecting individuals[libertarian] and benefiting individuals(liberal democrat in the European sense) is much contested.)

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josh 06.29.07 at 3:15 pm

Martin Bento:
“So you don’t hold Nazism as definitive of what it means to be “right”, but you do hold Stalinism definitive of what it means to be “left”.”
Not at all. My point was, rather, that the various features of Nazism that were identified as making it definitively ‘right’ were shared by other movements which are generally considered to be ‘left’ — not just Stalinism, but other strains of Communism as well (and one might also add some strains of what one could call populism, which is hard to categorise). This includes the ‘cult of personality’, which has marked many ‘left-wing’ movements (that is, movements defined by opposition to existing inequalities) over time. I agree, though, that such a cult of personality represents an inconsistency, or falling away from its own ideals, on the part of a ‘left’ movement, while it’s perfectly consistent, even characteristic, of a ‘right’ one.
However, a larger point I was hoping to get across, but seem to have failed to, is that the left/right categorisation, while not invalid or unhelpful, also has limitations; and that many movements are likely to include elements that are both ‘right’ and ‘left’. I’m somewhat dubious about the very idea of a particular movement being ‘definitive of what it means to be’ either right or left. But if there were such a movement, on the left, it certainly wouldn’t be Stalinism – on that I think we agree.

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abb1 06.29.07 at 3:22 pm

Right—primarily concerned with the good of traditional elites.

For the Right and Left – depends on the definition of ‘good’. Someone from the Right would certainly argue that a traditional patriarchal/hierarchical society is good for everybody, not just for the traditional elites.

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abb1 06.29.07 at 3:33 pm

such a cult of personality represents an inconsistency

Cult of personality is a natural phenomenon for any mass-movement, there’s nothing remarkable about it. Hard to imagine one without a revered charismatic figurehead (sometimes it’s someone from the past, some dead guy). That’s just human nature.

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Raphael 06.29.07 at 4:14 pm

“My point was, rather, that the various features of Nazism that were identified as making it definitively ‘right’ were shared by other movements which are generally considered to be ‘left’—not just Stalinism, but other strains of Communism as well (and one might also add some strains of what one could call populism, which is hard to categorise). This includes the ‘cult of personality’, which has marked many ‘left-wing’ movements (that is, movements defined by opposition to existing inequalities) over time.”

I think you’re forgetting one key “right-wing” feature of Nazism: When the Nazis (and in other fascist countries, the local fascists) had taken over power, and been in power for a while, most (allthough not all) of the people who had been rich or wealthy before were still rich or wealthy. As far as I know, that wasn’t so with Stalinism.

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engels 06.29.07 at 6:26 pm

Josh – But the structure of your inference seems to presuppose that the propositıon that Stalin was ‘on the left’ is more certaın than the proposıtion that Hıtler was ‘on the right’, or so it seems to me. İ don’t know why you believe this. İ don’t.

Sam – Fascism ıs a kind of rightwıng populist movement. İt serves the interests of elites by usıng a powerful ıdeology to manipulate the masses into betraying their own interests by fanning and then exploiting widespread hatred of chimerical enemies (eg. Jews, or perhaps Arabs or gays) and promotıng violent emotions (eg. nationalism, feelings of racial superiority) which serve elite interests, notably by creating a polıtıcal climate in whıch aggressive imperıal war is acceptable and even desirable. İn these respects it bears a certaın resemblance to recent mutations of American so-called ‘conservatism’.

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SamChevre 06.29.07 at 7:18 pm

Engels–can you give me your definition of “left” and “right”? In the definitions I gave–the ones I’m most familiar with–”right-wing populist” is a contradiction in terms.

It seems that you are using right-wing to means “nationalist” or “militarist”, which I find an illogical definition. (Among other problems, it makes the French Revolution a right-wing movement.)

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MQ 06.29.07 at 7:50 pm

The French revolution was not nationalist, it was universalist, although under attack by monarchies it eventually became nationalist. The process was completed with Napoleon.

A few people in this thread seem to be blinded by U.S. conservatism, with its libertarian strain, and more or less ignorant of the history of European conservatism. As someone (Martin Bento?) said above, Nazism is a form of radical conservatism, but it’s European conservatism. The thing is that European conservatism is rooted in the history of militarist aristocratic values, while until recently U.S. conservatism has been more influenced by middle-class bourgeois commercial values. As Engels says above, Nazism tried to turn these militarist, hierarchical values into a radical popular mass movement (as opposed to confining them to an aristocracy). The core ideologies are nationalism and militarism along with anti-semitism, and a crude form of communally based social Darwinism (the master race and all that). Those are simply not leftist values. Both radical leftism and radical rightism declined into murderous dictatorships, but the initial ideologies were completely different.

As someone else pointed out above, U.S. conservatism has recently been showing some disturbingly facistic tendencies, with the emphasis on militarism, nationalism, and the importance of a unified popular will.

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MQ 06.29.07 at 7:55 pm

I then pointed out why I think Burkeanism is a losing hand, and the cheering went silent.

Martin, you are being too triumphalist here, since I and others continued to cheer for some form of Burkeanism as the proper governmental response to radical capitalist change. Liberalism tries to build mediating institutions that buffer and moderate the radical changes created by capitalism, hopefully without slowing down the process of capitalist growth too much.

Although I liked your analogy between modern liberalism and Burke, I now think it’s somewhat confusing. There is a certain sense in which American liberalism is incrementalist and traditionalist in its approach to government, but there is little desire among liberals to stop the process of social change created by capitalism. In fact, most liberals welcome those social changes. Burke was writing before the industrial revolution, and his notion of “tradition” simply does not transplant into modern society.

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Luther Blissett 06.29.07 at 9:35 pm

Thom — Hegelian sublation is not about the erasure of differences between two opposing forces. The translation of his famous phrase from *The Phenomenology of Spirit* is thus: “the identity of identity and difference.” As Zizek reminds us, at work through Hegelian dialectic is the awesome power of the negative. Each term in the dialectic is shown to be faulty; they are sublated when Spirit recognizes the identical truth at the heart of each limited term. But whereas earlier idealism saw all opposition as essentially the same (the famous “I=I” equation for all reality), Hegelian dialectic preserves the tension between the seeming opposites while also transcending them. The specifics of one historical moment are picked up and reconfigured by the next.

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josh 06.30.07 at 12:05 am

Raphael: Fair point. I should have been clearer in distinguishing between the various ideological elements in the mix in Fascism and Nazism’s earlier years, and their effect in power. (Though again, I’m not sure that the fact that it can be said of many ‘left-wing’ governments or parties that, after they have been in power for some time, the same people who were wealthy and powerful still are, more or less. So I don’t think that can quite be the defining feature or criterion of left- vs. right-wing governments. Granted, that wasn’t so much the case with Bolshevism. Which brings me to …)
Engels: Again, I’m afraid my stress on Stalinism in my original post has been misleading; I didn’t mean to just focus on Stalin or Stalinism, but Communism more generally, as defined above. Anyway, I do think that most people would identify Nazism/Fascism as ‘Right’ and Communism as ‘Left’ — is this so controversial a claim? My claim, in turn, is that this binary way of approaching things is misleading, to the extent that a ‘far Right’ movement will have some features in common with a ‘far Left’ one (but this isn’t merely an ‘extremes touch’ argument: there may also be similarities between movements all across the ideological spectrum).
Anyway, I never meant to suggest — and am fairly sure that I don’t state anywhere above — either that there aren’t significant differences between Right and Left, or that Nazism is Leftist, or that it isn’t Rightist. My point was merely that, in general and particularly in the political crisis of the mid-20th century, many European political movements that were ‘Rightist’ resembled ‘Leftist’ parties in some respects, and vice versa. Sorry to have been so obscure in my meaning — and to have droned on so long.

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engels 06.30.07 at 8:30 am

Sam – I don’t want to try to defıne ‘rıght wıng’ here but adaptıng your defn let’s say ‘serves the ınterests of elıtes’. Populıst means ‘enjoys strong support among the masses’. There’s no contradıctıon.

Josh – I thınk I agree wıth you then.

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abb1 06.30.07 at 9:30 am

What’s the matter with your ‘i’s, engels, what keyboard is this?

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Martin Bento 06.30.07 at 11:33 pm

Sorry to take awhile getting back to this thread.

sg,

I’m not saying that technology is the sole force driving change, though it would be sufficient in the absence of the others. As I suggested, Capitalism itself is another such force. While it is true that the change is driven primarily by a “collection of conscious decisions” the aggregate effect of these is not a conscious decision. No one in the 50′s said “let’s create the 60′s”, nor foresaw it, nor probably even regarded such a scenario as “credible”. The course of society is not under conscious control.

On the example of gay rights, I think Stonewall and such would have been unthinkable without the Sexual Revolution, and the latter is fairly widely regarded, I think, as in part the consequence of birth control technology. That birth control would affect the life of gays, who have no need to worry about unwanted pregnancy, was certainly not obvious, but that is frequently how history works. Actually, I think popular culture at this point sometimes exaggerates this, pretending that not even direct consequences of actions are foreseeable, but, still, in part because of the complex interdependencies I mentioned, the overall direction of history is not under conscious control.

My point about gay rights was different anyway. Because liberals were not defending the status quo on this point, they were not stuck with other commitments that bound their hands on the issue. Also, the fact that they went so far so quickly suggests that our culture has become inured to rapid change. I don’t think Burke would have predicted that.

The need to defend the status quo locks one into positions when one should know better. Case in point: Social Security. The Republicans attack this for reasons they pretend are practical, but which are actually ideological. They deploy various dishonest arguments to do so. In response, liberals show that projecting historical trends in economic growth shows Social Security as solvent for several more decades, largely because of the reforms Greenspan pushed in the 80′s so Reagan could use SS to finance his cuts of more progressive taxes. This is all fine, but in protecting this aspect of the status quo, liberals are forgetting about things they know perfectly well in other contexts: global warming and oil depletion, for example. Even assuming we change our current behavior rapidly, the economic impact of those things almost certainly means that economic growth for the next half-century will not match that of the preceding half-century. This is not an argument Republicans can make, but, unlike theirs, it is a legitimate one. Being committed to the status quo, liberals are not taking full account of vectors of change that they do, in fact, know about, much less the ones they do not. Because liberals are protecting the status quo from conservative attack, rather than visualizing comprehensively how they want society to change, they are backed into incoherent positions.

mq,

I think I was being more rueful than triumphant, but still, you did not respond. You responded to my initial glib assertion that Burkeanism was a losing hand, but not to my account of why. No reason you had to, of course, but for that reason I did not regard you as “continuing to cheer”, at least not in my hearing.

On the other points, I agree that liberalism is seeking to moderate rather than prohibit change, but is that not also what Burke seeks? Yes, his specific ideas do not apply to the current situation, but in that sense I don’t think many conservatives of the last 150 years are Burkean either, save perhaps for the occasional William Lind; they are not cheering for the return of the ancien regime.

As for tradition, is liberalism at this point not a tradition? If it evolved in response to events, what can it be but a tradition?

Actually, I would say much of liberalism’s greatest success in the economic sphere is when it is more efficient than laisser-faire. Regulated markets often have lower transaction costs, for example, as the various disclosure laws in real estate, for example, reduce the labor that you must invest to protect your interest as a purchaser. Muting Capitalism does not necessarily slow it down.

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almostinfamous 07.02.07 at 12:40 pm

now, to treat this book entirely right, we have a sneak summary/preview, courtesy of jon swift

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