Friday, December 26, 2008

Liberal Fascism Part 1

I requested and received Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism for Christmas.

First, let me add to the anecdotal evidence of a bookseller's blacklist at Barnes & Noble stores. My parents were unsuccessful at the State College B&N, and so enlisted my brother who lives outside the area. After having similar failure at at least one B&N near Philly, my brother eventually located the book at a Borders. How ironic -- a popular book about fascism is oddly difficult to find...

Anyway, I finished the first chapter last night, which was about Mussolini. The book more than makes the case that Mussolini was a committed socialist through most of his political life. And it's pretty clear that at no point did Mussolini adopt anything that would resemble a right-leaning political philosophy, particularly not one that would be recognized as such today.

But there was a subtle shift to a kind of "whatever keeps me in power" philosophy, and Mussolini eventually de-emphasized class consciousness in favor of nationalist identity, infuriating Italian socialists at the time.

This is a difference from the short-form way that the Goldberg argument has been summarized -- that Mussolini and Hitler were just socialists who weren't internationalists. Clearly, at least with Mussolini (as that's all the farther I've read), there was a more important shift occurring.

Otherwise, there are numerous parallels drawn between Mussolini and Lenin including tactics, their views of Pragmatic philosophy, reaction to world events, and small-p pragmatic deviations from by-the-book socialism.

Good stuff so far. And with such an uncomfortable similarity to current political rhetoric (including a "third way" to get beyond "the tired categories of left and right", the rejection of the "dogma" of classical liberalism, and an appeal to "pragmatism" with a heavy state hand), it's no wonder sales of the book have jumped since November.

Looking forward to the rest of the book.


Anonymous said...

I will make the bold prediction that the last 8 years with secret prisons, wiretaps, extra-legal interventions look more like fascism than the next 8 years...lets revisit in 2016...


Anonymous said...

Goldberg is a hack. His understanding of the history of ideas is shallow and driven by ideology. Perhaps that is redundant. But you should find someone to read that has at least a semblance of intellectual respectability. Someone who has to satisfy editors not ideologically disposed to publish stud like JG is peddling.

And as for your conspiracy, I regularly see his LF for sale here at both N&N and Borders. Please, conspiracy theories are soooo silly.

Sockless Joe said...

The secret prisons, wiretaps, etc., were all things that have occurred under previous administrations. Some Clinton. Some you have to go back to FDR for. None of the implementations were any worse than their predecessors, and most better.

One of Goldberg's theses is that fascism is not defined merely as "bad things" or "things people find objectionable". There is a more deeply ingrained pattern of philosophy and world view. It is not mere militarism.

In fact, Goldberg has seen fascistic elements in Dubya's presidency, but they have more to do with "compassionate conservatism" than with Guantanamo.

As for Goldberg being a hack, I see nothing substantive in the criticism of the second commenter, and thus nothing to respond to.

Samay said...

Is "it's a shitty book that isn't selling" really a "blacklist"?

It's the free market, man. If Barnes and Noble won't sell a "quality" book by a pasty-faced moron who got his job because of his mom, then the market will drive them out of business. That's how it works, right?

Sockless Joe said...

I don't think one book (other than something on Harry Potter scale) is big enough to make an impact on the viability of a given book store or chain.

As to the book's commercial success, I recall reading that it's gone on to extra printings, was on the NYT bestseller list, it's been ranked high on Amazon, and was ranked the #1 history book of 2008 by Amazon readers.

I'm not saying that there is necessarily a blacklist or concerted effort to suppress the book, but I'm not saying there isn't one either. I'd read about that possibility before, and when I heard the difficulty my family had coming up with a copy of a bestselling book I recalled those earlier accounts.

Anonymous said...

Just a thought, but maybe other people requested the book for the holidays, too. The bookstores might simply have been sold out given that overall demand for the title would be lower than a Harry Potter or Stephen King book, thereby making it much easier to run through their current stock.