Sunday, January 18, 2009

LF on the Authoritarian Third Way

I had to put down Liberal Fascism for a while due to the hectic nature of life, so I haven't made nearly the progress on it that I'd hoped for.

I thought I'd share this passage from the chapter on FDR. In sharp contrast to the rest of the book, this passage contains no citations, so I must assume it is wholly Goldberg's voice. Nevertheless, it is a theme he has touched upon several times and I'm curious to see how Goldberg might develop the Third Way analysis through the rest of the book.

LF, pg 130
The "middle way" sounds moderate and un-radical. Its appeal is that it sounds unideological and freethinking. But philosophically the Third Way is not mere difference splitting; it is utopian and authoritarian. Its utopian aspect becomes manifest in its antagonism to the idea that politics is about trade-offs. The Third Wayer says that there are no false choices -- "I refuse to accept that X should come at the expense off Y." The Third Way holds that we can have capitalism and socialism, individual liberty and absolute unity. Fascist movements are implicitly utopian because they -- like communist and heretical Christian movements -- assume that with just the right arrangement of policies, all contradictions can be rectified. This is a political siren song; life can never be made perfect, because man is imperfect. This is why the Third Way is also authoritarian. It assumes that the right man -- or, in the case of Leninists, the right party -- can resolve all of these contradictions through sheer will. The populist demagogue takes on the role of the parent telling the childlike masses that he can make everything "all better" if they just trust him.

I'll note that when Goldberg wrote this Hillary Clinton was poised to be the 2008 Democratic Presidential nominee. Mrs. Clinton has numerous references in the index, and her name appears in the title of Chapter 9 ("Brave New Village: Hillary Clinton and the Meaning of Liberal Fascism").

Conversely, Barack Obama has only two index references. Yet the above passage seems remarkably prescient in terms of political rhetoric. Consider Obama's recent pre-inaugural Philadelphia speech:
What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives — from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry — an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels.
I believed that our future is our choice and that if we could just recognize ourselves in one another and bring everyone together [...] then not only would we restore hope and opportunity in places that yearned for both, but maybe, just maybe, we might perfect our union in the process.
Starting now, let's take up in our own lives the work of perfecting our union.

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