11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2008
Goldberg's book is a well-researched account of the dominant political philosophy of the last 200 years - collectivist fascism of one sort or another. While left-leaning detractors will have their knickers in a knot over Goldberg's account of political history, the bottom line is that he brings to the table some insightful analysis to the table on the similarities between socialism, nationalism and fascism - they all come from the same root: collectivism by elites that believe that they "know better".
There are some problems as Goldberg appears to work out his thoughts in the book rather than in his notepad, and while amusing to read for conservatives, I seriously doubt that Hillary Clinton justifes a whole chapter to her political views and background ... this just came across as political posturing and not very well thought out.
In the end, if Goldberg's work helps readers to view the political spectrum on a collectivist-individualist spectrum rather than a "left-right" or "socialist-fascist" spectrum, then we'll all be better for it.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
In the intro, Goldberg discusses the confusion surrounding the term 'fascism' with reference to Roger Griffin, Emilio Gentile, Gilbert Allardyce, Ernst Nolte, Stanley Payne, Roger Eatwell and others. The phenomenon has many variants & names (with a fondness for words like 'movement' or 'action') whilst the manner of its expression is influenced by the national culture. Nowadays the term is loosely applied to 'anything not desirable.' The author investigates the characteristics of the movement, its roots in American Progressivism of the early 20th century, the branches that sprouted during the New Deal and similarities with the agenda of what is today called Liberalism in the USA.
First, he examines Mussolini, a favorite of the New York Times, New Republic, Hollywood and many intellectuals until his invasion of Ethiopia in 1934. This chapter includes sections on Jacobin Fascism with observations on the French Revolution, JJ Rousseau, Georges Sorel and Napoleon, and War, which deals with populism and pragmatism as forms of relativism. National Socialism predated Hitler, it competed with communism for the same support base, used identity politics and was not identical with Italian Fascism as Goldberg points out in the 2nd chapter. Further information on the similarities, differences and the danse macabre of shifting alliances in 1930s Europe is available in Sinisterism by Bruce Walker.
There's selective amnesia as regards Woodrow Wilson during whose presidency censorship, economic regulation, militarism, propaganda & corporatism dominated the USA. There were unimaginable crackdowns on the media, restrictions of civil liberties & many features of a police state. In the 1930s & 40s during Roosevelt's New Deal the term Liberalism replaced Progressivism; it was the leftist author HG Wells who first promoted 'liberal fascism.' Goldberg shows how closely the programmes of Roosevelt, Mussolini & Hitler resembled one another. Fortunately, democratic parliamentarianism is an Anglo-Saxon tribal institution so the global trend didn't gain totalitarian power in the UK or USA.
The third fascist movement exploded in the 1960s with the student riots, assassinations and terrorism of groups like the Weather Underground & Black Panthers. This tumult flowed from the writings of European academics like Paul de Man, Herbert Marcuse, Michel Foucault, Carl Schmitt and Derrida whose 'deconstruction' was a direct offshoot of Heidegger's variety of existentialism. The Reckless Mind by Mark Lilla takes a closer look at these intellectuals and what they promoted. They in turn influenced Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin & Hillary's mentor Saul Alinsky. A wide chasm separates the aforementioned from the classical liberal, conservative or libertarian thinkers like Adam Smith, Montesquieu, Burke, Locke and Hayek. Classical Liberalism focused on the individual whilst its collectivist opponents favored the group, whether based on race, gender or whatever. Identity politics, in other words, Multiculturalism.
The author traces the seeds of the 'god-state' idea from Hegel, Darwin and Bismarck's Prussia through the Frankfurt School and the marriage of psychology & Marxism through to inter alia Adorno, Marcuse & Fromm. Its chief propagandist was Richard Hofstadter. The Kennedy Myth underpinned Lyndon B Johnson's idea of the 'Great Society.' In truth, the 1960s tumult was a spiritual phenomenon that transpired simultaneously on campus and in government with its vast spending sprees that resulted in family breakdown, the escalation of crime and street violence. The notion of `unity', neutral in itself, is easily hijacked for the purpose of irrational groupthink.
Earlier in the 20th century, Eugenics was promoted by progressives like the Fabians, George Bernard Shaw, HG Wells & Maynard Keynes and opposed by traditionalists like GK Chesterton. The author quotes Nietzsche on eugenics and investigates Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood & the birth control movement. In the economic sphere, the Italian & German collectivist states enforced corporatism (co-ordination) and the New Deal was the same. Government meddling, regulating and corporate lobbying limit competition, are detrimental to small businesses and consumers, and resemble the corporatism of the European Axis powers and Prussia before that. Hillary's 'politics of meaning' is a theocratic concept since it claims that the collective can solve all problems via the state, leaving no room for voluntary associations.
Today's culture wars echo Bismarck's Kulturkampf, with liberals as the aggressors. Then as now, the enemy is traditional religion and the battlefields are identity, morality, the family and nature, including environmentalism and the cult of the organic. By undermining truth, tradition and reason, ideologies like deconstruction, existentialism, postmodernism, pragmatism and relativism pave the way toward dystopia as Stephen Hicks argues so eloquently in Explaining Postmodernism. Liberalism in the USA is really Leftism, a secular salvationist ideology. No matter how 'nice' it appears on the surface, it has been subverting Enlightenment standards for many decades. And without those standards, society decays into the Nietzchean where brute force supplants reason.
In the Afterword, Goldberg looks at the tempting of American conservatism which is a blend of cultural conservatism and classical political liberalism. The most notorious champion of tribalism on the Right is Patrick Buchanan, whose writings are examined. The author also looks at 'compassionate conservatism,' a well-meant policy that nevertheless extended state powers. Finally, Goldberg observes that transforming the USA into a European welfare state is not the end of the world (although there's plenty of evidence that the real thing is unsustainable, nearing implosion and civilizational collapse). He warns against what might come beyond a welfarist America. The Western European utopias so beloved of American liberals will show the way in the next two decades. Claire Berlinski's Menace in Europe and Bruce Bawer's While Europe Slept offer intriguing glimpses into the continent's current mindset & possible future. The causes and undesirable trends are highlighted by the philosopher Chantal Delsol in her illuminating books Icarus Fallen and The Unlearned Lessons of the 20th Century.
This well-researched and brilliantly argued book concludes with an appendix (The Nazi Party Platform), 54pp of bibliographical notes and an index. For further reading, I highly recommend United in Hate by Jamie Glazov and A Conservative History of the American Left by Daniel Flynn.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2008
In his book, Liberal Fascism, Goldberg argues that fascism clearly belongs on the left side of the spectrum.
Upon reading this thesis I instinctively found it disturbing as if it seemed to go against the natural order of things. Of course the Nazi's and the Italian Fascists were on the far right. Are they not our society's very definition of the far right?
Yet why, asks Goldberg, if the Nazis were so far right on the political spectrum, did they brand themselves as socialists? Indeed, the very word Nazi comes from a shortening of the party's official name, die Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, - German for the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Similarly, why did Mussolini, whose parents read Das Kapital to him as a child, consider himself a 'socialist' right up until the moment of his execution at which his acolyte shouted, "Long live Mussolini, long live socialism!"
Goldberg argues, with considerable backing, that fascism began very much as a left-wing movement, with the added embrace of nationalism. In fact, Goldberg suggests that the first categorizing of fascists as right-wing only occurred after Stalin put out the directive that all opponents of the his rule of the Soviet Union, including Trotsky, were to be labeled as such in a bid for control of Germany.
Fascism, says Goldberg, was born of a "fascist moment" in Western civilization, when a coalition of intellectuals under various labels - progressive, communist, socialist - believed the era of liberal democracy was drawing to a close. Leaving little doubt with him that fascism was a project of the left.
Consider Cuba, prods Goldberg. Who can legitimately contest the fascist tendencies of its supposed leftist totalitarianism with its nearly lifelong military dictator Fidel Castro; its religion of fidelity to the state; the beatification of its martyr Che Guevara; and the brand of patriotism promoting "socialism or death"?
As to why he wrote the book, Goldberg, admits in part to a simple emotional impulse. As a conservative, he is tired of those on the left refusing to debate him on awkward facts, instead calling him a fascist, thus undeserving of consideration. The word fascist is more than just a modern synonym for evil; it puts a complete stop to all discussion. With its associations to the Nazi-ordered Holocaust, to be called a fascist is to be told your views are so repugnant they are not worthy of debate. (Ironically, the use of the label 'fascist' in modern debate is in itself becoming a fascist tactic to ending discussion.)
This book is of great importance, particularly as a healthy, open political debate is long overdue. With this book Goldberg has perhaps launched the political discussion that could rock our society's current thinking to its core.
With its clear writing, solid research and truly thought-provoking arguments, this book should be a must-read addition to every self-respecting political junkie's library.
Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, this book very much merits a look and a read it is one of the most startling polemics I have read.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Goldberg, a regular contributer to the conservative National Review, takes on the liberal-progressive establishment in this book. His thesis is that the liberal in American society is nothing more than a person committed to pushing progressive causes using fascistic politics. He begins his argument on what history reveals as the close ties that existed between the early 20th century American progressive and the emerging Italian and German fascist movements. Both were mutual admirers of what they wanted to accomplish: the unity of the country. Goldberg even suggests that Wilson's decision to take America into war in 1917 is indisputable proof that he saw militarism as a fascistic means to promoting the will of the state. Woodrow Wilson, like his successor FDR with the NRA in the 30s, transformed the country into a more centrally-controlled state that combined the need to protect the individual and regulate big business in order to promote progress change. The rise of statism, a thinly disguised form of fascism, became known as the third way in which society could both unite and reform in the same breath; no longer reactionary or revolutionary to frustrate the advocates of social engineering on behalf of a utopian future. Later in the 20s and 30s, western media and fascist governments in Europe showered each other with mutual praise for their 'noble' endeavours to collectivize society for the greater good of all. Liberals have never satisfactorily answered the question as to who gets to determine what is good for everybody. They just automatically assume it is they who have come up with the progessive vision for change. Most of the book is taken up with examining where American left-wing ideologues have gone in their efforts to push liberal fascism or the third way. A number of well-known members of the Democratic Party and the east-coast academic establishment are scrutinized very closely in this book by the way they continue to aggressively push their liberal causes: abortion, health care, subsidies, free trade, planned parenthood, sex education, corporate welfarism, and multiculturalism. While Goldberg defines fascism as the foundational substance of the modern state, he quails at the liberal notion that it originated as a dogma with the conservative movement. Branding conservatives as fascists is just a convenient way of liberals artfully trying to dodge the label themselves. As the great visionaries of society, liberal progressives have one thing in common: the need to convert their dreams into powerful realities by the imposition of a unified will. At no time does Goldberg infer that this ultimate desire bespeaks Hitlerian methods of violent coercion. The American state is too sophisticated to employ brutal means to realize grand ideals. This is one of those well-defined apologies that conservatives need to produce more of if they hope to recover some of the lost ground since 2008.
41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2008
I suspect the two intensely negative reviews (just how many books of this type are truly one-star awful?) are a reaction to Goldberg's overall conclusion rather than a realistic indication of the book's quality. Goldberg has written a scholarly and challenging work that raises some very good points about the reality behind many of our political labels. Yes, what is today called liberalism (not the liberalism of Gladstone and Arnold) has some strong authoritarian tendencies, as have some supposedly progressive movements in the past. Of course so have some conservatives--but that's a different book and one cannot criticize Goldberg for not writing it any more than one can criticize, e.g., Naomi Wolfe for not writing a book about the positive side of business. It's one-sided, but then polemical books are always one-sided. However, it does make good arguments backed by good data.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2008
This is a surprisingly subtle and carefully researched account of "collectivism" in European and American political thought over the last hundred years. It brings together information that is known but perhaps not widely appreciated - the extent to which the Nazis (NSDAP) were a socialist movement, for example, or the association of "New Age" ideas with fascism, in particular through Guido von List and Lans von Liebenfels.
Most surprising to me is Goldberg's analysis of Hillary Clinton as a political thinker.
He takes her very seriously indeed. Unfortunately she interprets the catchphrase "it takes a village to raise a child" as necessitating massive government intervention into individual and family life - in Goldberg's interpretation at any rate.
There are many good reviews on Amazon.com and the interested reader should consult them.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2008
I suspect that the ivory tower elites will despise this book. University acadamia and the media always equate conservative governments such as the USA under Dubya and Canada under Prime Minister Harper as being the equivalent to Nazis Germany under Hitler. Jonah Goldberg deftly exposes the fact the the Liberal Left have more in common with the National Socialists than just the term "socialist".
It all boils down to individual rights ie the true conservative view that each person is of infinite value vs the socialist view that the worth of the individual must be sacrificed for the "good" of the State. Which is a paradox unto itself, considering that Liberalism/Socialism does not recognize the concepts of good and evil, only moral equivalence.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2009
Essentially, the thesis of this noble book is that the American Liberalism has more in common with Fascism than the right does. It's all good. I liked how he approached the term Fascism. Even though there were several issues that disappointed me, I am still willing to look positively at this work because it is shattering the leftists' myth that Fascism is a right wing idea. Here are a few questions I have for the author and other reviewers.
1- Goldberg talks about how Fascism is rooted in the French revolution of late 18th century but he fails to provide the slightest background for the French revolution. I am not saying that this should have been the purpose of that chapter but he could give the readers a short background into why French revolution was a tide of anti-Christianity terror. So he fails at that. 2- On page 8, 9 of the introduction he constantly mentions that Fascism won't happen in America but pages later he says it can happen here or it has happened here. I mean, if the author believes (as he provides it in detail in chapter 3) that Fascism has happened in the US once, why should we not believe that it can happen again. So I wonder if the author is aware of contradicting himself several times from introduction to the end of chapter 3. These contradictions disappointed me and made the rest of reading more sluggish and less enjoyable. 3- Jonah Goldberg is shy of providing context to the events of 1920s and 1930s. He also fails to provide us with the events that took place under Republican presidents in 1920s.
But the most positive and bright aspect of this book is that it raises the level of discussion/debate around the word FASCISM. It gives it an intellectual cover and no one can easily name others fascist. In that, this book does a good job in laying out the relations between the Liberals and Fascism. It deserves to be read and discussed and I am glad I got to read it.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
There are a few things that we've learned as kids and have since taken for granted: the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, the birds fly south in the Winter, and north in the Summer, there are four seasons, seven days in week, etc. One of these truisms that almost no one questions is that communism is a left/liberal ideology while fascism is a right/conservative one. And while communism to this day has maintained a certain level of respectability and even moral high ground in some circles, labeling someone a fascist is the lowest form of insult, and something that many conservative thinkers are constantly subjected to. Therefore it came as a bit of a surprise to me to discover that fascism is in fact, when looked at objectively and without the baggage that it has assumed in popular perception, a quintessential left-of-center ideology. Granted, "Nazi" is in fact a shorthand for "National-socialist," but for the better part of last seventy years hardly anyone thought to emphasize the "socialist" part of the label, only the nationalism by which it was widely known. In the light of that Jonah Goldberg's book comes as a revelation that has profound effect on one's perception of the world. It is equivalent to discovering that the sun rises AND sets in the East. I was at first rather skeptical of the premise of this book, but the exhaustive, detailed and persuasive historical evidence that was presented in the book put all my misgivings aside. It documented many of the fascist tendencies and full-blown policies of some of the darlings of American left: Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. It shows that aside from the extermination of Jews, there are hardly any policies of German National-socialists that differ substantially from any other socialist movement of the time, or even today. And herein, according to this book, lies the greatest danger for the modern western democracies. By demonizing fascism as a phenomenon of the right, it leaves open the unimpeded encroachment to many fascist policies under the guise of socialist and other liberal movements. These movements don't necessarily want the full-blown fascist dictatorships installed, but they are certainly progressing in that direction. That's why they are referred to as "liberal" fascists - fascists with a smiley face.
Jonah Goldberg does a remarkable job of presenting his ideas and impressions to the modern reader - always backed by facts, never overdoing the rhetoric. The book covers somewhat the similar ground as the legendary "The Road to Serfdom" by F. A. Hayek. This latter book was written in the middle of WWII, and had some of the same perceptions as "Liberal Fascism." Its thesis was to warn the Western democracies against implementing many of the social programs that led to the rise of fascism and communism in Europe at the time. It is sobering to see that many of those warnings are still relevant today, maybe even more so than in 1940s. We live in the world where both fascism and communism are rapidly recede in people's memory, and it is easy to think that what led to them could not possibly happen again. "Liberal Fascism" is a sobering reminder that the road to fascism is indeed sometimes paved with the best intentions.
One final note: many of the current-events books out there don't age well, and their relevance diminishes almost as fast as that of many periodicals. This is certainly not the case with "Liberal Fascism." The style of writing and the comprehensive historical references and examples will keep this book relevant for many years to come.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"Liberal Fascism" speaks of the relationship between the Fascist intellectual tradition and practice and the Liberal-Progressive movement in Twentieth Century America. Author Jonah Goldberg draws comparisons between the practices of Progressives such as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, FDR and modern liberals with those of fascists Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler. The section on the Wilson administration raises interesting facts about the numbers of people imprisoned for criticism of the government. Administration standards for loyalty were shocking by today's standards. The New Deal programs setting wages and prices fits into the fascist economic model.
Goldberg makes the case that fascism is really a phenomena of the left that is identified with the right only because leftists wanted to distance themselves from what had become an unpopular movement and the fact that, where they competed, leftists and fascists hated each other.
This book makes for some interesting thinking. I think that Goldberg makes a good case that fascism is close to liberalism in that both movements emphasize government direction and control of the economy and details of everyday life. This is in contrast to modern conservatism that finds its roots in classical liberalism which emphasizes freedom from government economic controls and intrusions into everyday life. I am somewhat skeptical of comparisons between the various regimes. Does it really follow that because Nazis and the modern liberals assert an obligation to be healthy and want to restrict unhealthy products and practices establishes that they are similar movements?
Jonah Goldberg states that he wrote the book because he was tired, as a conservative, of being labeled a fascist. I think that the import of this book is what it tells us about labels. It tells us that anti-Semitism is not a characteristic of fascism, but is merely a practice of some, but not all, fascists. It tells us that modern conservatives are the heirs of classical liberals, not fascists who are really left wing, not right wing. It tells us that modern Progressives and liberals really do have something in common with fascist movements. As Goldberg says, that does not mean that Woodrow Wilson, Hughey Long, FDR, LBJ, and Hillary are fascists. It does mean that they share some values and tactics with fascists and that says as much or more about fascists than it does about American liberals.