“Part of Mussolini’s reputation as a new kind of leader stemmed from his embrace of “modern”ideas, among them American Pragmatism. He claimed in many interviews that William James was one of the three or four most influential philosophers in his life. He surely said this to impress American audiences. But Mussolini really was an admirer of James (and the James-influenced Sorel), who believed that Pragmatism justified and explained his governing philosophy and governed in a pragmatic fashion. He was indeed the “Prophet of the Pragmatic Era in Politics,” as a 1926 article in the Political Science Quarterly (and subsequent book) dubbed him”

“If at times he would adopt, say, free-market policies, as he did to some extent in the early 1920s, that didn’t make him a capitalist. Mussolini never conceded the absolute authority of the state to dictate the course of the economy. By the early 1930s he had found it necessary to start putting Fascist ideology down on paper. Before then, it was much more ad hoc. But when he did get around to writing it out, doctrinal Fascist economics looked fairly recognizable as just another left-wing campaign to nationalize industry, or regulate it to the point where the distinction was hardly a difference. These policies fell under the rubric of what was called corporatism, and not only were they admired in America at the time, but they are unknowingly emulated to a staggering degree today.”

“Pragmatism is the only philosophy that has an everyday word as its corollary with a generally positive connotation. When we call a leader pragmatic, we tend to mean he’s realistic, practical, and above all nonideological. But this conventional use of the word obscures some important distinctions. Crudely, Pragmatism is a form of relativism which holds that any belief that is useful is therefore necessarily true. Conversely, any truth that is inconvenient or non-useful is necessarily untrue. Mussolini’s useful truth was the concept of a “totalitarian” society—he made up the word—defined by his famous motto: “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.” The practical consequence of this idea was that everything was “fair game” if it furthered the ends of the state. To be sure, the militarization of society was an important part of fascism’s assault on the liberal state, as many anti-fascists assert. But that was the means, not the end. Mussolini’s radical lust to make the state an object of religious fervor was born in the French Revolution, and Mussolini, an heir to the Jacobins, sought to rekindle that fire. No project could be less conservative or less right-wing.”

Excerpt From: Goldberg, Jonah. “Liberal Fascism.” Knopf, 2008-01-08. iBooks.
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