First things first

Posted by Tory Historian Tuesday, January 27, 2009 , ,

Tory Historian thinks that the dates project (here, here and here) needs to be brought to an end. Therefore, suggestions will be received till the end of this week, which, happily, coincides with the end of the month. Over the following couple of days all the information and suggestions will be processed i.e. read and jotted down on a piece of paper and a more or less final list will be published next week.

However, Tory Historian knows what kind of argumentative folk read this blog and there will be another opportunity to argue with the final list in order to produce a final-final list. Can't say fairer than that, surely.

In the meantime, here is a book that might be of interest to people interested in conservative history. It has been out in the United States for a while and has caused a great deal of ... well, the polite way of putting it is discussion. A vicious argument would be more accurate but all attempts to kill it have failed. Long live American love of freedom.

It is published this week in Britain and was launched by the New Culture Forum yesterday. The books is Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism". More on that as time goes on but a couple of quotes from the Introduction, entitled "Everything You Knew About Fascism Is Wrong", may whet our readers' appetite.

The main thesis of the book is that many of what Americans call "liberal" and we call "leftie" ideas have grown out of fascist ones, fascism being a left-wing ideology with Mussolini and even Hitler remaining a hero of the left until they sold their souls to Stalin.

Here Mr Goldberg discusses "totalitarianism".

But what do we mean when we say something is "totalitarian"? The word has certainly taken on an understandably sinister connotation in the last half century. Thanks to work by Hannah Arendt, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and others, it's become a catchall for brutal, soul-killing, Orwellian regimes. But that's not how the word was originally used or intended. Mussolini himself coined the term to describe a society where everybody belonged, everyone was taken care of, where everything was inside the state and nothing was outside: where truly no child was left behind.
Though that last phrase refers specifically to a Bush initiative, the rest of the description will sound very familiar to people on both sides of the Pond and everywhere else. We have all been pelted with policies that battle with "social exclusion". Like the hero/narrator of Dostoyevsky's "Notes from the Underground", Tory Historian quite likes the idea of being outside the tent, of being excluded. (PS Not to be confused with "Notes from the House of the Dead", also by Dostoyevsky.)
Liberal fascism differs from classical fascism in many ways. I don't deny this. Indeed, it is central to my point. Fascisms differ from each other because they grow out of different soil. What unites them are their emotional or instinctual imnpulses, such as the quest for community, the urge to "get beyond" politics, a faith in the perfectibility of man and the authority of experts, and an obsession with the aesthetics of youth, the cult of action, and the need for an all-powerful state to coordinate society at the national or global level. Most of all, they share the belief - what I call the totalitarian temptation - that with the right amount of tinkering we can realize the utopian dream of "creating a better world".
To the best of Tory Historian's recollection, the phrase "totalitarian temptation" was invented by the French writer Jean-Fran├žois Revel in 1976. One hopes that Mr Goldberg will acknowledge that as well as the many similar ideas to be found in Albert Camus' "The Rebel".


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