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About fascism and functionalism

Is fascism in our time reactionary or hypermodern?


Fascism's most conspicuous significance was its violent anti-communism and hatred of liberal rationalism: mythically and menacingly urged it to rally across class divisions – and became a very powerful "third alternative".

But as time goes by, another meaning of fascism comes to the fore – namely, as a hard-fought attempt to make capitalism functional. Divided into industries, governed by a strong state power where professional knowledge had an important place, economics and politics were to be merged into a productive civil society, the "corporate state".

This interpretation gets a strong affirmation through the memory book of Albert Speer, Hitler's architect and later his minister of war. For here we meet a completely different Hitler than the usual roaring monkey that caused crowds to sew by playing, as they say, on their irrational feelings. Instead, a picture of the amateur architect with magnificent building plans for Berlin and other German cities is drawn by a man who through technical research will make Germany the foremost country in the world. Yes, it is suggested that Hitler himself cared little about the "Blut und Boden" ideology because he had something else to think about.

After all, it is worth emphasizing how the dreams of national socialism to create "where the great Wirtschaftsraum", a large economic space, anticipate the Common Market established by the Treaty of Rome, as demonstrated in the journal "Contrast" a while back.

In this illumination, what we call fascism and Nazism does not seem like a black reaction, as an attempt to crush the new in blind rage. Fascism, on the contrary, may seem modern, yes, hyper-modern, akin to the social order of e.g. Japan or the United States.

Did anyone talk about sweat and tears, oppression and violence? 

Too short to reminiscent of Herbert Marcuse's portrayal of the United States, one of the finest societal theories of recent years: In the United States, which is an "advanced industrial society," conflicts of interest appear only as frictions within schemes that essentially work well. Or conflicts of interest appear as something that makes social systems work even better – Marcus' famous and infamous idea that the advanced industrial society seems to be able to absorb, "integrate", all dissatisfaction and protest. (Protest songs, for example, sell very well.) The tension between the old and the new, between interest groups, between social classes, is almost gone in this society, at least in its self-perception, its "ideology". Marcuse expresses the absence of such a tension by describing the ideology of society as "one-dimensional".

Well, an intentional one According to Marcuse, a one-dimensional society such as the United States is a flexible arrangement, everything should preferably work smiling, cheerful, yes, with a touch of sexual pleasure. Both goods and human beings should be beautiful, and hyper-modern machines of all kinds do the work. Did anyone talk about sweat and tears, oppression and violence? Something old-fashioned does not exist in the advanced industrial community. And yet, the aggressiveness of the technology and social order is to the touch and feel. "At the bottom of my smile you should get a stroke of my jaw bone" – this line from a poem by Georg Johannessen fits well with describing the functional grip of functional capitalism on things and people.

Axel Jensen's masterful novel from 1965, Epp, shows in a very witty way the life of an advanced industrial society. Old Epp, which is stowed away in a funkis block and may soon be degraded to just called Ep or even E, lives with its pills and its mass medium in the magnificent country of Gambolia, and at all: Architecture as a social theory has become an increasingly troubling direction.

When certain views I advocate, repeatedly lately being accused of belonging to the ideology of National Socialism and Fascism, I feel insecure. Who really is a fascist these days? Anyone who likes the smell of old wooden houses or manure in the fields, who cares more about craftsmanship than newer technology, who puts eroticism higher than sexuality – is he a fascist? Or is it the speed person in a functional home with all modern aids, during his career, as performance anxiety as performance-conscious – is it he or she, who deserves that designation?

Dag Østerberg
Dag Østerberg
Author, professor. (1938 – 2017) Since the 1960 years has been one of Norway's foremost social theorists and intellectuals. has made important contributions to the so-called positivism debate and has shown a critical profile in his writings.

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