The following is a slightly edited extract from Hanzi Freinacht’s book ‘Nordic Ideology: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book Two’. This is the second book in a series on metamodern thought, a work of popular philosophy that investigates the nature of psychological development and its political implications.
Here are a few circumstances that put the emergence of fascism in a different light:
- The link to (and partial overlap with) the genuinely revolutionizing form of modern art called Italian futurism, starting in 1909 with poet and art theorist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti who wrote the Futurist Manifesto. Futurism shows a number of signs reminiscent of metamodernism as an art movement as well as a philosophy—emphasizing agency, mobility, totality, acceleration, development, technological transformations, the conquest of other areas of life under the domain of art—as I discuss elsewhere.[ii]
- The undeniable genius and lasting relevance of fascist and proto-fascist political thinkers such as Carl Schmitt (who coined the insightful definition of a sovereign as “he who decides on the exception” and who went on to be the “crown jurist” of the Third Reich); Georges Sorel (who theorized the importance of myth in people’s lives and developed his own flavor of post-Marxism); Vilfredo Pareto (who is known for the 80/20 principle of income distribution, but also embraced fascism); and the US-born poet Ezra Pound—just to mention a few. These weren’t persons who got stuck in the fascist regimes of dumber people; they were deep thinkers whose oeuvres and lives led them to fascist conclusions.
- The relative progressivity of the 1919 Fascist Manifesto (also authored by Marinetti), containing: universal suffrage including women (opposed by most countries at the time), minimum wage, retirement at 55, the expansion of labor union rights and workers represented in boards of companies, and an eight-hour workday.
- The undeniable fervor and enthusiasm sparked within literally millions of people in the years during which fascism and nazism emerged. Of course, this ability to unify and inspire does not in itself justify fascism. It does, however, highlight the fact that fascist practices can resonate with profoundly positive and beautiful emotions and coordinate many people’s actions in large and non-capitalist projects (i.e. actions coordinated by other means than monetary exchanges).
- The general idea within fascism to view society and the populations as a developmental work of art. If you look at the 1929 novel Michael by Joseph Goebbels (who later became the propaganda minister of the Third Reich), you find the idea that a statesman is an artist:
“Art is an expression of feeling. The artist differs from the non-artist in his ability to express what he feels. In some form or other. One artist does it in a painting, another in clay, a third in words, and a fourth in marble—or even in historical forms. For him, the nation is exactly what the stone is for the sculptor.”[iii]
Naturally, this is a dangerous and dumb idea if you fall off the holistic balance and land in totalitarianism. Of course, people aren’t your “marble” to play around with. But the impulse in itself—to view society as a work of (co-created, participatory and democratically shared) art—is shared by political metamodernism. Society can be approached with the mind of an artist who wants to express his innermost depths. Society should not be the result of a cold bureaucratic process, but of passionate creation and love—aiming at the development of the inner qualities of the population.
- The revolving door between fascist ideology and the far-left (Mussolini himself being an example, Georges Sorel another, even Goebbels and Hitler learning from Marxist theory and practices) as well as between deep ecology (recurring in Heidegger and many esoteric green fascists) as well as with radical conservatism (notably with the Revolution von rechts idea: “revolution from the right”), including authoritarian conservatism and its link to neoliberalism (via Pinochet’s Chile, which espoused Milton Friedman’s libertarian economics). Basically, you find fascism sneaking in here and there across the classical political spectrum—and even in spiritual and religious thinkers. Modern political thinkers will tend to emphasize the aspects that others share with fascism while denying their own connections, so as to prove one’s moral high ground, being “the farthest from fascism”, its very opposite. But it makes more sense to acknowledge that fascism has certain partial truths that are being denied and disowned, and then to productively own up to these and to include them in one’s own perspective.
It should be apparent, then, that fascism cannot simply be discarded and never related to again. You can say that fascism is the catacombs of the modern ideological metropolis: It constitutes a vast network of secret and forgotten underground tunnels connecting all of the political ideologies. I guess you can say the same about all the ideologies to some extent—they all interconnect—but fascism remains the most denied and least understood.
The political metamodernist must learn to travel these dark tunnels without becoming a creature of the night. You drain the sewers, clean them up, put in proper lighting, make sure the pipes work—you get the picture. As such, political metamodernism is both the ideology that is the closest to fascism and the one most in opposition to it. The catacombs are there, whether we like it or not. The political metamodernist travels them and cleans them up; the liberal innocent denies their existence and sleepwalks in their dirt.
There is, naturally, something exquisitely demonic about fascism. As I argue in another book,[iv] this demonic aspect can be understood in terms of relations between “metamemes”: Fascist and nazi thinkers used early postmodern insights (like the mass psychology of Gustave Le Bon and ideas about image control in the media, some pretty advanced psychoanalytical and situational-psychological ideas as well as socialist critiques and the communist art of agitation) to manipulate a distinctly modern society at a moment of crisis in order to wrest control over modernity’s advanced political machinery and economic prowess; to restore what is nominally a postfaustian society (traditional), but in practice amounts to a number of faustian goals and ideals (the conquest of the world, a master race, sheer power for the heck of it, war for the sake of war, the return of esoteric power gods, skulls on the sleeve, and so forth). That’s exactly what the archetype of a demon signifies: a fallen angel, one close to God who uses an elevated and exalted position, an access to rare truths and insights (postmodern), for crude and narrow purposes (faustian).
That’s the essential truth; fascism is so profoundly evil because it is demonic in this primary archetypal sense. A demon is a fallen angel, something profound and beautiful in the service of something base and shallow. Developmental imbalance. And every time you have such glaring developmental imbalances, you can know for sure the hell patrol is coming.
Political metamodernism can only be true to its cause and politically effective if it faces this great demon of modernity—fascism—and asks him for his central truth, for his gem (yes, demons have gems, they love ‘em).
“So, okay then, dear mister get-kids-to-murder-and-torture-innocent-people-in-secret-death-camps, what’s your secret? What could you possibly tell me? What do you have that I, the enlightened and democratic modern mind, lack and secretly desire?”
The green little devil smirks slyly and replies:
“One word, one word. There is a longing inside of you; one that I live out more fully than you, one that you deny, but still haunts the outer rims of your mind as it beckons to the innermost core of your soul. And on the hour of your death, it will grant me victory over you. The word is heroism.”
Yes, everyday life under modernity’s democracy and capitalism denies and suppresses an impulse shared by all of us: the drive for greatness, for superiority, for conquering death, for ascendance. A small part of us knows that we want more, that this life—and our role in it—is too petty, too drab, too trivial, too self-serving, too spiritually impoverished. We know we were meant, in some sense, to take the hero’s journey, but we got caught up in mortgages and deadlines, and we tell ourselves that’s all we ever really wanted.
We hide this side from one another, from ourselves. It embarrasses us immensely. We find ways to subtly and gleefully dismiss the deepest strivings of others as boyish, immature, puerile, distasteful, deluded. We deeply resent the glimmering greatness of one another because it reminds us of the subtle lies we live by. And instead we reenact these longings in movies, in books, in music, in fantasies and historic personae. If someone around us wishes to go down the highway of heroes, we use all the strategies we can to ridicule their effort:
“Hah! They would have themselves be a movie character, a Rambo! They lack humility. But I am mature—I really am—and I will never be a hero. Ever. I don’t even want to; only if fate forced my hand—which I by the way have a feeling might happen anytime soon—would I ever put on display the inner virtues that are uniquely my own! Until then, here’s to keeping an honest job and watching TV. With some bloody dignity.”
But when we utter these words to ourselves, we find our inner voices ringing strangely hollow. The green little devil’s whisper lingers on: We want to be heroes; we know that we really are heroes, and we want to fight the good struggle, and win. We want to conquer mortality. We want to be unleashed as creators beyond our social roles and masks, beyond the trivial confines of everyday life. We want to sacrifice ourselves, as Gilgamesh, for the sake of unity so that we may live forever.
The word “fascism” stems from Italian fascio meaning a bundle of rods, ultimately from the Latin word fasces; it means to unite into a whole. Not all of us want heroism all the time and in every situation, but all of us do have this inner longing for greatness, for something far beyond ourselves. We like glory. A part of us secretly resents having given up any chance for rising higher—and that same part resents glimmers of the Übermensch in our fellow human beings.
For all its wackiness and evil, for all its developmental imbalances and inherent pathology, fascism is the ideology that most effectively honors this basic existential truth: the longing for heroism, power and transcendence through our deeds.
A reminder of this truth is the recurring role of dominance and submission in sexuality and eroticism. Democracy, fairness, gender equality, peace and deliberation—they all lack something: they lack that “oomph”, zest, lust, that carnal and dark demonic princely power.
At the heart of humanity, there is a sexual beast seeking to be unleashed. For all its moral and practical superiority (even military, as it turned out), democracy is a bland nice guy. Fascism promises us an edgy bad boy and a sublime feminine surrender into uncontrolled explosive orgasms that shake the foundations of the cosmos. Fascism is the opposite of refined democracy: it is pure dominance and submission. It is speed, excitement, violence, blood, iron, autonomy, force, will, power. It is untamed—erotic in the deepest sense of the word.
Another reminder of the ubiquity of heroism in our psychology is the archetypal “hero’s journey”. Joseph Campbell famously described heroic blueprints shared by disparate mythologies, recurring in folk sagas, novels and movies (directly inspiring George Lucas in the creation of Star Wars). This universal narrative involves leaving our safety zone, traveling to our inner depths, facing danger, conquering evil, and returning in a transformed state of being.
Hitler galvanized people—albeit around a stupid plan involving killing everyone on the way down to the Black Sea so as to fill the area with racially pure Germans who would go back to working as farmers, have lots of blond children and driving down a giant autobahn to Crimea to go on summer vacation in extremely repetitive concrete blocks by the beach. Regardless of the apparent stupidity and absurdity of the plan, which was only thinly disguised and was in actuality supported by many Germans, there was something there that modern life otherwise never offers us: an epic, heroic struggle with no irony, no distance, no second thought, no excuses made. What does it matter, then, if the aim itself is entirely preposterous?
Fascism was and remains a feverish boy room fantasy. But psychologically, for all its immature lies and manipulations, it honored the fact that a part of us is always susceptible to such a dreamy will for greatness. We cannot truly “grow out of it”; only deny it. The world is not enough.
As lack of meaning and lacking sense of strength and vitality take hold in many young men, and some women, in our days, they turn again to these themes. From their imprisoned anguish grows new streams of fascism. Some few join overtly fascist movements, others nationalist and radical-conservative ones and “Indo-European identitarianism”, and yet others find more innocent ways of reenacting aspects of these: pick-up artist “gaming” (social power games to get women), BDSM tantra workshops, violent porn, some of the authoritarian undercurrents of the men’s movement, anti-feminism, anti-modern anti-“decadent” art sentiments, variations of theories about “the fall of the West” and other ideas about cyclical civilizational patterns where you need to rescue “civilization” by becoming more manly (again, a theme shared with the proto- and pre-fascists at the turn of the 20th century, with Oswald Spengler and others).
Not all of these things are all bad or all fascist. The men’s movement and learning good dating skills particularly have potentials for creating productive results, and some aspects of these blend into political metamodernism. Viewed as a whole, these partly interrelated phenomena do however reflect the staying power of fascism and the masculine and boyish qualities it embodies. Most of it is relatively subtle and hidden from public view, but the psychological forces brewing are strong.
These tendencies work their way through the collective psyche and slowly prepare the ground for demands of a new “Revolution von rechts”; the sentiment that decadence has gone too far grows, “the West” or “civilization” or “the phallic order” or “the logos” are in danger, and this “necessitates” some “decisive masculine action” to “save” your favorite unit of identification (the West, this or that country, etc.).
Ah, a new brotherhood of Greek hoplites, free-roaming muscular heroes, always preparing for war! The women want it too, the fascist mind murmurs; they only came up with their angry feminism because they’re subconsciously enraged with the too weakly and nerdy men of late modern society.
In short: Fascism stirs, sprung from cages—at a new and higher, more abstracted and yet more demonic level.
If you look at more overtly fascist thinkers such as representatives of the Nouvelle Droite, (the New Right) and more recently the Alt-Right (the Alternative Right), these enjoy the masculine anti-democratic qualities more unabashedly: bloggers, YouTubers and rightwing online media all base their ideas on Julius Evola’s esoteric fascism, Tomislav Sunić presents his theses in a book smugly titled Against Democracy and Equality (1990), and US Alt-Right leader Richard Spencer performs fiery speeches about ethno-nationalism. There’s that demonic quality again—it is shared to some extent by the online movement of the so-called “Dark Enlightenment” (a brand of anti-pomo anti-feminism mixed with different wild reactionary suggestions) and social media figures like Milo Yiannopoulos who criticize political correctness and leftwing “social justice warriors” and ridicule vegan “soy boys”. Then there are radicals such as the pseudonym Bronze Age Pervert, flaunting more overt fascism, mixed with a kind of extreme, ironic humor. And there is Curt Doolittle’s propertarianism, attracting many young men through the internet. There’s even a “meta-right”, whose members seem keen on learning from political metamodernism.
These wider tendencies create a vast network of strange bedfellows. Time and again, the different positions deny to be in league with each other but end up feeding the same underlying currents. Trump’s populism doesn’t like Richard Spencer’s Alt-Right, but the latter likes the former and claims to have influenced him. Jordan Peterson, the Jungian psychologist who calls himself a “classical liberal”, talks approvingly about posh brit Milo Yiannopoulos, who in turn loves Trump, who in turn was put in office with the help of Russian online troll factories, who spread anti-feminist ideas, which are recycled by the men’s movement and the loosely related BDSM tantra workshops (including some rather nasty sex cults, such as The New Tantra).
The Russian online trolls spread ideas about the fall of the West and the “Fourth Theory” ideas of Putin’s chief philosopher Aleksandr Dugin, who claims not to be fascist but is part of a Russian machinery that supports radical nationalist parties across Europe, the leaders of which read up on the power-grabbing theories of Carl Schmitt and others who inspired the 20th century fascists, and thus they gain edge on the conventional politicians who only do law, economics and boring conventional political science. I have been invited to such Kremlin-paid meetings myself (to unite “alternative” European politics).
In the US, the National Rifle Association is propped up by the Russian government and supports Trump, while arming a population of mostly white reactionary males who feel Western civilization is being lost. And Steven Bannon buys Facebook data and conspires with the company Cambridge Analytica to win the culture wars in a neo-conservative direction through targeted manipulations of public opinion.
Phew. Strange bedfellows, indeed.
I’m not saying all of these should be reduced to one another. Getting a good whipping at a BDSM retreat doesn’t make you a fascist, nor is Peterson a Trump fan (but would have voted for him), and Trump is not a Russian neo-fascist, etc. And not all of them are all wrong or crazy. The point is merely that the same underlying fascist impulse is there.
These are the dark tunnels beneath Metropolis Modernity that I was talking about. They all connect.
People who don’t know the fascist catacombs can sometimes end up in arguments about masculinity or being against politically correct intersectional feminism, or criticizing some aspects of Islam, and find a flattering and surprising surge of support and enthusiasm from people they normally wouldn’t associate with. Some of them understand they’re getting a little demonic boost from the underworld, but many remain genuinely naive to what’s going on. The atheist philosopher Sam Harris—who is a fierce critic of Islam—was earnestly surprised that so many of his followers were devoted Trump fans and vehemently resisted him when he sided with Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
What, then, does any of this have to do with political metamodernism? Here it is: Political metamodernism shares a part of that same demonic quality, which comes from owning the unapologetic striving to take the hero’s journey.
This one goes out especially to all the nice guys out there who have had this inner split about Hanzi and metamodernism from the start. The nice guys (it’s usually men) get something dark in their eyes and they say:
“You are saying all of these progressive, sensitive things about a ‘listening society’ and the value of hard inner work, but you keep acting slightly evil, and you keep talking about gaining power. There is a performative contradiction here: The theorists we are looking for should be calm, kind and wise—free from worldly desires and strivings—but you are presenting a sneaky and aloof persona. What you are saying is interesting and rings somewhat true; yet there is something lacking, perhaps not as much in your theories as in you, Hanzi, as a person. It makes me, the pensive idealistic guy, suspicious and it leaves me with a subtle uneasy sense that there is something… demonic going on. It seems you can reach higher truths than you quite should, and you seem to be too immature to use them responsibly; you seem to be using philosophical and spiritual insight for power. For my part, I will learn a thing or two from you, but then I will return to the safe, pure, goodhearted, simple and humble path for developing society.”
And I guess that right there is the ultimate litmus test for the metamodern mind. The metamodern mind sees that all nodes in the great weave of life long for power, for expansion, for fuller expression. And it sees that competition—just as love and trade—is an irremovable element of social reality itself.
So, hey there Nice Guy. Yes you. You know I am talking to you. Do you know who actually whispered the above words in your ear? It wasn’t your conscience, not your inner angel.
It was the green little devil, a sly smirk nudging his thin lips again. Your green little devil is prepared to use morality and claims of moral purity for the legitimization of your own will to power at the expense of others, and at the expense of truthfulness.
The reason you get this “dark ominous sense” when reading Hanzi isn’t that you’re good and I’m evil. That was what you believed, wasn’t it? It’s that I own my green little devil and have it tamed, but yours is sneaking about and lying to you and controlling you. Your conscience lied to you. You were caught by the devil’s lasso.
The dark ominous feeling you get when you see me prancing around is not a reflection of your kind, critical mind resisting the sell-out to power that I represent. It is a reflection of your own disowned green little devil, of your disowned will to power, and the resentment you feel when someone else expresses so clearly and straightforwardly what you have hidden away from view. You’re the sell-out, not me.
How do I know that? I know it simply because I understand that power and freedom are sisters; creation is power. So any time you want to change or create anything, you must have a will to power, and any time you make a power claim, there will be adversaries who have different ideas, ideals and interests, and thus you have to own up to that adversity and you have to try to win. And without a wish to change or create anything, you can have no morality; no wish to strive for the good. Hence: pure morality requires a pure will to power. Your denied will to power is immoral, and that’s what you feel reflected in yourself when you watch me unfold without apology.
You can wait around for another hundred years if you like—but Yoda isn’t coming. There won’t be another “pure” path of only kindness and wisdom under a pure and kind teacher and leader. And no, you won’t become that person yourself when you’re older. That’s your green little devil talking: your disowned longing for greatness. There isn’t a pure path in which you don’t have to relate to the demonic quality of creation and change. Moral purity, calm wisdom, humility—that’s the lie, that’s “the liberal innocent”.
And here’s the bottom line: Your green little devil is transpersonally connected to mine, just as your mind is to mine. We are all nodes in the great web of life; and life pulsates with the will to power. All life literally eats its way through other flows of matter and energy. All events feed on entropy; on decay. A human body consists of organic matter under violent control: killed, chewed, swallowed, digested, broken down and reorganized. This is an indisputable physical fact. Power is transpersonal because all creation is co-creation, and all emergence is relational—and power, ultimately, is the will and capacity to freely create; it is the will of potentials to emerge as actualities.
And herein lies, of course, the deep connection between fascism and Nietzsche’s philosophy. Naturally, Nietzsche was misread and misinterpreted in the crude and anti-intellectual times that followed his death, but this fundamental impulse remains true: an unapologetic affirmation of the will to power, the striving to get past any obstacles of fear, shame, guilt and Sklavenmoral, and to freely express our highest inner expressions: the Übermensch.
Here’s my suggestion—how about we stop trying to exorcise one another’s “egos” and “shadows”, and instead own up to the creative sparks we all share; and then play together as mutually empowering and beautifully imperfect co-creators, to write new values on new tablets?
When you run around trying to reveal, tear down and (let’s admit it) punish the egos and wills to power of others, are you really acting with the purity of intent you’re telling yourself? How many times have you found yourself saying things behind the backs of others, things where you make unqualified psychoanalytical guesses about their dark hidden motives? Do you really think that stuff is coming from a place of moral concern and the purity of your soul? Spanish Inquisition, anyone? Nobody expects it, but it always shows up. The inquisitor always wears a mask, and beneath the mask is—again—the green little devil, your disowned will to power.
Nice Guy. Stop being a hypocritical inquisitor or witch-hunter and admit that you want shitloads of delicious power—and then be kind to people.
We should all try our best to be kindhearted. But there is also Sklavenmoral disguised as niceness, and that’s a problem.
Unapologetically in love with power—and uncompromisingly idealistic. Both and. Right there is an equilibrium from which we can build a very profound sense of interpersonal, or transpersonal, trust. And that’s the space from which metamodern politics can emerge—from the trust that you will use your power kindly and I will use mine kindly, for mutual benefit and mutual goals; in a network of shared will to transpersonal power.
And here is the really cool part. Listen now.
Once you admit you want shitloads of delicious power, that you crave pure co-creation, and you see and accept that same will in all other creatures—a profound sense of equality descends upon your soul; I guess you could say “equanimity” as we mentioned earlier.
At the heart of the will to power rests the most radical egalitarianism and universalism. This is what allows us, among other things, to study stages of adult development in a truly non-judgmental, accepting and non -competitive manner. The competitive element of life becomes purified and falls in its proper place—eternally balanced by love and exchange, solidarity and trade; God doesn’t love one more than another.
So what if Hanzi has come farther than you in terms of philosophical insight, so what if I contain your perspective but you couldn’t have contained or recreated mine? It doesn’t matter; more fundamentally, we are still equals, and in other aspects you are my superior. There’s nothing to it; it just is what it is. Radical egalitarianism. We are all chosen, all sublime, all exquisitely precious.
Seriously, try it. Embrace your inner princely darkness. The green little devil stops whispering at the outer rims of your mind; it goes quiet. Your moral outrage ceases to murmur. Silence is there. And with silence comes clarity. And with clarity comes a more sustainable and authentic goodwill and kindness.
You recognize the simple truth that everybody is just super-vulnerable and utterly pathetic—yes, Hanzi too—and that the dynamics of everyday life force us to pretend to have dignity and to try to look like we know what we’re doing, and that’s why we want power. That’s why you want power, too. We’ll just admit the whole thing, no more obfuscation. From there on we can play together in sincere irony and informed naivety.
The metamodern perspective uses its capacity for perspective taking, its existential insights, and its idealism, to gain power. That’s its demonic quality, and that’s why there must always be a dark and dangerous element to any form of political metamodernism—a Machiavellian element. You cannot get rid of it by “getting over your ego”; you must stay with it, and balance it, and make it transparent and shared. It must always remain dangerous. Energy is movement, and movement is dangerous; all becoming is also destruction. Entropy.
This is where fascism informs political metamodernism; this is the glory of fascism—it honors the will to power, to superiority, to what Socrates called megalothymia. It’s that principle within us that wants more, to be viewed and recognized not only as an equal member of society, but as a majestic and awe-inspiring being. That’s the truth even about Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle and Yoda. And centuries of denial and meditation will never efface it: to want anything, is to want power.
Look at your demon. Dance with the devil, lest he’ll make you his bitch.
Grab his fucking gem; it shines not only with an owned-up-to will to power that connects you to the will to power of all others, and thus to the non-local emergence of the universe; it shines with the pristine love of all perspectives.
Fascism lets you play the hero. It honors the principle of megalothymia. Democratic capitalism not so much; you deny your heroism and that of others. Political metamodernism lets you play the hero again, owning that part of yourself and others, just with ironic distance. It’s like grounding an electrical wire. And once that is done, we are free to travel these tunnels without being electrocuted, to think in terms of “political theology” (the discipline that studies the dynamics of how small, determined groups can seize power and constitute themselves as sovereign).
And then let’s play together to co-create a more conscious society. Bring your demon’s gem or don’t come at all.
Don’t hate the will to power of others—love it, balance it, and play with it. Again: love the game and love its players. Allow for others to relate to you in the same manner. Let us build that transpersonal trust, cultivate that transpersonal integrity. That is the metamodern perspective; the one that has solidarity with all perspectives.
Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, ‘Nordic Ideology’ and the upcoming books ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of History’ and ‘Outcompeting Capitalism’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his facebook profile here, and you can speed up the process of new metamodern content reaching the world by making a donation to Hanzi here.
[i]. Then again, present-day society and its suboptimal forms and trajectories are no joke, either. If you look at the suffering of just one issue, such as animal exploitation, the global tragedy churned out amounts to a global output of many “holocausts per year.”
[ii]. The 6 Hidden Patterns of History.
[iii]. Goebbels, J., 1929/1987. Michael. London: Reed Business Information, Inc.
[iv]. The 6 Hidden Patterns of History.