Notes on Ball & Dagger reader
Alfredo Rocco (1925
"The Political Theory of Fascism" —
Selections from The Political Doctrine of Fascism
Alfredo Rocco (1875-1935)
Alfredo Rocco was one of the most important Fascist intellectuals. He
became Minister of Justice (1925-1932) under Mussolini and was the primary
source of the government's legislative program, particularly its repressive
The situation: Italian earlier, incomplete nationalist unification; corruption,
clientelism, personalism; economic backwardness. (Note the "underdog"
sensibility of 383A/2/middle.) Turmoil. Mussolini
originally a Marxist / Socialist
(he edited a Socialist newspaper) but became dissatisfied with Marxism's
applicability to Italy.
The fasces (the rod carried by the Lictors of Rome) represented strength in
unity and the compulsion bound up in it.
Note the problem of collective action. We want to think beyond
ourselves, but how to? Rousseau's idea of the General Will was unclear
and was used in Latin America to justify dictatorship.
Fascism as critique of modernity
Fascism as critique of individualism (a.k.a. "atomism", "mere aggregation"),
seen as the common root of liberalism, democracy, and socialism. The
approaches of the latter may differ, but they are all inherently alienating. The
ends of society are subordinated to those of the individuals composing it.
a critique of materialism (in the sense of consumerism), which is the
only thing that binds these atoms into a society. These doctrines
ignore "the spiritual inheritance of ideas and sentiments which each generation
receives from those preceding and hands down to the following generation,
thus destroying the unity and the spiritual life itself of human society"
Fascists offer inspiration & hope, a sense of common purpose, a sense
of meaning & direction. [Note Weber's concept of charismatic leadership
as a dissolution of traditional ties, traditional leadership.]
Action & sentiment [before ideas, or at least before intellectualization]. The "unconscious
reawakening" of national spirit.
Fascism as constructive program
"For liberalism, the individual is the end, and society the means .... For
Fascism, society is the end, individuals the means, and its whole life consists
in using individuals as instruments for its social ends."
The Fascist reconstruction of the concepts of liberty, government, and social
- Liberty = Not the liberal freedom to do whatever you want, politically,
economically, and socially, but rather the freedom to do the things
society wants you to do (and which you want to do because society wants
you to do them). (And you're emotionally part of it.)
- Government = Not the democratic rule of all but rather the rule of those
who can rise above their own particular interests. (Hence
the charge that the Fascists were corrupt. They were, but so was Italian
political culture before, during, and after. [Corruption here means
personalism.] The problem was that the Fascists held themselves to
be above it.)
- Social justice = Acceptance of the conflict between labor & capital [recall
that Mussolini started out as a socialist] but rejection of Soviet collectivism,
leading to stasis, and of liberal strikes, leading to anarchy. Resolution
of the conflict (somehow) through the state. (The principle of the
state mediating private conflicts seems o.k., but the idea that the state
can itself be independent of class interests now seems naive.)
- Reification of "society". "Reification" = "treating
a concept as if it were real". In Fascism, the leader/s
was/were taken to represent the society. The body of the monarch
and the body politic.
- The "pragmatic problem": Who decides, and on what grounds
is their power justified? In Fascism, the government decides, as the
sole representative of society. But this just pushes the problem farther
away: what makes the government the sole representative? How
is it selected? etc.
- The ambiguity of the term, "nation-state". "Nation" is
an appeal to social solidarity through cultural unity (even if a fictitious,
mythical unity), implying the rejection of "foreign" elements
in the population.
"State", on the other hand, is an appeal to social solidarity
through administrative necessity, rationality, and success. As
the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas points out (in, e.g., his 1998
Inclusion of the Other) ,
these bases can differ greatly, and neither of them really supports a democratic
society. Note the parallel with marriage, which can be seen in either
its romantic context of a normative merging or in its practical context
of a rational-legal (i.e., useful) contract.
OTHER, MISCELLANEOUS LECTURE NOTES
Quiz question: What is Rocco trying to prove in his essay, overall?
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