Libertarianism & Fascism

Libertarian ideology masks the concentration of the monopoly of legitimate violence in the centralised state, which, formerly, was effectively delegated and dispersed across the quasi-independent institutions of the middle.  And it masks the unleashing of the non-legitimate violence of individualised civil society, which is provoked by the systematic inequality arising from that concentration.  Fascist movements seek the monopoly of non-legitimate violence: that is why they require the rule of law which they also undermine.  They seek to overturn the age-old impulse and wisdom of politics: that to guarantee my self-preservation and the protection of my initially usurped property, I must grant the same guarantees to the persons and property of others.  Fascist movements want universal law to apply so that they may have no rivals in their use of non-legitimate violence.  They represent the triumph of civil society, the realm of individual need, the war of particular interests.  They exploit the already partisan mediation of the instrumentalised universal — the epitome of what Hegel called ‘the spiritual-animal kingdom’.  This is how it is possible to anticipate that states which combine social libertarianism with political authoritarianism, whether they have traditional class parties or not, could become susceptible to fascist movements. (60)

Gillian Rose | Mourning Becomes the Law: Philosophy and Representation


Disowned Violence

As a result of this shared refusal to take responsibility for what Weber called the ‘legitimate violences’ of modern politics, libertarianism and communitarianism require other agencies to act on their behalf.  Libertarian extensions of the right of ‘individuals’, the right to purchase chase and consume goods and services, presuppose and widen the already unequal distribution of opportunities and resources within a capitalist society.  Extension of individual rights amounts to an extension not an attenuation of coercion: it calls for a reinforcement of the police function to contain the consequences of inequality.  Communitarian empowerment of ‘ethnic’ and gender pluralities presupposes and fixes a given distribution of ‘identities’ in a radically dynamic society.  ‘Empowerment’ legitimises the potential tyranny of the local or particular community in its relations with its members and at the boundary with competing interests.  It is the abused who become the abusers; no one and no community is exempt from the paradoxes of ’empowerment’.

In their abstract and general opposition to the state, power, rationality and truth, libertarianism and communitarianism directly and indirectly aid and abet authoritarian power of control.  They do so directly, by disowning the coercive immediacy of the type of action legitimated, and indirectly, in the way the stance at stake disowns the political implications of legitimated violence and so re-imposes that burden on agents and agencies of the state.  These reversals in the planned reconfiguration of power arise from the attempt to develop normative political alternatives to the modern state without any preliminary analysis of the actualities and possibilities for freedom and justice.  Any account of ‘freedom’ and ‘justice’ is deemed to depend on the ‘metaphysics’ of truth.  When ‘metaphysics’ is separated from ethics in this way, the result will be unanticipated political paradoxes. (4-5)

Gillian Rose | Mourning Becomes the Law: Philosophy and Representation