Staging the Nation’s Rebirth: the Politics and Aesthetics of Performance in the Context of Fascist Studies

How are we to characterise the core myth of generic fascism which results from the fusion of a revolutionary project with anti-liberal but populist nationalism? It can be expressed in a single binomial term, albeit an initially cryptic one: `palingenetic ultra-nationalism’. `Palingenetic’ refers to the myth of `rebirth’ or
`regeneration’ (the literal meaning of `palingenesis’ in Greek). Clearly, the triumph of a new life over decadence and decay, the imminent rebirth from literal or figurative death, is a theme so universal within manifestations of the human religious, artistic, emotional and social imagination throughout history that it is in itself inadequate to define a political ideology. For example, the faith in the possibility of regeneration
from a present condition perceived as played out or no longer tolerable, is arguably the affective driving force behind all revolutionary ideologies, be they communist, anarchist, or `dark green’ (or even liberal, as a study of the speeches of the leading French Revolutionaries such as Saint-Juste or Robespierre shows2). The adjective `palingenetic’ first acquires a definitional function when it is combined with the historically quite recent and culture-specific phenomenon of `nationalism’, and only when this takes a radically anti-liberal stance to become ultra-nationalism.

Fascism thus emerges when populist ultra-nationalism combines with the myth of a radical crusade against decadence and for renewal in every sphere of national life. The result is an ideology which operates as a mythic force celebrating the unity and sovereignty of the whole people in a specifically anti-liberal, and anti-Marxist sense. It is also anti-conservative, for, even when the mythic values of the nation’s history or prehistory are celebrated, as in German völkisch thought, the stress is on living out `eternal’ values in a new society. The hall-mark of the fascist mentality is the sense of living at the watershed between two ages and of being engaged in the front-line of the battle to overcome degeneration through the creation of a rejuvenated national community, an event presaged by the appearance of a new `man’ embodying the qualities of the redeemed nation.

Staging the Nation’s Rebirth: the Politics and Aesthetics of Performance in the Context of Fascist Studies (PDF)


  1. So Evangelical Christianity would be institutionalized Fascism.

    Fun idea if flawed in many ways.

  2. Bob – I’m not sure it would be. Does it have the “new man” element?

  3. I was going to say no, but come to think of it, YES!

    “Born Again” is definitely becoming a new man. I don’t think there’s any point to it but it’s fun to consider.

    I have a friend who is far more careful about casting philosophical stones. I’ll ask him to comment for fun.

  4. It looks like Griffin deliberately cuts an exit for Evangelical Christianity in attempting to distinguish “traditional cultural” systems from new ones.


  5. As for, “So Evangelical Christianity would be institutionalized Fascism” — bear in mind that revival and political “parties” emerged about the same time!!!

    Thus, the dramaturgical competition between Whigs and Tories, or Democrats and Republicans, that is so essential for generating “emotional energy”, *also* extends to the “dynamic of contention” between satan and God, Aryans and Jews, workers and capitalists.

    But this apocalypse/new millennium bifurcation of history is part and parcel of *all* social movements, and not just “fascism”.

    Sociologist Randall Collins views this kind of us-versus-them contention (good example: TV talking heads) as the preliminary step to actual practical “work.” It generates high emotions, congeals around symbols laden with collective meaning (ala Durkheim), etc. But without that individual experience giving way to collective action, whether political or not, the cycle ends.

    But so does AA and even Amway have a “new man” element. Nothing new here. I just wish the author of the essay was more careful in delineating millennial movements, and better at distinguishing the racial apocalypse operative in fascism. Even Timothy McVeigh slept with the Turner Diaries under his pillow, and believed in ZOG. The way Griffin (author?) has it, Marx is really a fascist.

    In the end, a fascist is whatever you want him or her to be — waiting for an anti-fascist to come along and, whoosh, start a dynamic of contention.

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