Fascism and the Masses: The Revolt Against the Last Humans, 1848-1945, New York: Routledge, 2018; 431 pp.: ISBN 9780815385851, 115.00 [pounds sterling] (doth)
In the United States, Donald Trump's 2016 Electoral College upset has been popularly portrayed as a victory for the uneducated, White working class deeply invested in regressive ideologies--never mind that his campaign was supported by moneyed elites and that the White middle class constituted his strongest base of support. Trump, businessman and alleged billionaire, has been transubstantiated into the voice of the downtrodden masses in the popular media. But this is nothing new. The scholarly and popular imagination has long associated fascism with an irrational citizenry sufficiently empowered to carry out its worst impulses. However, as Ishay Landa argues, fascism 'understood and presented itself as a militant rejection of the ideal of mass politics' and, indeed, 'framed its mission very much in terms of delivering the nation ... from the grip of democratic and socialist demagogues, and placing it in the hands of responsible leaders, who will no longer be at the beck and call of a foolhardy and unruly populace' (6). Over the 400-plus pages of Fascism and the Masses, Landa decisively counters all attempts to equate fascism with mass politics by offering a full and definitive account of the cultural politics underlying the emergence and implementation of fascist vision. His excavation, too, offers a way forward, a hope for a world facing the re-emergence of fascism in the 21st century.
The subtitle of Landa's book references Nietzsche's'Last Humans , content with their domesticated egalitarianism. Nietzsche's nightmare scenario was being lived out in the 19th century as democratic reforms spread across Europe, while the rise of trade unions and workers' parties gave the masses both economic and political power, especially as changing economies concentrated workers into cities. Modern healthcare meant that the lower classes lived longer, and modern manufacturing gave them access to material goods previously unavailable. The masses were also engaging in leisure activities and, especially with the rise of literacy, both consuming and producing culture, further infringing upon the privileges of the elites, who often retreated, artistically, into obscurity and abstraction. Among the upper classes, many former liberals and revolutionaries transformed into conservative...