Edward Luttwak: Why Fascism is the Wave of the Future

Summary: This morning’s post warning about the resurgence of racism — open, unabashed — was a bust, traffic-wise (we prefer not to know). Let’s look at something different, such as this prescient warning by historian Edward Luttwak. Written in 1994; reads like written today. Articles like this can entertain, but provide more value if acted upon. Elections are won by those who act; voting is not enough.

Fight fascism!


Why Fascism is the Wave of the Future

Excerpt from an essay by Edward Luttwak
London Review of Books, April 1994


That capitalism …is the ultimate engine of economic growth is an old-hat truth now disputed only by a few cryogenically-preserved Gosplan enthusiasts and a fair number of poorly-paid Anglo-Saxon academics. That the capitalist engine achieves growth as well as it does because its relentless competition destroys old structures and methods, thus allowing more efficient structures and methods to rise in their place, is the most famous bit of Schumpeteriana, even better-known than the amorous escapades of the former University of Czernowitz professor.

And, finally, that structural change can inflict more disruption on working lives, firms, entire industries and their localities than individuals can absorb, or the connective tissue of friendships, families, clans, elective groupings, neighbourhoods, villages, towns, cities or even nations can withstand, is another old-hat truth more easily recognised than Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft can be spelled.

…In this situation, what does the moderate Right – mainstream US Republicans, British Tories and all their counterparts elsewhere – have to offer? Only more free trade and globalisation, more deregulation and structural change, thus more dislocation of lives and social relations. It is only mildly amusing that nowadays the standard Republican/Tory after-dinner speech is a two-part affair, in which part one celebrates the virtues of unimpeded competition and dynamic structural change, while part two mourns the decline of the family and community ‘values’ that were eroded precisely by the forces commended in part one. Thus at the present time the core of Republican/Tory beliefs is a perfect non-sequitur.

Fasces lictoriae
The Fasces, a symbol of unity past and perhaps future.

What does the moderate Left have to offer? Only more redistribution, more public assistance, and particularist concern for particular groups that can claim victim status, from the sublime peak of elderly, handicapped, black lesbians down to the merely poor.

Thus neither the moderate Right nor the moderate Left even recognises, let alone offers any solution for, the central problem of our days: the completely unprecedented personal economic insecurity of working people, from industrial workers and white-collar clerks to medium-high managers.

None of them are poor and they therefore cannot benefit from the more generous welfare payments that the moderate Left is inclined to offer. Nor are they particularly envious of the rich, and they therefore tend to be uninterested in redistribution. Few of them are actually unemployed, and they are therefore unmoved by Republican/Tory promises of more growth and more jobs through the magic of the unfettered market: what they want is security in the jobs they already have – i.e. precisely what unfettered markets threaten.

A vast political space is thus left vacant by the Republican/Tory non-sequitur, on the one hand, and moderate Left particularism and assistentialism, on the other. That was the space briefly occupied in the USA by the 1992 election-year caprices of Ross Perot …And that is the space that remains wide open for a product-improved Fascist party, dedicated to the enhancement of the personal economic security of the broad masses of (mainly) white-collar working people.

Such a party could even be as free of racism as Mussolini’s original was until the alliance with Hitler, because its real stock in trade would be corporativist restraints on corporate Darwinism, and delaying if not blocking barriers against globalisation. It is not necessary to know how to spell Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft to recognise the Fascist predisposition engendered by today’s turbocharged capitalism.

——————– Read the full essay ——————–


Luttwak aptly describes the economic reasons people turn to fascism. But there are other reasons. Capitalism — the social disruption it creates — shatter the communities that give social security and meaning to many people, leading to feelings of alienation and isolation. Fascism, like many religious and ideological mass movements, offers an alternative to what’s been lost and a connection to one’s (often mythical) past.

We cannot fight what we do not understand, or counter movements when we refuse to see the social forces powering them.

Edward Luttwak

About the author

Edward Luttwak is a historian and political scientists, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. See his bio there and his Wikipedia entry for more information.

He has written several books, including The Endangered American Dream and Turbo-Capitalism: Winners and Losers in the Global Economy.

For More Information

For data about the rise of fascist tendencies see these graphs in today’s WaPo. The framing is typical political science leftist claptrap; the author does not even attempt to show that Trump is an authoritarian — she just assumes it. But the danger is real.

For more about fascism see “Ur-Fascism” by Umberto Eco at The New York Review of Books (1995).

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.See all posts about fascism, about the rise of populism in Campaign 2016, and especially these

The Endangered American Dream
Available at Amazon.
Turbo-Capitalism: Winners and Losers in the Global Economy
Available at Amazon.

8 thoughts on “Edward Luttwak: Why Fascism is the Wave of the Future”

  1. It’s not capitalism, but progressivism, that disrupted the family. Capitalism went through the 19th and the first half of the 20th century with the family remaining intact. If anything, it grew stronger, with the average age of marriage getting earlier, and more of the working class getting a proper wedding than hitherto. Then the progressive left started constructing a welfare system that was anti-family by design. Under feminist influence, it removed the stigma and financial hazard that went with single motherhood, and also removed the requirement for divorce to be justified by fault (such as adultery). Tax breaks to married couples, salary bonuses to husbands, the worthiness of the role of housewife and mother were also attacked. The left also agitated for “free sex”, and changed censorship laws, sex education policies, and laws concerning “lewdness” to fit the new order of things. The exclusive love of heterosexual couples was intellectually denigrated as an anachronism invented by and for the mediaeval European upper class. Evidence from anthropology (in particular, Margaret Mead’s now-discredited work) was brought to bear as proof that monogamy was an unnecessary and undesirable aberration for human beings. Many commentators at the time said that these policies would destroy the family, but such comment was dismissed by progressive politicians and activists as fogeyism. Conservatives who decried these anti-family policies were persistently mocked in comedy skits, until they either shut up or died of old age.

    The demand for sexual revolution alongside economic revolution had been part of the left since the very beginning (Goodwin, the Saint-Simonians, Fourier), decades before Marx wrote his opus, and in the second half of the twentieth century, through the expanding power of state munificence, the left got its way. It is ridiculous, therefore to blame the change on capitalism now that it has been accomplished.

    Also, what is this “fascism” of which the author speaks? It seems to consist of nothing more than an amelioration of capitalism by the protection of working class jobs. If that’s fascism, my mother is Queen Boudicca.

    Fascism is a movement that came out of the a split in the Italian socialist party, when Mussolini, influenced by his reading of Nietzsche, disagreed with fellow socialists about how to achieve revolution. The socialists of the time were, of course, internationalists, and believed that the workers when awakened to their state of alienation and its causes, would spontaneously rise up and overthrow the capitalist system. Either that, or they believed in gradual progressive reform. Mussolini disagreed. According to him, the nation state, under a charismatic leader, needed to inspire the workers to heroic courage and ruthlessness against the Ancien Regime (and, indeed, all enemies). Only this way, could revolution be accomplished, whatever that revolution was. (As it happened, Mussolini redefined the goal of revolution from state ownership of the means of mass production to state control thereof.) Without the ideals of nationalism, heroic military accomplishments, self-sacrifice for the common good, ruthlessness against enemies, striving towards the ideal of the “superman”, and ritual mass expressions of unity under a powerful leader, all reflecting Nietzsche’s romantic “master morality” (and rejection of the “slave morality” Nietzsche associated with Christianity), there is no fascism.

    1. I think you just might have missed the essential point of the Essay.
      “It is not necessary to know how to spell Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft to recognise the Fascist predisposition engendered by today’s turbocharged capitalism.”
      He asserts there is a big political hole that partisan analysis fails to see or address.
      Kinda looks that way with Bernie and the Trump’s supporters?! Not all that difficult to notice, it seems.


      1. I didn’t miss the assertion, I am questioning the assertion, on grounds that he doesn’t seem to mean fascism when he uses the the word “fascism”. I would also question the very idea that ” turbo” capitalism (as he calls it) “engenders” fascism. No, it does not. What fascism (a dead ideology which has no significant support in the Western world today) was a certain prominent socialist, namely Mussolini, changing his mind about socialism, influenced by ideas that were intellectually current in early 20th century Italy, and especially by Nietzsche’s theories about morality. People love to bandy the word “fascism” about, freely redefining the word to link it to anything they disapprove of. Sorry, but if an ideology doesn’t combine aggressive militarism, ruthless authoritarianism, nationalism, and collectivism, it ain’t fascism.

      2. The word “engendered” went missing when I was trying to explain what originally engendered fascism. I also should add that the militarism, collectivism, etc., of fascism must is in the service of an ambition to realise the Nietzschean idea of the “superman” – a nobler, more heroic posterity Otherwise, we might be describing a manifestation of jihadism or revolutionary socialism.

    2. So, according to your point of view, people – women and minorities in particular – should relinquish their freedoms, personal aspirations and development and sacrificed all in the bonfire of capitalism … because economic advancement is more important …
      Brilliant, you must be a middle age/senior white male, of course, as the mayority in the right that holds this type of regressive conservative ideas that demand that others – never them – relinquish their freedoms to fix the problem.

      1. Pablo,

        Such comments raise the question: was it a reading FAIL, or a failure to read more than the title? I vote for the later. Nobody could read the opening — obviously a warning, not advocacy — and write your very odd comment.

        “Summary: This morning’s post warning about the resurgence of racism — open, unabashed — was a bust, traffic-wise (we prefer not to know). Let’s look at something different, such as this prescient article by historian Edward Luttwak. Written in 1994; reads like written today. Articles like this can entertain, but provide more value if acted upon. Elections are won by those who act; voting is not enough.”

        I recommend more attention to the text, less to fantasizing about the author. Also, as clearly shown in the text — I didn’t write this article. Just the forward and afterword.

  2. Pingback: Why Fascism is the Wave of the Future (Summary) | Bill Totten's Weblog

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