By uncovering disturbing patterns that are as prevalent today as ever, philosopher Jacob Stanley reveals in How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them that the stuff of politics—charged by rhetoric and myth—can quickly become policy and reality. Only by recognizing fascist politics, he argues, may we resist its most harmful effects and return to democratic ideals.
For this conversation Stanley is joined by Harvard associate professor of History Elizabeth Hinton.
Racism makes societies vulnerable to fascism
look I’m white but it’s in my
self-interest to fight against racism
because it opens my society to fascism
Are economics responsible for fascism?
for family issues back in Ohio and I
would go through rural Ohio but I see no
feline annex and I’d see poverty and
nobody Cambridge you about under and and
it wasn’t covered you know and so I
always say follow the money and there’s
no money in the rural areas and
globalism works in Boston and San
Francisco but it doesn’t seem to work in
rural America and so I always think that
globalism is doomed and democracy is
doomed if they can’t figure out a way to
put rural Americans into this economy
that doesn’t that that doesn’t seem to
have happened I was I was in southern
Ohio and a family gathering in Lebanon
Ohio and the fireman was talking to me
in there was part of the group and he
said he’s retiring early because he
can’t stand picking up opioid addicts in
a little talons Ohio with 10,000 people
he’s got a five six calls a day take
care of over those people and people
shooting out in cars
so yeah and this is little little
hometown you know Warren Ohio is dead so
you’re raising a couple different relate
related points but both very important
first of all we haven’t talked much
about political economy and I think it’s
very important to talk about political
economy as as a factor also in the
factor in the far-right movement like
what’s happening it’s all right now
fascism is not fascist politics not
being used to like buttress military
empire as much as its used to other one
other than Yemen and so it is but but it
it’s being used to like funnel money
into oligarchs hands and blah and sort
of like throw sand in the face of people
with genuine economic concerns but the
I mean it’s not just the rural Midwest
like my partner is a doctor physician in
New Haven New Haven Connecticut has a
horrific OPA opioid problem I mean the
pharmaceutical companies I mean they
delivered a whole bunch of opioids to a
lot of people and and it’s a problem
that is the dhih industrialized areas
I mean opiates horrific it’s like what
60,000 deaths last year 70,000 deaths so
so but and it’s it’s tricky figuring out
you know Carl Hart’s work would say it’s
it’s mainly an economic problem you
solve people’s economic issues and
they’re not gonna be opioid addicts but
but but you’re you’re I mean one thing
about the economic anxiety point is that
if you look at who was affected by the
Great Recession the group that was most
affected by the Great Recession I think
were people of color but they didn’t
flee into the arms of fascism you know they
didn’t start voting for or you know they
didn’t vote for Trump so I I don’t think
so it can’t I think that economic and
and then you look worldwide my book is
about the world and you look at Poland
like the Civic Platform in Poland
like the Civic Platform expanded the GDP
radically Poland was doing really well
economically and then law and justice
came in and did all these tactics and
one look at Bavaria one of the richest
areas in the world Bavaria is filled
with this you say oh say offer so the
economic anxiety does not match all the
areas it can explain it can explain why
some groups in some areas fall prey to
this politics but looking
internationally the politics gets a grip
and even looking nationally because it
gets a grip on some groups and not the
other others and if you look at if you
look at and my book is about why it gets
a grip when it’s so obviously a false
promise and so in the United States when
we talk about the poor working class we
– we – the white working class we forget
a chapter and Du Bois as black
reconstruction is a poor white you know
we have to talk about the psychological
wages of whiteness we have to talk about
and and the response is of course an
economic response is a labor movement a
labor movement you know when they smash
the labor movements in the Upper Midwest
suddenly people felt much more prey to
this kind of politics and so you know so
I think we do face this crisis we need a
labor movement that’s why they went
after the labor movement we’re in a
crisis after the Janice decision and and
so we have to rebuild the labor we
wouldn’t give people economic hope I’m
not sure it’s as globalization as much
as it’s the lack of a of a of a labor
movement in the United States
I mean German manufacturing is doing
fine and German labor is doing fine
history and making history no but I
guess how do you make it known
given that the I mean given what you’re
talking about you know the attack on
truth the discrediting of sources the
control of educational boards or
institutions by people who might not be
in their interest a place you know I
mean so what I don’t know if that’s I
mean if doing it’s having conversations
like this I mean I think it’s it’s it’s
really up to us and this is like in
terms of thinking about what is the role
of academics right now I mean people who
do research is – it’s one I think that
qualitative research in general is just
D legitimized and it’s it’s dismissed as
not being true despite the fact that you
know my I don’t use my data doesn’t come
from surveys it’s not in document since
the ways in which I’m interpreting those
documents just like it’s the ways in
which other people are interpreting
their quantitative data and so I think
that you know right now the other kind
of struggle going on in universities is
the growing attack in many ways on the
liberal on liberal arts in general which
is tied to the developments that Jason
described so eloquently in the book so I
think part of it is you know doing the
work of having discussions like this
it’s amazing that there’s so many people
here and we’re having this really engage
an important discussion that takes a lot
out of us but that’s I think part of our
responsibility as as researchers as
scholars as intellectuals to try to
write in accessible ways Jason was just
telling me that he’s been on the radio
for like ten hours this week that’s
doing the work that’s doing that
important work and I think part of the
difficulty is in many in in many
instances we we end up kind of preaching
to the choir you can only go on Berkeley
radio so many times I mean
– is also kind of moving into different
spaces where we might be less
comfortable when I get invited to speak
with libertarian or white ring groups
are I’m happy to go because knowing that
I might be walking into an abrasive
situation you know I tried to make my
book and my research as undeniable as
possible and I think the argument that
you’ve laid out in this book is also
undeniable and that’s how I think we can
begin to think about re-educating
correcting the false narratives and
erasing the untruths the mythic past
that’s been created in history is I
think really historical work is really
key to that we don’t know how we got
here unless we really really understand
the past yeah I just want I just want to
say you know that’s why do boys ends
ends black reconstruction at the
propaganda of history and that’s why
he’s so corny and capitalizes truth you
know that’s that’s that’s what gets me
upset when people attack for instance
african-american studies as as has been
happening a lot or Gender Studies
because they’re trying to tell the
actual truth of a story that’s not told
and you know and that that’s that’s why
dude you know Dubois is always so corny
about truth see like he’s like you know
when you know erasure and erasure is
never truth you know so and of course
the backlash is always like a little bit
of like at Yale what happened the I mean
I could have told my colleagues the
English department they added googy Wafi
Unga this this goes back to you they had
a GUI hua Theon go to one course and and
there were like 20 articles from
right-wing media about how they’re
eliminating Shakespeare at Yale and it
hit them so by surprise I was like my
colleagues in the English department
like what happened what happened we’re
gonna go as death threats I’m like yeah
you added an African writer to a
required course you know so that’s the
and we we have academic administrators
here they can tell you about this but
there’s there’s you know the very ID so
true like multiple perspective
which doesn’t mean multiple perspectives
doesn’t mean there’s many truths there’s
only one truth that’s why Dubois
capitalizes it but the truth involves
you know that the Nate what happened to
the indigenous populations as well as
what happened to Dale Carnegie
Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination is perhaps the best-known of the seemingly countless books of a writing and publishing career that has seen him established as one of the most prolific of contemporary Old Testament theologians. In its second edition, The Prophetic Imagination has sold more than 1 million copies, but this year marks the 40th anniversary of its initial publication—which seems as good a reason as any to revisit this remarkable work. However, it is also a book that still speaks powerfully to the role of faith and imagination in responding to the cultural and political powers that so dominate our consciousness and actions.
.. The Prophetic Imagination is a survey of the deeper role of the prophetic voice found in the leadership, action, and teaching of the key protagonists in the biblical stories of Moses, Jeremiah, and Jesus. As Brueggemann describes it in his original preface, this small book is “an attempt to understand what the prophets were up to, if we can be freed from our usual stereotypes of foretellers or social protestors”
.. Brueggemann thus dismisses the two most common approaches to the prophetic voice among Bible readers, instead seeking a deeper reading than that often adopted in conversations about biblical justice. But this is not to ignore the practical implications of the message of the Bible’s prophets, rather it prompts a more profound response—and in that sense, more practical response—to the powers that perpetuate injustice and destroy imagination
Beginning with the story of Moses and his call to lead his people out of slavery and oppression in the land of Egypt, Brueggemann establishes a sketch of the powers that oppress all people and work to entrench and perpetuate that power. He describes this as a “royal consciousness” but one that is not only held by the ruling class but also presented to and insisted upon even among those it oppresses. As well as seeking to be all pervading, part of its mythology is the assumption of its inevitability, by which it seeks to preclude any alternative imagination or possibility. Thus, Moses’ call to the enslaved people was not merely to escape from Egypt and slavery but to begin to think that such freedom might even be possible. While this might seem less dramatic than a slaves’ revolt, this is actually the larger work: Moses’ “work is nothing less than an assault on the consciousness of the empire, aimed at nothing less than the dismantling of the empire both in its social practices and in its mythic pretensions” (page 9).
.. Brueggemann also uses the narrative of Moses’ confrontation with the oppressive powers of Egypt to emphasize the necessary link between faith and social justice. He does this by critiquing both extremes:
- first, that social radicalism by itself is a “cut flower without nourishment, without any sanctions deeper than human courage and good intentions” (page 8); but,
- second, that an unprophetic conservative faith offers a “God of well-being and good order” that too easily becomes “precisely the source of social oppression” (page 8).
.. Despite the seeming success of Moses’ project and the significant detail to which the biblical text goes to establish an alternative society among the newly freed Hebrew slaves in preparation for the establishment of a new nation, the perennial temptations of the royal consciousness is demonstrated by its re-emergence in the nation under the reign of Solomon. The lavishness of Solomon’s household, lifestyle, and building projects—including the Temple—contrast starkly with the oppression, forced labor, and poverty of the people. Although primarily enjoyed by only a privileged few, the growing affluence is built upon but also reinforces political oppression, and the “static religion” Moses confronted is employed to give a theological justification for the political and economic status quo. The king—and those who constitute the ruling class—comes to be regarded as having a unique access to and favor from the divine, and many religious leaders are willing to endorse this political theology as a way of incorporating themselves into the power structure.
.. This loop of power, oppression, and theological self-justification leads to a failure of imagination among both the powerful and the powerless. Focused so much on maintaining their power and privilege, the powerful are unable to conceive of the end of their power, as inevitable as that might be. But what had been unimaginable was becoming reality, which renders a double loss to those who have been comfortable in the collapsing order. As a way of surviving seemingly unalterable circumstances, the powerless were reduced to numbness, unable to feel the ongoing insults, injuries, and even death. Amid this numbness—and partially in answer to this status quo—comes the cry of the prophet Jeremiah, calling the people to grieve both the end of their empire and the losses that have been experienced by so many of its people.
.. While the temptation is to avoid the pain of grief, Jeremiah insists it is the only real and faithful response. As such, it is the prophets’ role to call people to the genuine experience of grief as a first step in the prophetic act of imagining other ways of being and living in the world. However, such grief brings the risk of despair. While grief is necessary, Brueggemann contrasts the lament of Jeremiah with the hope proclaimed by Second Isaiah “as a prophet of hope to kings in despair” (page 68). In the scriptural narrative, the prophetic role is responsive to the national circumstances. Amid attack, exile and ongoing subjugation—in the context of grief—hope becomes the primary task of prophetic imagination.
.. In the Christian reading of the Hebrew prophets, this hopeful imagination always points forward to Jesus as the coming Messiah. But when Brueggemann’s attention turns to Jesus, he also argues that the ministry of Jesus can also be read and understood in the context of the tradition of the Hebrew prophets. He identifies the same progression of
- numbness and
- despair and
played out in the ministry and ultimately in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus’ life and ministry unmask and critique the oppressive powers of his day. From His birth, His healing miracles, His teaching, and His acts of resurrection, there are many examples of Jesus working to undermine the sense of assumption and inevitability that must be overcome before the status quo can be challenged. While Jesus focused primarily on the oppressed with whom He identified in so many aspects of His life and experience, “there are never oppressed without oppressors” (page 84). In turn, He challenged each of the powers that maintained the political, economic, and religious oppression of the people. In place of numbness, Jesus practiced a compassion that was all-encompassing and “a radical form of criticism, for it announces that hurt is to be taken seriously, that hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness” (page 88).
But Jesus was not merely a social or political critic. He demonstrated the prophetic imagination to which the previous Hebrew prophets had pointed. Despite the context in which He and most of His hearers lived and suffered, He insisted on a new and different kind of kingdom that was, even then, growing among them. While Jesus’ ultimate critique—even judgment—of the oppressors came in the context and process of His death by crucifixion, He re-energized the possibilities of transformative hope by His resurrection. In Brueggemann’s language, “the resurrection can only be received and affirmed and celebrated as the new action of God, whose province is to create new futures for people and to let them be amazed in the midst of despair” (page 112). While this is radically new, for Brueggemann, it is best understood in the context of the promises and hopes of the prophets who came before, as “the ultimate act of prophetic energizing” (page 113) that made space for life and newness, wonder and possibility.
.. “It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing future alternatives to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one” (page 40). Using the biblical narratives and Hebrew prophets as models and mentors, as well as sources of teaching and inspiration, leaders in these communities are called to speak and act with prophetic imagination.
.. Prompted by one of his students, Brueggemann’s focus is sharpened in “A Postscript on Practice” in the second edition, bringing together specific examples of what prophetic imagination looks like in contemporary culture. Key to faithfully living out the call to prophetic imagination is resistance to the dominant culture, its assumptions, and its supposed inevitability. Prophetic imagination will insist on
- feeling, and
- responding differently
to people and society around us. And leaders with prophetic imagination will seek to build communities in which this imagination is shared, fostered, and lived out in ways that change society and culture.
It was the way in which, at the age of seven, in a time of great trauma in my family, I personally became attached to nature. And this was a day in August, 1954, when my mother had gone away to hospital because she’d had a mental breakdown, and my brother, who was a year older than me, was completely mortified. He was terribly, terribly upset, and yet, I felt nothing whatsoever, which took me 50 years and a certain amount of psychotherapy to discover why.
And we went to my aunt’s in a nearby suburb of the town where I grew up, which was greener than our house, which had been in the inner city, and there was a garden, two doors away. And over the wall of this garden hung a buddleia bush. And in those days, when wildlife was far more numerous in the U.K., as indeed all around the world, than it is now, on the first morning, as I ran out into the road to play, this bush was just simply covered in butterflies. And it was, very particularly, very colorful ones, the most colorful of all the British butterflies, four of them, in particular — the peacock, the red admiral, the small tortoiseshell, and the — what’s the other one? Vanessa cardui. And I was very taken by them. I was lost in contemplation of them. I thought they were remarkable. And it was a time when I should have had terrible feelings, but I had no feelings, and the feelings for the butterflies filled this hole, as it were. And from that moment on, I began to love the natural world, albeit in fairly strange circumstances.
.. But it all came crashing down in 1982, when I was 35, because my mother died at the age of 68, and I found, then, to my absolute amazement, that I could not mourn her and that, just as I felt nothing when she went away in 1954 when I was seven, now, when she went away forever, I couldn’t feel anything either. And I did not know how to react to this; it was — to have your grief taken away from you is a very, very strange situation.
And I came to understand what had happened, and the fact was that when my mother had gone away when I was seven, I had hated her for that. I had hated her because she hadn’t said farewell to us or anything like that; she’d just gone away and left me, although my psyche did not allow me to admit that, so it turned into indifference. And similarly, when she went away forever, when she died, the same feeling kicked in. I hated her because she had gone away again. I hated my mother because she was dead. And these are the sorts of tangled bits of your psyche that psychotherapy — which has lots of critics, but sometimes can help you actually sort out, and it did in my case. And so I was greatly thrilled to have recovered my feelings for my mother and to have understood what happened in my childhood, which had seemed so confused.
But I had no way of marking that. I didn’t have a way of commemorating this really big thing in my life. We like meaning-making, don’t we; that’s why we have ceremonies. We have ceremonies for christening; most of all, we have ceremonies for marriage, and we have ceremonies for funerals. We don’t let people be buried or cremated, just like that. We want to have some sort of solemnity, some sort of meaning-making. But I did not have one.
.. MS. TIPPETT: You do, of course, realize how — that the metaphor there, the allusion of that love for your mother and where we come from and how we can’t feel our grief at the loss of our insects and our birds and our blossoms, it’s — I don’t know; I hear it now more, having you tell the story, than I did when I read it, even.
MR. MCCARTHY: I hadn’t — I think, instinctively, but I didn’t make the explicit connection. I’ll make it now that you say it.
a variety of powerful forces are coalescing now to raise and to concentrate white racial consciousness. Among them is a sense among a certain class of whites that they have no roots — a conviction that leads them to find identity in victimization.
.. The problem is not the persistence of the graven image of Robert E. Lee in American life. The problem is the profound lack of Lee’s character traits in American life.
After President Trump’s foul, self-aggrandizing tirade the other night in Phoenix, I thought about how in the hell it was that a culture — Southern culture — that professes to honor the character traits embodied in Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the rest, can embrace as its champion a vain, fat-mouthing Yankee con man who is a respecter of nothing. Trump has exactly one classic Southern character trait: a willingness to fight. But then, absent the rest of them, that makes him no different than a trashy barroom brawler.
.. But the escapism that permeates country’s recent hit-making formula reveals the depth of the problems that plague the regions traditionally composing country music’s fanbase, and offers a unique glimpse into the motivations behind the Trump phenomenon. After all, vague rallying cries like “Make America Great Again” speak to a sense of loss, without actually requiring the painful introspection necessary to identify that which has been lost.
.. they can’t steal from you what you already threw away. That’s something none of us in this country — white or black, rich or poor, North or South or East or West — want to talk about. It’s so much easier, and so much more politically useful, to complain about what They are doing to us.
.. And you monument iconoclasts, you think to about what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. Yes, it’s so much easier to tell yourself that as soon as a statue comes down, your life will improve, and America will be greater for it. Your life won’t improve one bit, and because you will have made some of the most hard-up-against-it people in the country hate you, and our common problems that much more difficult to solve, you will have made America worse.
.. Civil Rights leader Andrew Young understands this, telling NPR the other day:
I’m saying these [Black Lives Matter activists] are kids who grew up free, and they don’t realize what still enslaves them — and it’s not those monuments.
.. And I’m saying that a minority can’t be provoking a racist majority that is still underemployed, undereducated and dying faster than we are — that the issue is life and death – not some stupid monument.
.. I had always assumed that the French revolutionaries were basically decent, though they went too far in some cases. And then I went to France and studied the Revolution, which disabused me of that naive thought. But I could not with an easy conscience sympathize with the ancien regime, whose cruelties and injustices were impossible to deny. It seems to me that to enter history with open eyes is to cease to be a fundamentalist about such things.
The average net charge-off rate for large U.S. card issuers—the percentage of outstanding debt that issuers write off as a loss—increased to 3.29% in the second quarter, its highest level in four years, according to Fitch Ratings.
.. If consumers’ budgets get more stretched, a pullback in spending could pressure both growth and corporate profits.
.. While losses are rising, they remain low compared with historical levels and the 10% net charge-off rate they hit in early 2010.
.. starting around 2014 many lenders loosened underwriting standards substantially, turning to subprime borrowers with lower credit scores that brought in higher yields.
.. That contributed to a new boom in credit-card spending. Card balances nationwide rose 6% over the last 12 months through May, a growth rate that is up from about 1% four years ago
.. The rising losses are occurring during a time of near record-low U.S. unemployment, which suggests that credit performance could quickly weaken should the jobs situation turn.
.. Credit cards also moved to the top of the list of concerns about potential losses in the Fed’s annual stress test of banks in June.