Ishay Landa – Progress and Fascism: The Proof of the Pudding?

Can one speak of historical progress after Auschwitz? In this talk I wish to critically re-examine the recurrent notion – associated mainly with the Frankfurt School but finding many comparable formulations – that interwar European fascism demonstrates the illusory, or even pernicious, nature of progress. According to such a view, the calamity of fascism at the very least extinguishes any belief in the emancipatory potential immanent in modernity, if not actually showing that disaster is the very result of a perverse ‘dialectic of Enlightenment’. This view of fascism as the proof of the pudding of progress is not without political implications: historical pessimism and disillusion bring forth either resignation or a desperate search for quasi messianic loopholes that will allow an escape from a seemingly inevitable doom. Perhaps the most incisive formulation of this idea was provided by Walter Benjamin, when, pace Marx, he suggested that revolutions are not ‘the locomotive of world history’ as much as they ‘are an attempt by the passengers on this train – namely, the human race – to activate the emergency brake’. This interpretation of revolution as an exit from cataclysmic history may sound very appealing today. But one can question its underlying premise, namely the view of history as the triumphal march of the ruling classes. Seeing fascists as enraged crusaders against the march of history, affords a perspective from which a defense of progress appears both a tenable and an imperative mission.

Ishay Landa is senior lecturer of history at the Israeli Open University, in Ra’anana (since 2009). His research interests include Nietzscheanism, Marxism, political theory and popular culture. He has written two books: The Overman in the Marketplace (Lexington, 2007) and The Apprentice’s Sorcerer: Liberal Tradition and Fascism (Brill, 2010).

Ishay Landa – Napredek in fašizem: dokaz kakovosti?

Ali lahko govorimo o napredku po Auschwitzu? V predavanju bom kritično raziskal vztrajno idejo – povezano zlasti s frankfurtsko šolo, toda razvito v številnih podobnih formulacijah –, namreč da je medvojni fašizem pokazal na iluzornost ali celo pogubnost narave napredka. S tega stališča je razdejanje fašizma v najboljšem primeru izničilo vsakršno verjetje v emancipacijski potencial moderne, v najslabšem pa dokazalo, da je bila katastrofa celo posledica perverzne »dialektike razsvetljenstva«. Tak pogled na fašizem kot dokaz »kakovosti« napredka ni brez političnih implikacij: zgodovinski pesimizem in razočaranje vodita ali k resignaciji ali k iskanju kvazimesijanskih vrzeli, ki naj bi omogočale izhod iz na videz neizbežne pogube. Morda je najbolj izostreno formulacijo takšne ideje predlagal Walter Benjamin, ko je v nasprotju z Marxom trdil, da revolucije niso lokomotive svetovne zgodovine, temveč poskus potnikov na tem vlaku – namreč človeštva –, da sprožijo zasilno zavoro. Taka interpretacija revolucije, kot izhoda iz kataklizmične zgodovine, lahko danes zveni precej privlačno. In vendar lahko podvomimo v njeno temeljno premiso, v pojmovanje zgodovine kot zmagoslavnega pohoda vladajočih razredov. Pogled na fašiste kot na besne križarje proti pohodu zgodovine je osnova stališča, s katerega se obramba napredka kaže kot ubranljiva in obenem imperativna naloga.

Ishay Landa je višji predavatelj zgodovine na izraelski »Open University« v Ra’anani (od leta 2009). Raziskuje ničejanstvo, marksizem, politično teorijo in popularno kulturo. Je avtor dveh knjig: The Overman in the Marketplace (Lexington, 2007) in The Apprentice’s Sorcerer: Liberal Tradition and Fascism (Brill, 2010).

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