Andrew Johnson


Fascism was once a momentous and imperative subject of study, but as the memory of atrocity faded there has been a lessening of stakes and a forgetting of its previous import. The election of Donald J. Trump, along with the Brexit referendum, growing support for economic nationalism, and a global rise of authoritarian populists, has revitalized the “fascism question,” both by scholars and the general public. The reemergence (and electoral successes) of far-right ideological partisans threatens the neoliberal consensus, challenging received wisdom within political science. The dominant approach within international political economy failed to predict escalating political opposition to global capitalism. A prescient exception is the heterodox scholar William Robinson, who had warned his readers of emergent 21st century fascism. This essay is inspired by Robinson’s theories but challenges some of his precepts and conclusions. The study of fascism is intertwined with studies of capitalism, financial crisis, inter-imperialist rivalry, democracy, and history; however, politics is never reducible to the structural settings in which it occurs. There are insoluble contradictions between historic fascism and its present-day recurrence. 21st century fascism is haunted by an overladen history and overdetermined by the present conjuncture. A renewed study of fascism ought to focus criticism upon the hypocrisy of liberal politics. The struggle against fascism is also a struggle against liberalism, global capitalism, and American empire.