Jingoism and Social Intolerance: The Psychology of Fascism in American Literature and Culture
In America and around the world today, radical political discourse criticizing the United States is rife with the language and imagery of fascism. At anti-war demonstrations, placards depict George W. Bush as Hitler; radical newspapers regularly compare the Bush Administration to the Third Reich; and an American academic recently sparked controversy by referring to the financial technocrats who died in the 9/11 attacks as "little Eichmanns". This paper is wary of such inflammatory comparisons and acknowledges the inaccuracy of simply equating the foreign and domestic policies of the United States with those of the Nazis. But, beyond its power to smear and to shock, does the current radical discourse on American "fascism" have any validity? A large and influential body of scholarship, ranging from Wilhelm Reich's The Mass Psychology of Fascism to Erich Fromm's Escape from Freedom to Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus and beyond, demonstrates that the conditions that gave rise to European fascism were not unique to their time and place, but that the basic psychic structures of identity and desire characteristic of Western subjectivity predispose us to desire fascism. As Michel Foucault put it in his preface to Anti-Oedipus, "The major enemy, the strategic adversary is fascism.... And not only historical fascism, the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini…[,] but also the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us." In this paper, I will draw on recent American literature and theory (including Kelly Oliver's The Colonization of Psychic Space and Philip Roth's new novel, Enemy of the State) in order to better understand the socio-political, economic, and psychological factors contributing to the jingoism and social intolerance currently prevalent in American politics and society.
Keywords: Jingoism, Social Intolerance, Deleuze and Guattari, Postmodernist Literature, Psychoanalytic Theory, American Literature, American Culture, American Politics
Dr. John Stone-Mediatore
Ph.D. Candidate, Dept. of Comparative Literature, Division of the Humanities, University of Chicago