Enjoyment and disobedience: a Reflection on solidarity and fascism

This is a translation of a reflection by John Brown.



One of the most terrible wellsprings of power is that there is no automatic relation between its arbitrary and despotic action and the outrage of the population (on this, the master Spinoza was somewhat more optimistic).

In principle, people ought to rebel against injustice and arbitrariness, but the majority of times the opposite happens, that is, the more despotic and even ridiculous and bizarre power is, the greater the obedience it generates. A large part of the success of Hitler, Mussolini and Berlusconi rested on this. Making a show of the absurdity and ridiculousness of power is a transgression of basic social prohibitions, which, in a certain way –as Freud saw in his texts on the masses- is shared between the leader and the mass. Hitler “freed” the German population from the “prejudices” that prevented it from giving free rein to its deep-seated hatreds such as that directed against Jews or against intellectuals.

What is called “totalitarianism” is a power that is based not so much in prohibition or repression as in a permanent invitation to enjoyment unbound. The leader does not tell the population to do such and such, but above all says “Enjoy!”. And this enjoyment freed from prohibition and (linguistic and cultural) symbolic articulation is usually expressed in the dark joy of violence and murder. Jean-Marie Le Pen summarised this by saying “I say out loud what each person thinks inwardly”.

Disobedience and outrage in the face of arbitrariness and despotism, far from being immediate or automatic, are the result of a certain degree of organisation of the potency of the multitude, of a certain solidarity. One does not become outraged alone, one always becomes outraged by wrong done to another, but for that other to be conceived as “my other”, I previously have to have developed with him common notions and feelings. The power of the capitalist State blocks the development of these common notions and feelings and foments individualisation, since it is the isolated individual who becomes the mass and forgets his social and moral singularity in the shared enjoyment with the leader. Here we can see –as Hannah Arendt saw clearly- that liberalism is the basis of fascism. The individual of liberal economic calculus is the basic element of the Nazi-fascist mass.


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