PolySciFi Blog

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Collectivism and fascism/Fascism

*Warning post in progress*
I'm posting this half completed because a) I have work to do, b) I think this could turn into a nice little essay and feedback in progress could be useful, c) it really forces me to eventually finish writing this, d) I can. Concepts likely won't change, but formatting and wording definitely will.

In the comments to a post below, Matt wonders if I really mean Collectivism when I speak of fascism and gives his definition of fascism (what I would term Fascism).

I think they're all similar and highly related, and because I think it's an interesting distinction, I'm writing a post on it. (What else is blogging but intellectual onanism after all?1)

Let's begin with definitions.

Collectivism: the theory and practice that makes some sort of group rather than the individual the fundamental unit of political, social, and economic concern.

A later definition on that same page says
collectivism ... treats society as if it were a super-organism existing over and
above its individual members, and which takes the collective in some form (e.g.,
tribe, race, or state) to be the primary unit of reality and standard of value
Matt cites a workable wiki checklist definition of Fascism (recall I'm using Fascism to refer to the system of government and fascism to the philosophy)
Various scholars attribute different characteristics to fascism, but the following elements are usually seen as its integral parts: patriotism, nationalism, statism, militarism, totalitarianism, anti-communism, corporatism, populism, collectivism, autocracy and opposition to political and economic liberalism.

Previously I defined fascism as

the belief that the individual is subordinate to the interests of the collective.

in contrast with Fascism as

an authoritarian political ideology (generally tied to a mass movement) that considers the individual subordinate to the interests of the state, party or society as a whole.

Individualism, definition 1 (differentiate from classical liberalism???)

the theory and practice that makes *the individual* the fundamental unit of
political, social, and economic concern

Individualism, definition 2

the interests of the individual should trump the interests of the collective

collectivism vs individualism
The key concept to collectivism is that the only entities endowed with "agency" in a meaningful sense are groups, not individuals. The opposite end of the spectrum would be individualism (def 1) wherein the only entities endowed with agency are individuals.

In practice the world is a mix of collectives and individuals. Examples of collectives include firms, voting blocs, alliances, and cartels. Because collectives are comprised of individuals, they tend to break down over time as individual interests diverge.

collectivism vs fascism

(Or fascism: group > individual; collectivism: individuals don't exist in the calculus)
or collectivism is the envisioned end state of fascism

fascism vs Fascism
Fascism is fascism where the collective is the nation-state. Matt's / wiki's list of nationalism, patriotism, statism/totalitarianism, and opposition to political / economic liberalism all directly flow from making the prioritized collective the nation-state (with statism and totalitarianism just affecting the # of spheres for which the nation-state is prioritized over the individual). National collectivism is of course the goal of Fascism. Populism (fascism where the group is "the people") comes from the nation part of nation-state, though is strictly not necessary for Fascism (but very useful for reasonably homogeneous states).

The link between Corporatism (fascism where the groups are corporations) and Fascism is an accident of history not central to the concept of Fascism. Likewise for anti-communism and autocracy - see Oceania2 for an example of a Fascist state that is neither anti-communist nor autocratic nor corporatist (and I guess it wasn't really populist either).

individualism vs Liberalism
Liberalism is a system of government/set of institutions which promotes individualism (def 2). However, by creating these institutions, liberalism creates a society where individualism (def 1) doesn't hold (as the institutions must retain some agency to be effective).

1. Ok blogging is lots of things for lots of people, but I'm all about the onanism, baby!

2. I know that 1984 is really a warning about Communism (fascism where the group is the Proletariat), but as presented in 1984, Oceania cleaves3 more closely to my definition of Fascism (fascism where the group is the nation-state) than to Communism. Of course that Communism could morph into Fascism (see Stalin) shouldn't be a surprise to anyone working from my definitions of Communism, Fascism, and fascism.

3. Don't you love words like "cleave" which mean opposite things depending on the context?


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