Wednesday, April 21, 2010

American man gonna mess your mind

Jonah Goldberg, in a musing about Israel's Independence Day --

George Orwell got at this tendency [thinking the present will persist] from a different angle in his brilliant 1946 essay, “Second Thoughts on James Burnham.”

Now keep in mind that the key thesis of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism is that Fascism is a left-wing phenomenon.

A quote from that brilliant Orwell essay --

Now, the attitude that Burnham adopts, of classifying Communism and Fascism as much the same thing, and at the same time accepting both of them — or, at any rate, not assuming that either must be violently struggled against — is essentially an American attitude, and would be almost impossible for an Englishman or any other western European. ... An American does not have to make the same choice. Whatever happens, the United States will survive as a great power, and from the American point of view it does not make much difference whether Europe is dominated by Russia or by Germany. Most Americans who think of the matter at all would prefer to see the world divided between two or three monster states which had reached their natural boundaries and could bargain with one another on economic issues without being troubled by ideological differences. Such a world-picture fits in with the American tendency to admire size for its own sake and to feel that success constitutes justification, and it fits in with the all-prevailing anti-British sentiment ... It is, therefore, not surprising that Burnham's world-view should often be noticeably close to that of the American imperialists on the one side, or to that of the isolationists on the other. It is a ‘tough’ or ‘realistic’ worldview which fits in with the American form of wish-thinking. The almost open admiration for Nazi methods which Burnham shows in the earlier of his two books, and which would seem shocking to almost any English reader, depends ultimately on the fact that the Atlantic is wider than the Channel.

One final thing to keep in mind: Burnham was a key figure in modern American conservatism, affectations of Edmund Burke as the sole influence notwithstanding.

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