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Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning Hardcover – January 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this provocative and well-researched book, Goldberg probes modern liberalism's spooky origins in early 20th-century fascist politics. With chapter titles such as Adolf Hitler: Man of the Left and Brave New Village: Hillary Clinton and the Meaning of Liberal Fascism—Goldberg argues that fascism has always been a phenomenon of the left. This is Goldberg's first book, and he wisely curbs his wry National Review style. Goldberg's study of the conceptual overlap between fascism and ideas emanating from the environmental movement, Hollywood, the Democratic Party and what he calls other left-wing organs is shocking and hilarious. He lays low such lights of liberal history as Margaret Sanger, apparently a radical eugenicist, and JFK, whose cult of personality, according to Goldberg, reeks of fascist political theater. Much of this will be music to conservatives' ears, but other readers may be stopped cold by the parallels Goldberg draws between Nazi Germany and the New Deal. The book's tone suffers as it oscillates between revisionist historical analyses and the application of fascist themes to American popular culture; nonetheless, the controversial arc Goldberg draws from Mussolini to The Matrix is well-researched, seriously argued—and funny. (Jan. 8)
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"Certain to attract interest...across the political spectrum." ---Booklist Starred Review --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Product Details

  • Series: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385511841
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385511841
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (749 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #184,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

JONAH GOLDBERG is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and contributing editor to National Review. A USA Today contributor and former columnist for the Times of London, he has also written for The New Yorker, Commentary, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3,103 of 3,827 people found the following review helpful By David McCune VINE VOICE on January 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
And boy, does Jonah Goldberg have himself some enemies.

It was inevitable that the review section for Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" would degenerate into the Mother of all Flame Wars. The advance dislike for this book simmered for months, and now the floodgates for negative reviews are open. I'd advise all potential readers of this book to bear in mind how few of the negative reviews appear to reflect a reading of the book.

For those willing to give Goldberg the chance, he offers the following thesis: that the label fascist has its roots in the governing philosophies of Italy's National Fascist Party and Germany's National Socialist (Nazi) Party. He argues that there has been a false duality created between the Soviet Socialists of the USSR and the socialists united under the fascists in Italy and Germany. He argues that the totalitarian impulse, the philosophy of state control of decisions taking priority over individual freedoms, is the core uniting principle behind these movements, and he argues that the ongoing home of such statism is in what has come to be known as the "liberal" politics of the modern progressive movement. As you can imagine, that doesn't sit very well with the targets of his argument (hence the rain of 1-star reviews).

I'd encourage open minded readers of all backgrounds to read Goldberg's book and address his arguments. I find his conversational and somewhat informal style to be witty and readable. That said, longtime Goldberg fans should know that this is not a book-length "G-File" (the hip and irreverent column he wrote for National Review Online). This is a serious scholarly work, and it deserves to be read and judged as such. Goldberg is attempting to right a historical injustice.
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811 of 1,030 people found the following review helpful By David M. Dougherty VINE VOICE on August 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First of all, allow me to say that I have purchased and read this book -- something I believe few, if any, of the negative reviewers have done.

This is an important work, tracing the intellectual development of the idea that the all-powerful people's State should always trump the individual and be in firm control of all aspects of the population's culture, education, defense or military expansion, information, health and economy, from its modern beginnings under Wilson to the currently epoused nanny state. One could go further back to the French Revolution or further to Thomas More, of course, but given the deplorable state of history knowledge in the US, this might well be counter-productive. Monarchies need not be considered as they are not states that derive their legitimacy from the people -- but rather from God and inheritance.

The most negative aspect of this book is its title, "Liberal Fascism." A careful reader will learn what is meant by the author, but the vast majority will simply see the juxtaposition of the two words, "Liberal" and "Fascism" and read into this anything their pre-conceived ideas suggest. Actually, the author meant to describe something like "Benevolent Fascism", "Soft Fascism", "Smiley-Face Fascism", or my favorite, "Fuzzy Fascism" (e.g. Fascism that will not hurt you.) The word "Liberal" is used to put a more moderate or liberal face on Fascism, something more appropriate to nanny-state fascism. If the reader misinterprets the title, then little rational discussion can ensue.

The strengths of the book are in its rediscovery of the truly disturbing policies of the Wilson administration in 1917 and 1918 whereby opponents of his administration and policies were brutally suppressed.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Tom on June 24, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The warning that American progressivism has "fascist" tendencies is an important one: the obsession with economic fairness, inequality, and the power of capitalists and bankers was a core component of fascist ideology. The modern American left also shares other ideas and ideals with German fascism. However, that is not the whole story. German fascism also shares many aspects with modern American conservatism, such as a focus on the importance of the family and strong political support for Christian values (at least in speeches and money). You can dig through Nazi speeches and find sections that are key to Nazi politics and ideology yet fit politicians across the political spectrum.

But such details aside, there is one simple reason it's hard to assign the blame for fascism to the political left: the political left voted against and fought the Nazis, while German conservatives and Christians supported them and cooperated with them politically; the cooperation was perhaps grudging, but it was voluntary and essential to the success of Nazism and fascism in Germany. But this is hardly exculpation for the American political left, because the American political left is neither socialist nor communist nor working class, it is progressive, populist, educated, and middle class.

What fascism really was was quintessentially anti-individual and anti-freedom, and unfortunately, we find these tendencies in both major parties in the US today. Whether it is American progressives or American conservatives, both want to use the federal government to realize their social, moral, political, and economic visions, overriding individual choices and individual liberties. Technically, it is probably true that the American left tends more towards ideologies similar to German fascism.
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