Veith, Gene Edward. Modern Fascism: The Threat to the Judeo-Christian Worldview. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1993.
Chapter 8, “‘The Will to Power’ Fascism and Postmodernism” pp. 126-144.
Veith, even in the early 19902, recognized the shift from modernism to postmodern thought, which he sees as a breakdown of all that is transcendent. He observes that “some of the crucial theorists of the new postmodern thought were personally involved with the fascism of the 1930s” (Veith 1993, 126). Veith is clear that postmodernists are not necessarily fascists. However, the thinking can lead toward fascism, so deserves cautious analysis. Because postmodernism is critical of capitalism and other traditions which seem based on power, it can “easily legitimize oppression by undermining all moral and legal structures that might mitigate and control the ‘will to power’” (Veith 1993, 127). The value placed on pluralism can provoke treatment of people only as they fit into categories, rather than as individuals. Meaning, and therefore fact, is something which is created by a society, rather than being recognized by an individual. This process goes as far as the fact of one’s self, which is determined by social and cultural forces (Veith 1993, 128). The social analysis performed in postmodernism normally uses categories recognized in Marxism, Freudianism, and build strongly on Nietzsche, with reality hidden and needing to be drawn out (Veith 1993, 128-129). If meaning is a construct to be brought out through interrogation, the individual may well do best allowing cultural or governmental patterns dictate what is good or bad (Veith 1993, 129). This is very similar to fascism.
Postmodernism also has a strong emphasis on relativism. Since meaning can differ from one person to another, attempts to impose objective truth are rejected as oppressive (Veith 1993, 130). This relativism effectively views Western civilization, with its emphasis on stability and an attitude of superiority, as oppressive. Rather, cultures which have been oppressed should be seen as superior. While this would seem at odds with fascism, Veith notes the categorization is identical, though the conclusions differ (Veith 1993, 131). It leads to social stereotyping and will logically cause different groups to be privileged. Veith goes on to identify the root of the problem. “What is missing in postmodern multiculturalism is an acknowledgement of any kind of realm that transcends culture, some overarching sense of universal humanity which people of all cultures have in common” (Veith 1993, 132). In postmodern thought, there is nothing to replace the stabilizing influence of science, democratic values, or religion. Postmodernism tends to divide cultures apart rather than to develop unity (Veith 1993, 133). Fascism did precisely the same thing, in its emphasis on the distinctive features of various cultural and ethnic groups (Veith 1993, 134).
At the heart of postmodernism, Veith says, is the deconstruction found first in Heidegger. “Put simply, deconstruction begins, with the existentialist dictum that there is no transcendent meaning, that meaning is a human construction” (Veith 1993, 135). Language, which is in some ways arbitrary, is also subject to deconstruction. Thus, a postmodern reading of a document can make it mean nearly anything or nothing, as Veith illustrates with several examples (Veith 1993, 136). In the end, any transcendence is rejected, allowing the interpreter to act in a dictatorial manner, something the fascist deconstructionists were free to do (Veith 1993, 137). Veith makes much of the writing of Paul De Man, who was an important fascist journalist and who continued developing the same ideas as a professor and literary critic in the United States (Veith 1993, 138). In De Man’s work, language and action are alike exercises of power. They are morally detached, allowing the writer or actor to create their own meaning (Veith 1993, 140).
Veith does observe that some have argued that there are deconstructionists who are religious, so must accept transcendence. However, he shows with several examples that not all are consistent about their religious points of view, preferring a deconstructionist philosophy when it is at variance with Scripture (Veith 1993, 141-142). In the end, it is perfectly natural that a deconstructionist philosophy will lead to the tyranny of one group over another. This is precisely what we saw in the fascism of the 1930s (Veith 1993, 143).