Nazism as the non-transcendent solution to the problems created by non-transcendent liberalism

This original explanation of Nazism was written by Jim Kalb in a group e-mail discussion, January 15, 2003:

Saying Nazism is insane, worthless and evil is true but it doesn’t explain why all those people signed up for it. It doesn’t explain why both Heidegger and an anti-Nazi like Aurel Kolnai referred to its “inner greatness.” It also doesn’t explain why liberals have a sense that it’s everywhere just below the surface, that in fact it’s the sole alternative to their own views. If you disagree with them in some important way you must be a Nazi. They really believe that.

My theory is this: if you get rid of transcendent goods then satisfaction of preferences—the triumph of the will—becomes the highest good. If you say that all wills are equally wills and therefore all equally deserving of satisfaction you become a liberal. Morality and politics become a matter of setting up the arrangements that give maximal equal satisfaction to all wills.

That doesn’t work for a couple of reasons. One is that wills conflict, so you can’t give equal satisfaction to all of them. Some must submit to others. Liberals of course deny that and treat all conflicts as solvable by better social organization and therapeutic intervention. Another problem is that man doesn’t just want what he wants, he wants the thing he wants and gets to be right.

He wants his will to be objectively valid in some way. Otherwise his life and the world seem to dissolve in wavering subjectivity.

Nazism solves both problems as completely as they can be solved within a system that denies transcendent standards. It obviously accepts that some must submit to others and turns it into a virtue. As to objective validity, the principle that the will of the leader is the highest law gives a concrete non-transcendent standard for every individual will. Further, a policy of conquest, enslavement and extermination establishes, in an irrefutable and wholly this-worldly fashion, the supreme objective validity of the leader’s will, since it demonstrates beyond question that all other wills no matter how opposed must give way to it.

I’m not sure how this relates to fascism. It does seem to me though that Nazism is the pure form of something rather than a hodgepodge of other elements.

- end of initial entry -

September 14

Kilroy M. writes from Australia:

What exactly is “Nazism” to Kalb? My reading of his post is that his argument correctly relates to all forms of secular, totalitarian modes of government. But to say that Nazism denies the transcendent is simply not correct. Researchers and academics like Nicholas Goodrick-Clark have documented the occult and pagan themes running through Hitlerite NS quite well. Nutbars like Guido von List, Lans von Liebenfels, Rudolf von Sebottendorff, and Karl Maria Wiligut and the rest, are perfect examples of the ease with which the extreme racism biological reductionism was coupled with “esoteric” theories of the late 19th century. It was all pretty loopy, of course, but Kalb’s analysis is generally far too profound to have ignored this.

LA replies:

I don’t know for sure, you’d have to address the question to Kalb. And based on your reading you know vastly more about Nazi beliefs than I do. But I would say that occult and pagan add-ons do not change the fundamentally non-transcendent nature of Nazism. Remember that all non-transcendent belief systems need to find some substitute transcendent. Dawkins and EO Wilson invent a kind of religion of evolution, Communism has the Brotherhood of Man, and so on. Yet these “religious” themes obviously do not make Darwinism or Communism into transcendent belief systems Similarly, a system that makes the German genome or the will of the German leader its highest standard, is obviously not a system based on transcendent standards.

Second, Kalb’s argument does indeed show how the Nazi non-transcendent belief in the Leader as the ultimate standard solves the two problems of liberalism that he identified: the impasse created by the liberal equality of all wills; and the need for one’s values not to be just one’s values, but to be objectively right.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 12, 2009 11:25 AM | Send

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