countering fascist thinking

Jason Kottke reviewed an article by the philosopher Umberto Eco and summarized it as 14 features of eternal fascism.

“These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.” —Umberto Eco

These 14 points can be used as a way to ensure that each one of us does not tend toward fascism. As a core part of my work is the democratization of work, fascism is the opposite of what I am trying to achieve.

“Fascism is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism … Fascists believe that liberal democracy is obsolete, and they regard the complete mobilization of society under a totalitarian one-party state as necessary to prepare a nation for armed conflict and to respond effectively to economic difficulties. Such a state is led by a strong leader—such as a dictator and a martial government composed of the members of the governing fascist party—to forge national unity and maintain a stable and orderly society.” —Wikipedia

Only one of Eco’s 14 points on what constitutes fascism needs to be present, so here are links on ways to co-opt these tendencies.

  1. Cult of Tradition — be open to new experiences & meet new people from different backgrounds: variety & diversity, video: Charles Handy on Democracy & Capitalism
  2. Rejection of Modernism — use a science-based approach to create new hypotheses and test them out to let the data inform you, not your gut: buck the established way
  3. Cult of Action for Action’s Sake — include reflection in your regular practice: reflecting on reflection
  4. Disagreement is Treason — learn to criticize: sense-making tools
  5. Fear of Differencebuild tolerance for ambiguity
  6. Appeal to Social Frustration — get involved: we are the media
  7. Obsession with a Plot — build a diverse network to understand ‘the other’: engineering our own serendipity
  8. Humiliation of Enemies — develop empathy: humanity in beta
  9. Anti-pacifism — military terms are not human: tactics, strategy & humanity
  10. Contempt for the Weak — seek out those who are different: real learning is not abstract
  11. Everyone is a Heroorganizations don’t need heroes
  12. Machismo and Weaponrythe social imperative is to cooperate
  13. Selective Populism — counter the tendencies of a post-truth (lying) society with critical thinking
  14. NewSpeak — beware of reductive thought and become a story skeptic

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2 Responses to “countering fascist thinking”

  1. Shaun Browne


    You have summarized the current situation very well in this article. I looked at Charles Handy’s presentation on democracy and capitalism, and then followed up with another video, where he presented the plenary session for a Drucker conference a few years later. It would appear that his message has not wavered.

    For the past few years, I’ve thought I must be mad, doing what I’m doing, focusing on job skills training for production workers, and providing a vehicle for them to develop competence and job mastery.

    Sure, there are corporate reasons for embarking on the courses of action I recommend, but developing employee skills is still an essential component to achieving corporate results.

    That’s my rationale for developing disruptive technologies and systems that democratize learning, and give at least some of the responsibility for task training over to those who are the subject matter experts, who often unsung, are truly the muscle behind the organizations they work for.

    Thank you for an ensightful article.

    Shaun Browne


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