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Abstract

The presidency of Trump has produced an increasing sense that we are possibly moving into a period of fascism in the United States. In this essay, we wish to look closely at conditions which define this current political period by taking seriously Max Horkheimer’s plea to see the necessary relation of capitalism to protofascist potentials and fascist aspirations within our liberal democratic context. Drawing upon the work of Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, and others, we will look more closely at the particular political economic conditions that underlie the development of our one-dimensional society, in which “totalitarian” economic-technical control, rampant consumerism, and growing indebtedness and precarity create ripe conditions for the production of destabilizing political discourses that allow fascism to flourish in language and memes, if not necessarily within concrete statist forms that proudly proclaim the end of democracy. While noting the way in which the culture industry in its repetition of jargon helps to give vitality to antidemocratic practices and protofascist potentials, we propose certain important notes toward a critical theory of antifascism that takes seriously the imbrications of fascism and capitalism duly noted by the first generation of the Frankfurt School, one that is resolutely anti-capitalist while attempting to revive the volatility and potentiality of the “democratic void” in the service of true emancipation.

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