Reader Deuce has posted an interesting comment in the earlier Liberal Fascism thread, one which, in my judgment, merits a more substantial response.
I begin by noting that, in the original entry, I wrote the following:
That things possess a distinct essence or nature, and that these things can be situated in radically different social and theoretical contexts, depending upon the narrative framework within which they acquire collective meaning, are considerations altogether too nuanced for Goldberg's labours.
The significance of this remark is simply that particular ideas or social practices, even if they may be regarded as possessing some sort of transhistorical essences, acquire meaning only within determinate social, economic, and political contexts. It is, in consequence, insufficient to observe that, to continue the illustration, fascists often evinced a concern for health and organic foods, contemporary liberals do the same, and both were/are willing to police individual conduct (or at least engage in moralizing discourses to this effect) in order to ensure that the common good in this area of existence is respected, deriving the conclusion that both fascism and liberalism share an ideological lineage. Narratives matter.
One might advocate organic farming and foods on grounds of the imperative to attain a mystical and collective communion with nature, towards the end of achieving the regeneration of a volk sunken in decadence and degeneration, heralding the dawn of a glorious terrestrial Reich of glorious progress (Fascism). One might advocate organic farming and foods on grounds of our primal oneness with Gaia, which oneness is sundered by synthetic and industrial techniques (Neo-pagan environmentalism). One might advocate organics on grounds of their purported benefits to physical health, since the extension of physical existence is the summum bonum of the liberal social contract, where neglect of this duty is indicative of a repudiation of the contract in favour of religious doctrines for which the body does not exist for itself (Contemporary liberalism). Finally, one might advocate organics on grounds of their conformity with, and respect for, the natural, inherent teleologies of created things, and the duty of man to serve as a steward of the natural gifts given to him (Agrarianism and natural law). That both fascism and contemporary liberalism share certain preoccupations tells us little in the absence of the architectonic narratives which provide the final causes, if you will, of the preoccupations. Similarly, that any one of these narratives would countenance some form of social regulation of consumption implies very little of substance; the social regulation of the private occurs in all societies, in all social systems, without exception; the salient point is not the that of the regulation but the what, how, and why of the regulation. The mainstream conservatism that Goldberg is defending, at least on this specific point, as evidenced by past controversies, engages in the social regulation of the private no less than the other systems or notions; we have merely become conditioned to perceive the modes of this regulation as natural, as expressive of freedom. The regimen of the market, and its regimentation along various utilitarian metrics, tends at first to crowd out traditional alternatives (remember, we are discussing foodstuffs, particularly), and later to reintroduce them, not as integral elements of a holistic manner of living, but as consumption goods; that is, you may not have a holistic mode of existence, but you may feign to have one (you may have the simulacrum) purchasing it in the marketplace and thereby ratifying the logic of the market: the primacy and supremacy of individual choice, self-creation. In other words, what various narratives proclaim of certain aspects of human existence are reduced to the oxymoronic under the hegemony of the market, whether we call this latter classical liberalism or conservatism. One can state that this is better than "coercion", but it is still a value-judgment, and still entails the social regulation of the private. The ends are different, and the medium of discipline is different, being privatized and possessed of a certain character, but it occurs all the same.
As regards the lineages of ideas, while Bramwell's strictures against philosophical genealogies are sophomoric and cynical (no doubt influenced by the very protean nature of what he has observed of conservatism), and his cavalier dismissal of conservative luminaries, of whom the present generation is unworthy, is risible, it nonetheless remains that lineages of this type are convoluted and rife with contradiction. Modern individualism finds its geneses in sources as disparate as the Christian doctrine of the person, the personalism of high medieval spirituality, as seen in St. Francis, Renaissance myths of self-creation (perhaps associated with pseudo-Platonic notions of innate divinity), the Cartesian cogito, the Hobbesian-Lockean acquisitive subject, and others. It does not follow that there exists a straight line from Christianity to the self-created superman, nor that these are consonant; it doesn't follow that all of the constituents are coherent, and that the broth offers no discordant flavours. Again, I'm not interested in writing Contra Bramwell; but to the limited extent that intellectual genealogy is not a straight-line, deductive enterprise, Bramwell has a point, though he obviously overstates it.
What follows from this is that there may occur innumerable instances of intellectual borrowing and illumination, without these occurrences entailing that there is any substantial theoretical overlap. Franciscan spirituality infused a certain individualism into medieval devotion; it doesn't follow from this that the musings of Pico della Mirandola derive from this Christian source. More pointedly, that Progressives, and a few American presidents (bad ones, in my judgment) occasionally expressed admiration for this or that aspect of the fascist programme, and may even have borrowed practical methods or ideas, does not mean that the philosophical lineage is close. For one thing, did those American progressives subscribe to the irreducible fascist minimum, palingenetic ultra-nationalism: the myth of national rebirth, out of the slough and mire of decadence, into a glorious future of technocratic progress, coupled with a militant nationalism - a belief in national superiority and a corresponding denigration of the commitments and loyalties of The Other? That seems doubtful to me, though there may be some exceptions. Or, to consider another example, one might be prompted by a recollection of the teenaged reading of Marx to think about primitive accumulation, and to pursue inquiries into the phenomenon; but this does not acquire the decisive stamp of Marxism until and unless one arrives at the formulation that primitive accumulation is a stage in the dialectical transition from feudalism to capitalism, which is thus a necessary and determined precondition of the transition from capitalism to communism.
For that matter, the palingenetic myth is one of the most consistent and enduring features of human cultural consciousness, assuming various secular forms, as well as the religious forms of covenant and redemption. It does not follow from this that fascism is a derivative of orthodox religion, merely that it instantiates, with different material, final, and efficient factors, an archetype of human consciousness. The upshot of these considerations is that intellectual genealogy requires that the practitioner attend to complex lineages and determinate natures, and that he be prepared to evaluate those natures, and the specific policies they engender, according to the nature of things - what sort of being man is, what sort of things things are, etc. This, Goldberg, as evidenced by past controversies, is reluctant to do. As a result, Liberal Fascism provides some wealth of interesting, engrossing detail, but falls short of showing us how fascism and liberalism can be similar in certain details, utterly different substantively, and, all at once, alike in the formal respect of promoting and celebrating the new man, the superman, unchained from reason and history, hurtling into the future of progress.