Fascist Culture, and it’s Fragility in Reality

Jake Rooke

Fascism had many implicit and explicit effects on the German public, but how far did this ideology translate into the culture of the collective and individual consciousness? The Nazi regime focused on regimentation and discipline, complemented by an ethos of a pseudo-natural order and a mythical bygone nostalgia. Moreover, fanaticism and spectacle were designed to mass mobilize the pure people against those seen as decadent, degenerate, and corrupt. However, fascism had to move past structural and merely ideological factors, seeking to find resonance through cultural and emotional connections to the mass public.

 Emotional fanaticism was exhibited by Hitler and the official cultural nostalgia his regime supported in displays of mythical, ancient and cultural tradition. However, these regimes knew they had to connect its ideological and structural tenets to the recreational and private lives of its supporters, and better yet, to seek a form of illiberal tacit content from mass society. The regime found saliency initially by utilizing the state’s explicit propaganda power and achieving immediate material gains with the rearmament boom. Moreover, the regime also found saliency subliminally through implicit fascist conceptualizations of leisure, recreation and sports. In the latter years, as fascism’s novelty dissolved and fascist foreign policy led to total war, the seemingly attractive aspects of its tenets and its ideological inflexibility were exposed as a set of ruses. But at a deeper level of reflection, this fragility was displayed in the underpinnings of fascism from the start. And although the fascist culture promoted mass change, its indoctrination and its inability to stem patronage structures and individual subjectivities made the cultural foundation weak.

Baranowski shows that initially the Kraft durch Freude (KdF), ‘Strength through Joy’ “persuaded the majority of Germans whom the terror did not directly affect that an improved economy, rising living standards, and the regime’s commitment to social opportunity defined the Third Reich” (Baranowski 2004:198). German’s that went on subsidized KdF trips had a two-fold positive effect. Firstly, KdF weakened hostility among the working-class towards Nazism with the ability to travel. Secondly, as German tourists travelled abroad, especially to less developed countries and societies, they witnessed other societies’ relative economic depravity. Thus, “tourism weakened what possibilities existed for a coherent and effective opposition” (Baranowski 2004:197). However, these trips, at first a novelty, were exposed by Gestapo agents to have existing class divisions, vast regional differences, a societal class-driven hierarchy and individual pursuits that were contrary to fascist principles. Fundamentally, it was the last being the most controversial and existential, as individualism, happiness and enjoyment are the most natural inclinations of an individual.

In Umbach’s (2015) article, private photography had a more subliminal ability to “borrow and (re-)appropriation, in which private subjectivity and public ideology constantly commingled” (Umbach 2015:335). Thus, private and professional photography made for personal consumption and political propaganda existed in a relationship. This relationship linked the emotional or affective states, such as “relaxation, exploration, introspection, and even melancholy” (Umbach 2015:335) which often defined or highlighted ways which both civilians and soldiers positioned themselves in relation to landscapes. However, as the novelty fell off so did the synergy between personal and official culture. The war and the tenets of fascist principles brought fascist culture back to reality and this process led to further alienation between the official policy line, and the individual pursuit.

One Reply to “Fascist Culture, and it’s Fragility in Reality”

  1. Excellent points mentioned here, especially with regards to the initially positive rollout of the subsidized trips which later fell victim to the rather inevitable class divides and the lot bubbling up to the surface. We will probably discuss it further in class, but I wonder to what extent it was the complete and total control of said trips by the state which lead to the eventual failure of the “vacation experiment”. In contrast, the efforts under Franco to inject the national passion into the population by having them in a sense, drive their own success for the nation as shown in the film described in Crumbaugh’s piece where the two villagers (with the help of the state of course), were able to bring their tourism home transition to fruition, and hence the pride that came with that accomplishment.

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