The Road to Normalization: A Geneology of Far-Right Thought by Aimee Brown

The Swiss philosopher Armin Mohler (1920-2003), looking at the Weimar Republic, took that period’s main currents of anti-democratic thought and the various artists and intellectuals who had espoused them and crafted a cohesive movement called the Conservative Revolution which stood in opposition to the egalitarian decadence of liberalism, socialism, and conservatism. This framework of non-Nazi fascist thought meshed well with the ideas of the Italian philosopher Julius Evola (1898-1974), who was concerned with the ways in which materialism, secularism, and rationalism had eroded what he characterised as the primordial Tradition. According to him, after the French Revolution, the natural aristocrat, or Traditional Man, has no choice but to detach from contemporary politics and assume “a stance of contemplation and study while waiting out the self-destruction of modern liberal society” (Tobin, 79). He termed this attitude apoliteia. When combined with Mohler’s Conservative Revolution, Evola’s ideas allowed beleaguered post-war fascists to feel as if they were “part of an imagined community of warriors against the modern world” (Griffin, 41).

Evola’s ideas proved influential, especially on the topic of race. He rejected biological racism and argued instead that race consisted of the body, soul, and spirit. Thus, an individual could be physically one race, but not actually that race, because their soul or spirit was another race entirely. After the war, this brand of cultural racism was one of the most important elements in making fascist ideologies more mainstream. Perhaps most importantly, Evola created a version of fascism that transcended national particularities to create a “universal understanding of fascist goals” (Tobin, 80) that could be exported and create an international community.

Evola’s most significant disciple was Alain de Benoist (1943 – ), the French founder of the Nouvelle Droite school of thought. His two great contributions to far-right ideology were differentialism and hegemony. De Benoist’s theory of differentialism argued that no culture is superior and that all cultures have the right to preserve their distinctiveness. Indeed, this defense of culture is imperative in an age of capitalist globalization and rapid immigration when all political ideologies which are not far-right are homogenizing ideologies that destroy Europe’s traditional cultures and national diversity. Differentialism allowed the Nouvelle Droite to neatly absolve themselves of racism while simultaneously tarring supporters of multiculturalism with that same label (“I’m not racist, you’re racist against white people”). Secondly, de Benoist co-opted Antonio Gramsci’s ideas into far-right tactics, arguing that the far-right would not gain power via electoral politics or terrorist violence but, rather, through cultural hegemony. In essence, the far-right could only triumph through its complete normalization, a normalization that de Benoist has done much to effect given the access and prestige that he has achieved within French institutions of cultural power.

Finally, de Benoist’s cultural anxieties and anti-immigrant sentiments have been echoed by the French author Renaud Camus (1946 – ) who has, since the 1990’s, argued that there is an invasion of France underway by immigrants bent on the conquest of the white population and the colonization of French cities and towns via procreation. In this formulation, immigrants, especially Muslims, do not want to integrate into French society and, instead, wish to punish it. Camus refers to this substitution of one dominant ethnic population by another and the accompanying loss of cultural identity as the Great Replacement, a term which, following de Benoist’s playbook, was thoroughly normalized during French journalist Eric Zemmour’s (1958 – ) 2022 political campaign.

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