In my essay “What is Fascism,” I described what Fascism is and what it’s goals are, and I’ve touched on Neoliberalism’s similarities with fascism in a few other essays. But now I want to go deeper on that last point, as well as describe the differences between Fascism and Neoliberalism.
The first great difference is the age of both ideologies. Fascism is now over 100 years old. Having emerged after World War One, and eventually becoming a dominant ideology throughout Europe and North America. It continued to be the official political system for several nations even after the fall of Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, such as Spain, Argentina, and Chile after the U.S. backed Coup d’etat that put Pinochet in power. Whereas Neoliberalism is half that age, not coalescing as an ideology until after the second World War. But here is their first similarity as well. Both Ideologies developed in the wake of a global war as a response to drastically changing economic global conditions, and Capitalist crises. Both ideologies are favored by major Capitalists and used by them to protect their power.
Neoliberalism can be traced back to the book “The Good Society” by Walter Lippmann, and American Journalist. In this book he rejects Socialism, Fascism, and laissez-faire Capitalism, while also rejecting the “New Deal” liberalism of his day, which he criticized as being what he believed to be an unstable mix of Socialism and Fascism, rather than a properly new socio-economic system. Lippman saw the flaws of Capitalism, like the Fascists and Socialists did, but unlike the Socialists he wanted to preserve Capitalism rather than abolish it, and unlike the Fascists he rejected Jingoistic Nationalism. He also wanted to counter the rise of conservatism that was growing in Europe and N. America, which pushed a sort of agrarian society that harkened back to the “good ‘ol days,” a system that is wholly incompatible with modern society.
The result of this is what his colleagues would call Neoliberalism. Something new, that counters the contradictions of Capitalism in much the same way that Social-Democracy does: through state regulation and direct-control of some industries, while also providing for needs through strong welfare programs, but does not abolish private ownership of the means of production. On the surface Neoliberalism looks indistinguishable from Social-Democracy, but going deeper you begin to see it’s similarities with fascism.
Social-Democracy still promotes democratic ideals, wishing to expand the power of the populace as a whole and focuses more on increasing the general welfare of the population rather than protecting economic interests. Whereas Neoliberalism, despite its grąnd language appealing to the expansion of personal freedom, is very much the opposite. Neoliberalism’s primary purpose is to stabilize Capitalism, and does so in the same way that Fascism does: by expanding the political control of the most powerful Capitalists. This is how the economy is managed under neoliberalism, by ensuring that those in power are the people that Neoliberals believe to be “the most capable to govern:” Capitalists, the Bourgeoisie. While Social-Democracy is a pure expression of Republican ideals, Neoliberalism is purely oligarchical. After all, so the Neoliberal would argue, how can you entrust the management of the Capitalist economy to a group of people who aren’t Capitalists?
If you’ve read my previous essay about Fascism, then you can see how this is the same economic system advocated by Fascists. It simply rejects the Jingoistic Nationalism of Fascism. But it is due to this economic system that Neoliberalism has morphed into something that Lippman opposed, in much the same way that Capitalism has morphed into something that Adam Smith certainly would have opposed. Because the oligarchical nature of Neoliberalism makes it inherently opportunistic. And opportunists are indifferent to nationalism, using it or opposing it, depending on how they believe it can benefit them. This is why Neoliberalism in the U.S. takes on a form that is even more similar to Fascism, promoting American Nationalism and imperialism as readily as the Conservatives. Whereas in other countries Neoliberalism takes on a decidedly more anti-nationalistic character, such as what is seen in Canada, Germany, or Japan.
That is ultimately the only serious difference between Fascism and Neoliberalism. Jingoistic Nationalism and xenophobia are inherent parts of Fascism. They are used as tools by the Bourgeoisie to draw in the masses and control them. Whereas Nationalism and xenophobia can be taken or left by the Neoliberal, all that matters to them is maintaining the status quo of the Capitalist oligarchy and protecting the economic system. If they can do that by opposing nationalism and xenophobia, then all the better. But if they have to promote those concepts instead, that works for them too.