The spectre of authoritarianism is spreading across the globe. The Sino-Russian model has been imported into Turkey and Eastern Europe. Yet ultimately, 21st century fascism will not take the same form as 20th century fascism. As Halford E Luccock put it: “When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labelled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, Americanism.” That moment may now be upon us but 21st century fascism will not necessarily be characterised by concentration camps, the Gestapo and jackboots. The surveillance state may mean more insidious control with an Orwellian scenario of mass apathy and assent from demoralised, depoliticised subjects.
Capitalism, contrary to its regular pronouncements on freedom, has an uneasy relationship with democracy. Governments, militaries, intelligence agencies and corporations – the global elite, if you like – are largely aware of the current unsustainability of late capitalism on every level: economically, socially and ecologically. The accumulation of authoritarian state power should be viewed as containment of increasingly volatile societies. The coming decades are likely to see more instability, failed states, terrorism and destructive effects of climate change leading to greater conflict, chaos and mass migration.
One can even see the current brand of populist politics – imbued with nationalism and protectionism – as an attempt to pull up the drawbridge in the face of the coming meltdown. Unsurprisingly, hyper-rational super-rich individuals are now investing in emergency bunkers in anticipation of what is to come.