By Paul Goble
Putin’s fascism, like fascism of all kinds, seeks to homogenize everything by destroying all exceptions to its rules, Mark Lipovetsky says; but it is infected by post-modernist ideas that those who are more powerful are always right – and that makes it “especially dangerous” not only domestically but internationally.
“Post-modernism undermines binary oppositions,” the Columbia University Russian cultural specialist says. “Consequently, post-modernism also fights against essentialism, the idea that there are certain eternal and irreplaceable categories not subject to criticism” (novayagazeta.eu/articles/2024/01/10/tsinicheskii-konsensus-golosuet-za-putina).
According to Lipovetsky, “an important component of so-called ‘post-modern fascism … has become a cynical consensus in which the powers and society have reached agreement that there are no rules and that there is no need to seek them. There is only post-truth: whoever can lie the most crudely is therefore right.”
Aggression both within Russian society and between Russia and the outside world, he continues, is “the result of this cynical consensus, the acceptance of rules of the game according to which the strong are always right.” In such a world, almost everyone is both stronger than some and weaker than others but everyone will try to deceive everyone that this is the case.
Slovenian social critic Slavoj Zizek talks about the concept of jouissance, Lipovetsky says, the feeling that “even the oppressed feel when they are able to deceive a master or become a master for those who are even weaker.” That is basis of Putin’s cynical consensus because this pattern allows everyone to feel happy and to cope by ignoring problems.
“Post-modernism is often equated with irresponsibility,” the Columbia scholar says; “but this isn’t true. It is an art of responsibility: yes, there are no objective truths but that means I am responsible for those truths that I recognize and promote. It requires that individual be responsible in the matrix that the person considers himself part of.”
And that means this, Lipovetsky says. “Jumping from one coordinate system to another for reasons of profit while saying there is no truth and it can’t exist or aggressively presenting outright lies as truth is not post-modernism but simply cynicism” – and it is that cynical consensus in Russia that forms the foundation of Putin’s state and must be challenged.