Walter Benjamin on Fascism

“Fascism attempts to organize the newly created proletarian masses without affecting the property structure which the masses strive to eliminate. Fascism sees its salvation in giving these masses not their right, but instead a chance to express themselves. The masses have a right to change property relations; Fascism seeks to give them an expression while preserving property. The logical result of Fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life. The violation of the masses, who Fascism, with its Fuhrer cult, forces to their knees, has its counterpart in the violation of an apparatus which is pressed into the production of ritual values.

All effort to render politics aesthetic culimate in one thing: war. War and war only can set a goal for mass movements on the largest scale while respecting the traditional property system.”

Walter Benjamin
“The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,”
1935

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The question here is what is meant by “render politics aesthetic” ? I would guess that “aesthetic” stands in contrast with a concrete, transactional and explicit form of politics in which it is clear what the political act is and what its intention is. An “aesthetic” approach means that the true nature of the political process is obscured by images, myths, mythology and spectacle. The population is swept up in a performance which allows them to feel they are taking an action, but which is choreagraphed by the hidden political players.

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