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Inverted Totalitarianism

“Inverted totalitarianism” as a term has some descriptive value for sure, but things have rapidly changed since Wolin coined the term in 2003. Mostly in the last year, the State is rapidly taking on many of the trappings of traditional totalitarianism. In Deleuze and Guattari’s work, totalitarianism and fascism are the two extreme poles of capitalist semiotics that are at odds, with fascism being a runaway frenzied reaction in the direction away from and against the stiff over-coding top down rule of State control. Fascism feeds off of schizo-revolutionary energy reacting against the paranoia of the state which nonetheless gets caught up in its own paranoid-schizo suicidal reaction. Fascism is the cancer that is a natural response and attempt to escape the social body’s over-stratification in the State. It usually involves the military because D&G claim it is the natural spirit of the war machine to be free of the state despite its capture by the state in its modern forms.This formulation has important explanatory value that we can see playing out right now, as the State starts to clamp down on the capitalist logic of coordinating more or less “decoded” free flows, with the State’s own strict totalitarian coding, which is at odds with capitalism’s more utilitarian repression, what D&G call an “axiomatic”, but which dovetails with Wolin’s “inverted totalitarianism”.

The shift back to a more explicit and specifically coded repression now has had a natural reactionary effect on the traditional industrial capitalist and military elite, as well as the conservative populace in a way definitely reminiscent of 20th century fascism. So it seems we are indeed now caught between totalitarianism and fascism, but I would argue things are very different than the archetypal images we have of both poles represented by Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. There are semiotic correspondences, enough so that old fashioned racists are attracted to Trump and tanky leftists are attracted to the totalitarian coding of the newly branded “progressive” liberal State. But just because we are breaking out of the old “inverted totalitarian” liberal compromise and into a resurfacing of extremes, does not mean we need to go back. The extremes may be frightening but they are not negated through moderation, only stifled. 

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