Rooted in an understanding of how the fascist body is constructed, we can develop the collective power to dismember it.
Fascist and reactionary populist forces have undeniably swelled in the US in recent years. To effectively counter fascist movements, we need to understand them beyond their most visible and public expressions. To do this, Jack Bratich asserts, we must dig deeper into the psyche and body that gives rise to fascist formations. There we will find microfascism, or the cultural ways in which a fascist understanding of the world is generated from the hatreds that suffuse everyday life.
By highlighting the misogyny at fascism’s core, we are able to observe a key process in the formation of a fascist body. Recognizing the microfascism behind appeals to recover the past glory of white male subjects created by earlier foundational wars, we see how histories of settler colonialism, genocide, and domination are animating the deadly mission of fascism today. By focusing on the variety of ways the resurgent fascist tendency courts its own destruction (and demands the destruction of others), we can trace how fascism refines and expands the death and annihilation that underpins capitalist, colonial, and patriarchal systems.
The implications of On Microfascism are far-reaching and unsettling. Still, Bratich insists, the new fascism is not as powerful as its adherents wish us to believe. To defeat it, we must develop and defend a “micro-antifascism” grounded in the ethics of mutual aid and care in the everyday. Rooted in an understanding of how the fascist body is constructed, we can develop the collective power to dismember it.
About the Author
Jack Z. Bratich is professor in the Journalism and Media Studies Department at Rutgers University. He is author of Conspiracy Panics: Political Rationality and Popular Culture and coeditor of Foucault, Cultural Studies, and Governmentality.
Listen to an interview with the author:
What People Are Saying
“On Microfascism stands out as a uniquely important offering, in which Bratich goes further and deeper than most every text dedicated to naming and understanding the fascism(s) of today. In this rigorous and righteous book, Bratich rightly insists on the insufficiency of seeing fascism only when it arises in State regime form. Through which subjectivities, practices, hierarchies and cultural forms do fascistic constellations permeate and grow? Bratich's razor-sharp analysis provides invaluable answers, and in so doing, offers a crucial tool for antifascist praxis." Natasha Lennard, author of Being Numerous: Essays on Non-Fascist Life
“On Microfascism is a profoundly original and compelling analysis of fascism's deep roots in Western traditions of patriarchy. By pinpointing the foundational role of the concept of autogenetic sovereignty and charting its many implications for how we live and die, Bratich equips readers with the intellectual framework necessary to wage not only an anti-fascist struggle, but an anti-microfascist struggle.” Mark Bray, author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook
“It was hard to miss the wake-up call: fascism is back, no doubt about it, but in the novel formations of a micro-fascist culture that is directing the contemporary production of subjectivity. Jack Bratich not only undertakes a probing analysis of the mechanisms of the misogynistic, racist death-style of the self-affirming sovereign micro-fascist subject, but he most importantly proposes a number of welcome responses for living, to paraphrase Foucault, a micro-anti-fascist life. This book puts its readers on the path to such an art of living.” Gary Genosko, Professor of Communication and Digital Media Studies at Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, Canada
“On Microfascism provides crucial insight into the gendered dynamics and libidinal binds of everyday fascisms. In a devastating analysis of the necropolitical drive and militarized infatuations of fascist subjectivity, Bratich highlights the concerted authoritarian desire for the restoration and renewal of white supremacist heteropatriarchy. On Microfascism is a generative companion to such significant and varied studies as Ewa Majewska’s and Natasha Lennard’s writing on antifascist feminism and Klaus Theweleit’s classic analysis of the misogynistic psychopathologies of the German Freikorps.” Alyosha Goldstein, coeditor of For Antifascist Futures: Against the Violence of Imperial Crisis
"On Microfascism unpacks the deeply disturbing gender narratives that underskirt our societies and create an insurgent cruelty that corrodes our human relationships. This is an incredible intervention in the crisis we are living through and calls for us to collectively look deeper when responding to the growth of misogynist, white supremacist movements." Shane Burley, author of Why We Fight: Essays on Fascism, Resistance, and Surviving the Apocalypse
"Jack Bratich has written a compelling and original discourse on how microfascism presents itself nowadays and how this is imbued with misogyny, the cult of death, and violence in many forms, war included. A must-read for all scholars and activists concerned with the historical, political, and social need to understand in time the real nature and the more or less weak signs of the emergent dimensions of this political phenomenon.” Leopoldina Fortunati, author of The Arcane of Reproduction: Housework, Prostitution, Labor and Capital
From the Book
Daryush “Roosh V” Valizadeh is an award-winning misogynist. It was perhaps too early (February) in a year (2014) that saw the rise of Gamergate and Milo Yiannapolis to dub him the “Web’s most infamous misogynist,” but he didn’t let his competitors take the spotlight so easily.
Roosh V is a self-made man. Not that he has cultivated an independent livelihood nor even lived the good neoliberal life by taking responsibility for his entrepreneurial self. Instead, and perhaps counter to the commonsensical notion of the self-made man, Roosh V’s life trajectory in the 2010s encapsulates a microfascist masculinity, or what I am calling autogenetic sovereignty.
Roosh V rose to prominence as an early pick-up artist (PUA) with a global orientation and a series of sex tourism books on how to get laid in different nations. This could be seen as microfascist performance art, since it was unlike any modern, plebian variation of dating con-artistry but, like his website, Return of Kings, heralded his self-ordained royal lineage. The newness of what he dubbed “neomasculinity” resulted from rummaging through the past (reactionary Christianity, ideological evolutionary biology, and Stoic philosophy) to find “old ways of helping men” restore a lost patriarchal order. His mission: to renew and spread a monarchical masculinity.
Like any good traditional hero Roosh V has faced some existential ordeals, which in his case could all be conveyed in one word: women. His entire PUA project is founded on the notion that female consent is a “barrier to be surpassed or sidestepped.” Roosh V needed women as an obstacle to overcome and renew the sovereignty he always innately had anyway. Feminists were especially an obstacle, as they were the “reason that the ‘masculine man’ has apparently disappeared from the world.” His response to this crisis, a blog post titled “How to Turn a Feminist Into your Sex Slave,” was to remind everyone of his sovereign power by reasserting mastery over them.
Despite being a self-made man, Valizadeh relied on women as objects to blame and instruments to renew his status. Valizadeh’s rallying cry was that “women forced him to act in a certain manner.” Men were sovereigns but under constant threat. Feminists in particular were so perniciously clever that he even blamed them for misogynistic killings, calling Elliot Rodger “the First Feminist Mass Murderer.” Classicist Donna Zuckerberg has pointed out that, for all Valizadeh’s claimed affiliation with Stoicism, “it is difficult to imagine a less Stoic pastime than ridiculing and attacking feminist writers for their ideas and physical appearances.” The self-made man, always on the brink of losing his subjective kingdom, must remake himself. This is done again and again through the reduction of women.
Valizadeh’s sovereign acts include edicts to: repeal women’s suffrage and for men to pass pro-men laws; redefine rape according to his own standards (“All Public Rape Allegations Are False”); and revive more traditional forms of the sexual traffic in women (by giving men absolute control over their female kin). Perhaps tired of providing so much nuance in his proclamations, he issued a blog-decree in language even non-sovereigns could understand: “Women Must Have Their Behavior and Decisions Controlled by Men.”
Sovereigns have often found themselves under attack, needing safe spaces like forts and castles. In 2016, Valizadeh faced his own grand battle, as his valiant attempt to hold court off the Internet was ruined by the threats of marauding hordes of women. Valizadeh had issued a call for nationwide in-real-life meetups for the many kings and kinglets in training. After hearing that women were going to show up with the intent of disrupting these men’s assemblies and squad roundtables, he canceled the event, declaring that he had been victimized by feminist harassment. His claim of victimhood only fueled his royal renewal project since it’s embedded in “the dynamic of masculine injury and capacity—the injury is that masculinity has been lost, and the role of popular misogyny is to find and restore it.”The king never fully arrives—his “return” is a renewal of capacities at the expense of women’s capacities, via the further injuries visited upon them.
However, at least one woman provides something other than epic ordeals for Roosh V: his mother. The self-made Roosh-man makes himself thanks to the supportive infrastructure of his mom. His version of MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) involves going his own way down the stairs to his mother’s basement. His man cave—in good necrophilic fashion—is a simulated womb, now filled with things hostile to the bearer of its predecessor.
The self-made man is obviously impossible. Moreover, it is a redundant phrase. Valizadeh embodies—in a distorted simulated way—what I’m calling autogenetic sovereignty. This might seem like a more convoluted way of saying self-made man and to some degree that is correct. But the “self-made man” phrase has a contemporary sociological connotation that limits its explanatory power. “Self-making” goes much deeper into the history of social power than the modern entrepreneur or success story can convey. And it has to do with the long history of microfascism.
Autogenetic sovereignty harkens back to an idea that a subject can create itself ex nihilo, disconnected from material connections and contexts. This very separation, as well see, is part of a long-standing patriarchal form of masculinity that distinguishes itself from women, turns to abstraction, and grounds itself in its own fabulations all at once.
Masculinity as such, traced through notions of sovereignty, is defined by autogenesis, a sovereign act of power to define and create oneself. The self-made sovereign is the primary sovereign act. The phrase “self-made man” is thus redundant, as to be a man is already to have the claimed power to make itself. This is key to our understanding of microfascism as autogenetic sovereignty only exists as a process of renewal (rebirth) and elimination (of women).
Roosh might be an exemplar but it’s the regularity and norm of masculine subjectivity that is under investigation here. Why are self-made men so adamant about their separation? Why do they incessantly have to assert sovereignty rather than just be sovereigns? Why does the repeated recreation of sovereignty depend so much on managing others, and more specifically, on depleting the capacities of others?