The Nature of True Freedom III: Creating A Shared Image of the Future

The Nature of True Freedom III: Creating A Shared Image of the Future

Arrogance and Friendly Fascism

It is particularly important for those of us who come out of an American liberal tradition, given our predisposition to want complex social problems to be addressed through centralized, governmental functions, to reconsider our expectations of government providing systemwide solutions. We need to establish a closer relationship with our personal social responsibilities as an expression of our freedom. Hannah Arendt ([1948] 1966) reminds us in her analysis of bureaucratic racism in European colonialization that social reform motives can all too easily trans­late into arrogance regarding our justifiable authority to intervene in the life of (that is, to conquer) another person in order to bring her or him “true” knowledge, values, and perspectives on life.

I bring in the challenging insights offered by Bertrand Gross (1980) at this point. Gross is an avowed liberal who has a long, impressive history of service to the federal government. He provides his own confession regarding the often-inappropriate role of centralization in liberal thought. ”For many years,” Gross (1980, pp. 4-5) observes, “I sought solutions for America’s ills—particularly unemployment, ill health and slums—through more power in the hands of central government. In this I was not alone. Almost all my fellow planners, reformers, social scientists, and urbanists presumed the benevolence of more concentrated government power.”

Gross goes on to note the parallel between liberal centralization and the seemingly opposite centralization to be found in the conservative encouragement of unrestricted corporate growth in American society and suggests the nature of the major challenge that each of us now faces as social critic and activist:

The major exceptions [to those who advocate the benevolence of concentrated government power] were those who went to the other extreme of presuming the benevolence of concentrated corporate power, often hiding its existence behind sophistical litanies of praise for the ‘rationality,’ ‘efficiency,’ or ‘democracy’ of market systems and ‘free competitive’ private enterprise. Thus, the propensity toward friendly fascism lies deep in American society. There may even be a little bit of neofascism in those of us who are proudest of our antifascist credentials and commitments.

The challenge, therefore, is to find means of integration that retain and promote diversity and to find sources of community that do not require centralization of control.


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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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