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Palingenetic ultranationalism is a theory concerning generic fascism formulated by British political theorist Roger Griffin. The key elements are that fascism can be defined by its core myth, namely that of "national rebirth" — palingenesis. Griffin argues that the unique synthesis of palingenesis and ultranationalism differentiates fascism from para-fascism and other authoritarian nationalist ideologies. This is what he calls the "fascist minimum" without which there is no fascism.
The idea was first put forth in the 1991 book The Nature of Fascism, and has been expanded in a paper titled Staging The Nation's Rebirth: The Politics and Aesthetics of Performance in the Context of Fascist Studies in the 1994 volume Fascism and Theatre: The Politics and Aesthetics in the Era of Fascism.
Griffin argues that fascism uses the “palingenetic myth” to attract large masses of voters who have lost their faith in traditional politics by promising them a brighter future under fascist rule. Fascists do not exclusively make this promise: other political ideologies also incorporate some palingenetic aspects in their party programs, since politicians almost always promise to improve the situation. More radical movements often want to overthrow the old order, which has become decadent and alien to the common man. This powerful and energetic demolition of the old ways may require some form of revolution or battle, but this is represented as glorious and necessary. Such movements thus compare the (recent) past with the future, which is presented as a rebirth of society after a period of decay and misery. The palingenetic myth can also possibly stand for a return to a golden age in the country’s history, so that the past can be a guidebook to a better tomorrow. Fascism distinguishes itself by being the only ideology that focuses strongly on the revolution in its myth, or as Griffin puts it:
the mythical horizons of the fascist mentality do not extend beyond this first stage. It promises to replace gerontocracy, mediocrity and national weakness with youth, heroism and national greatness, to banish anarchy and decadence and bring order and health, to inaugurate an exciting new world in place of the played-out one that existed before, to put government in the hands of outstanding personalities instead of non-entities.
Through all this there will be one great leader who battles the representatives of the old system with help from the grassroots support. They appear as one mass of people who have only one goal, which is to create their new future. They have infinite faith in their mythical hero (it is improbable that this figure is female, because fascism is a largely male movement) as he stands for everything they believe in. With him, the country will rise like a phoenix from the ashes of corruption and decadence. Griffin later on criticises fascism with regard to this ongoing and never-ending revolution, because the promised society can never be attained. The energy and dynamism that is propagated leads nowhere, the myth will never be realised and this is why any fascist society must eventually break down.
- Griffin, Roger (1991). The Nature of Fascism. Pinters Publisher Limited. ISBN 0-312-07132-9.
- Griffin, Roger (1994). Staging The Nation's Rebirth: The Politics and Aesthetics of Performance in the Context of Fascist Studies. Retrieved 2013-10-07.
- Sunshine, Spencer (Winter 2008). Rebranding Fascism: National-Anarchists. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
- Berlet, Chip (2011-01-01). "Taking Tea Parties Seriously: Corporate Globalization, Populism, and Resentment". Perspectives on Global Development and Technology 10 (1): 11–29. Retrieved 2012-04-03.
- Patrick Dunleavy (1 APR 2011). "The Backlash against the State". Political Insight 2 (1): 4–6. Retrieved 2012-04-03.