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Prism: Charles Wright Mills Review of 'Behemoth' (1942)

19-12-2017 10:14
Franz Neumann's analysis of the German nazi society Behemoth 1933-1944 is no doubt one of the most advanced prisms to help us understand our neoliberal situation today.
Once more everything seems to be or is actually turned on its head. And our public 'intellectuals' cover up truth instead of telling it. In the public we only have 'intellectuals' working for the neoliberal war-locomotive. In short, we have "Behemoth" once more:
"the Nazi organization of society involved the collapse of traditional ideas of the state, of ideology, of law, and even of any underlying rationality."

“Hardly any other ideological element is held in such profound contempt in our civilization as international law. Every generation has seen it break down as an instrument for organizing peace, and a theory that disposes of its universalist claims has the obvious advantage of appearing to be realistic. The fallacy should be equally obvious, however. To abandon universalism because of its failures is like rejecting civil rights because they help legitimize and veil class exploitation, or democracy because it conceals boss control, or Christianity because churches have corrupted Christian morals. Faced with a corrupt administration of justice, the reasonable person does not demand a return to the war of each against all, but fights for an honest system. Likewise, when we have shown that international law has been misused for imperialistic aims, our task has begun, not ended. We must fight against imperialism.” —Franz Neumann, Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism 1933-1944

Excerpts from Charles Wright Mills' review of Behemoth below (1942):

"The analysis of Behemoth casts light upon capitalism in democracies. To the most important task of political analysis Neumann has contributed: if you read his book thoroughly, you see the harsh outlines of possible futures close around you. With leftwing thought confused and split and dribbling trivialities, he locates the enemy with a 500 watt glare. And Nazi is only one of his names."

"One of the generic errors of those who do not see the German economy as capitalistic is Marx’s view that capitalism is an anarchy of production. Of course, as Max Weber contended, modern Western capitalism is nothing of the sort. It is rationalized and planned. The more monopolization continues, the more capitalism is controlled and planned."

"These are the rulers and the rest are the ruled, but these form at times an uneasy front, and the ruled may well be watching carefully. From these four angles, interests, anchored in the entire social structure but especially in violence and production, coalesce into the central aim: continual preparation and maintenance of imperialist war. To grasp this clearly is to see the structure of the regime as a total thing, called Behemoth.

War gives National Socialism not only glory but a stabilization of its power; to industry it gives profits, conquers foreign markets and accumulates booty capital. Neumann sees the bureaucracy, relatively unchanged by the Nazi conquest of power, marching with the victorious."

"Ideologies and social structure are seen conjointly, which is the only way to see either in accurate and telling focus. For in some situations nothing that is said can be taken at its face value, and it is more important to know meanings than to test for truth. Indeed, the way to political reality is through ideological analysis. This is the way that Neumann has taken, and this is why his account of Nazi ideology is at times definitive and always interesting. His account of the blending of geopolitics and international law to form a “Germanic Monroe Doctrine” is a model for such analysis."

"Ideas are political cloaks. The ideology of Gemeinschaft, e.g., masks the impersonality of a rationalized society."

"...anti-Semitism operates as a surrogate for class struggle by heaping hatred upon one “enemy”; in the same act it seeks to “unify” the Aryan community. The manner in which Nazi doctrine is shaped by the need to ensnare various strata is neatly illustrated by its inclusion of perverted Marxist elements."

"In a similar contradiction Neumann shows that as the political power of the state has increased, the doctrine of the totalitarian state has been rejected by Nazi intellectuals."

"Not only does acceptance or rejection of Neumann’s analysis set the type of understanding we have of Germany, it sets our attitude toward given elements in other countries, sights the act of our allegiance, places limits upon our political aspirations: helps us locate the enemy all over the world. That is why Franz Neumann’s book is not only the most important to appear about Germany; it is a live contribution to all leftwing thinking today. His book will move all of us into deper levels of analysis and stragegy. It had better. Behemoth is everywhere united."