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Mutation of the Triad: Totalitarianism, Fascism, and Nationalism in Japan


History repeats itself. There is no event that disappears without a trace. Everything we experience returns in a new context, in a different form; time and space make up a multi-dimensional complexity where everything that has happened is enfolded in collective memory, waiting for the proper moment to unfold itself and reappear as mutation. But the interconnectivity of events is expanding and growing more dense, to the extent that it is exceeding our grasp.

The mess of current political conflicts that are devastating people’s lives across the globe internalize increasingly multiplied forces. These forces include not only those identified as left or progressive—mass movements for revolutionary transformation or reform—but also those identified as right or tradition-oriented: i.e., religious fundamentalism and ultranationalism. When struggles for independence waged by ethnic and religious minorities confront increasingly repressive states, nationalism inexorably surfaces in both camps—among the rulers and the ruled. The limits of representative democracy are thereby exposed, and the noise of unfolded history rushes in to fill the void. This is happening not so much within political institutions as across the social field. In other words, previous articulations of political tendencies get jumbled up, and are then set loose by mediatized spectacles that speak to our desires. The flow of images, signs, and symbols is what seems to connect people both locally and internationally. These connections could develop in one of two directions: either towards the reverberating “Eros effect” of people’s uprisings (George Katsiaficas), or towards the spreading of xenophobic behavior, discourse, and culture.

In this situation, it is worthwhile to think through the perverse triad of totalitarianism, fascism, and nationalism in order to resituate the ontological status of people’s struggles and revolutionary projects. Both the struggles and the triad are born of the mess of existing social relations and conformity, involving the collapse—or original impossibility—of political representation (Marx and Schmitt). They are both ways to exploit fissures within the organization of power, but at the same time, they diverge significantly: while the struggles seek to reorient the situation toward the liberation of all our existential territories—mind/body, society, and environment—the triad embodies the will to be captured by a single territory, that of the oppressor, be it the state, the nation, or religion.

In this context, I would like to offer notes on the triad that provides the basis for blood and soil in Japan. This triad persisted even after the defeat of the imperialist regime in World War II, surviving through the country’s postwar democracy, and continuing up to and beyond the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Along the way, the triad has undergone a series of monstrous mutations.

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