The American Road to Fascism

51 Pages Posted: 16 May 2017 Last revised: 26 May 2017

Pierre Schlag

University of Colorado Law School

Date Written: May 12, 2017


The U.S. Presidential election of 2016 occurred amidst a disturbingly reminiscent coalescence of patterns — the economic displacement of the working class, the protracted paralysis of the legislative branch, the seeming indifference of the governing classes, the perception of widespread corruption, the neutralization of a vital left, and the festering wounds to national pride wrought of multiple lost wars. These patterns are familiar: Together, they comprise (albeit in much more attenuated form) the combustible mix that presaged the rise of National Socialism in 1930’s Germany.

Fast forward: a little more than 100 days into his administration, Trump is constructing a political world of alternative facts, casual mendacity, paranoid political conspiracies, free-form attacks on enemies of the people, ethnic vilification, and disdain for democratic and rule of law norms. What is perhaps most disturbing about this (in addition to its effects) is that this was the appeal that won him the Presidency among precisely the classes of people that classically form the core of fascist constituencies in times of economic and cultural displacement like those we have recently experienced. Trump’s Presidency is thus not only alarming because of what he does, but because of what his election represents.

How did we get here? And are we on the threshold of fascism or some sort of right wing authoritarianism? This piece examines the big theoretical picture. The piece addresses the questions by tracing the various forms that constitutional democracy has cumulatively taken in the United States: liberal democratic, administrative and neoliberal. The piece shows how in failing to reckon with their internal contradictions, these combined forms of the constitutional democratic state have led to a kind of decay in both state and civil society, thereby helping to prepare the grounds for some sort of right-wing authoritarianism.

Keywords: Fascism, Liberalism, Neoliberalism, Marx, Schmitt, Neumann, Rule of Law, Democracy, Dictatorship

JEL Classification: F62, H11, K10, P10, P50

Suggested Citation

Schlag, Pierre, The American Road to Fascism (May 12, 2017). Available at SSRN:

Pierre Schlag (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

Campus Box 401
Boulder, CO 80309
United States
303-492-3110 (Phone)
303-492-1200 (Fax)

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