The parrhesia of neo-fascism
In his late lectures, Foucault developed the ancient Greek concept of parrhesia, a courage to speak the truth in the face of danger. While not entirely uncritical of the notion, Foucault seemed to find something of an ideal in the political and aesthetic ideal of franc-parler, of speaking freely and courageously. Simultaneously, the post-1968 political valorized the ideal of parrhesia, or “speaking truth to power”: parrhesia seemed inherently progressive, the sole preserve of the left. But a cursory inspection of the annals of Nazism and fascism shows that these movements also aligned themselves with parrhesiastical modes of expression. The fragmented, disparate strands of today’s neo-fascist revival, too, are closely imbricated with the notion of speaking valiantly in the face of supposed orthodoxies: in many ways, the preeminent parrhesiasts today are found on the neo-fascist side. This points to an essential weakness in the concept of parrhesia, particularly in terms of its value and valence as a strategy for the political left. Perhaps it matters less how we speak—being caught up in language games—than what policies and programs we enact. Žižek’s plea for a renewed dogmatic orthodoxy and Chesterton’s criticism of heresy offer ways out of the parrhesiastical trap.
Shammas, Victor Lund