- The Management of Hate: Nation, Affect and the Governance of Right-Wing Extremism in Germany by Nitzan Shoshan
Shoshan's study of the governance of right-wing extremism in Germany is based primarily upon ethnographic research he conducted among far right and neo-Nazi youth between 2003 and 2005 in the neighborhood of Treptow-Köpenick, in the far southeastern corner of Berlin. He provides a richly detailed examination and analysis not only of the background, political ideologies, and everyday lives of these young extremists, but also of the myriad forces mobilized by the German state and German civil society to monitor, contain, and neutralize them. His central argument is that the tremendous social forces mobilized to repress right-wing extremism betray both an unmastered past in Germany and a new form of nationalism, which constitutes itself precisely as a negation of right-wing extremism. The strength in his argument lies in his ability to reveal the ideological (self-)deceptions of the "new" tolerant, multicultural, liberal-democratic Germany created in opposition to right-wing extremism. The massive energies invested in repressing right-wing extremism create the illusion that the past really has been mastered, that the potential for a resurgence of right-wing extremism has been banned, and that Helmut Kohl and others, who wishfully spoke of the "Gnade der späten Geburt," were right. Pointing to perhaps the most powerful symbolic incarnation of this myth of the new Germany—the glass walls of the Bundestag—Shoshan argues convincingly that they "visualize in material form a collective image of the new Germany as democratic, liberal, transparent, tolerant, and friendly, yet also historically responsible. At stake was the generation of distance between the nascent Germany and its ghosts" (236). The uncanny return of these ghosts in the recent emergence of the Alternative für Deutschland as the third-largest party in the Bundestag lends irrefutable evidence to Shoshan's critique of this myth.
That said, Shoshan's tendency to critique this new liberal nationalism as structurally equivalent to older forms of nationalism—such as the economic nationalism of the Wirtschaftswunder years—is also a weakness, insofar as it effaces essential transformations of political culture within Germany. Shoshan has very little to say about the successful instances of facing up to and working through the past from the 1960s to the present, which certainly have created a more tolerant political culture in Germany. The success of the Alternative für Deutschland is particularly disappointing, insofar as Germany had been one of the few countries remaining in Europe that did not have a large right-wing populist party in its parliament. The German government's willingness to accept large numbers of refugees in recent times—despite criticism from a significant minority of German society—is further testimony to genuinely progressive changes in its political culture. This inability to register and appreciate such changes may well result from Shoshan's overreliance on [End Page 660] Foucault's anarchist and dystopian theories of the state and "biopolitical governance." From such a monolithic theoretical vantage point, anyone and everyone—from the Antifa, Autonomen, and anti-Deutschen to the right wing of the CSU—opposed to right-wing extremism become unwitting agents in the propagation of a "new" form of German nationalism. Such a theoretical approach betrays—as Adorno put it—an indifference to the object. Whereas Foucault's model could certainly shed much light on the repressive treatment of groups falsely labeled as "deviant," Shoshan himself admits that right-wing extremism is not simply a form a psychological "deviance." Unlike these groups, right-wing extremism stands (implicitly or explicitly) for violence against "non-Germans." Is Foucault's model equally effective when studying the repression of victims and (potential) perpetrators? Shoshan does draw upon a wide variety of other theoretical models—indeed, sometimes his eclectic displays of theoretical sophistication overwhelm, rather than illuminate the object of analysis—but Foucault's presence looms large throughout the text.
Shoshan is mostly critical...