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Gove’s fascist schools

I’m on a a bit of a blogging break while I get a load of pressing stuff done, but couldn’t resist this quick response to those who think my calling Gove an emergent fascist was a bit OTT*

In that post I pointed to one small aspect of an “emerging aesthetic of [Gove’s] new fascism”, in the broader context of what I suggested was the quite deliberate “development of a full-blown ’decadence’ narrative about modern society, the only remedy for which is strong central control of societal behaviour”.

Rubbish, said my detractors. You have no evidence and you’re clearly deranged.  Then I read this:

Curves are to be banned in a new generation of no-frills school buildings, according to a government crackdown on what it believes is wasteful extravagance in educational architecture.

Non-curve architecture by a government keen to crackdown on extravagance, eh?  What, a bit like this?

Fascist buildings were generally very large and symmetric with sharp non-rounded edges. The buildings purposefully conveyed a sense of awe and intimidation through their size, and were made of limestone and other durable stones in order to last the entirety of the fascist era. The buildings were also very plain with little or no decoration and lacked any complexity in design. These generalities of fascist architecture contributed to the simple aesthetics the edifices display. All these aspects helped the fascist dictatorships exhibit absolute and total rule of the population. Hitler and Mussolini used fascist architecture as another source of propaganda to display to the world the strength, pride, and power their regimes had.


*Yes, I know I owe a proper response to those who were kind enough to comment on the original post. It is in the pipeline.




Categories: General Politics
  1. Babs
    October 3, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Communist states were similar in that they had drab straight edged buildings. They do cost less to build which I imagine plays a part.

  2. October 4, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Firstly a no-frills (and having worked in construction it is in fact true that curved walls are more expensive to build than straight lines) rule for future school buildings hardly demonstrates a penchant for fascism.

    And I actually do know a bit about Fascist (and Nazi and Stalinist) architecture and it didn’t just pop out of Mussolini’s fertile brain but is in fact a version of what became the dominant modernist style*.

    In fact you can find the archetypal ‘fascist’ style your quote (which as is common with wikipedia while useful is not an entirely adequate definition) describes wherever large public buildings were erected between the wars and immediately after WW2 – two classic examples from the UK are the Senate House tower in London and St Andrews House in Edinburgh.

    They stopped building this way not because the style was associated with fascism but primarily because the Mies Van Der Rohe glass tower version of modernism replaced it.

    And the comment from Babs is misinformed about Communist architecture – while much housing and industrial architecture was indeed crude, public buildings were while modernist typically much more ornate than their Nazi and Fascist equivalents – look at Lomonosov University or the Warsaw Palace of Culture for examples,

    So even if Gove really wants our future schools to be cheap functionalist concrete boxes his motivation clearly is a very long way indeed from that of a classical fascist (or for that matter Stalinist) for whom public architecture was always and everywhere intended to express the overwhelming power and wealth of the state.

    In fact you are giving Gove way too much credit with these increasingly OTT accusations of fascism – he is not in any way unusual or interesting (other than in his peculiar personal odiousness) but just another Tory schools minister promoting their traditional toxic cocktail of free market propaganda, state school-strangling penny-pinching, class apartheid elitism and reactionary paternalism.

    *Two books I’d recommend are Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945 by Ruth Ben-Ghiat and Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics by Frederic Spotts.

    If you can find them the entertaining Jonathan Meades BBC documentaries on Jerry and Joe-Building are full of examples from Germany and Russia (he really needs to do a Benito-Building one as well).

    • paulinlancs
      October 4, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      Thanks Roger as ever for the useful info. I’m not sure my post came across as the bit of fun it was intended to be – I’m not seriously suggesting this is a reflection of his fascistic bent.

  3. October 4, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    In fact my real problem with this whole Michael Gove in jackboots fantasy is that it gets him and his party’s ideology completely arse-about-tit.

    A fundamental feature – perhaps the fundamental feature – of real fascism was its ambition to progressively eliminate the distinction between the private and public spheres and assert in every aspect of human existence what Tim Mason called ‘the primacy of politics’.

    The new global corporate plutocracy which Gove and his counterparts everywhere serve also demands the abolition of this distinction but instead aims at universal privatisation and commodification and establish in every conceivable sphere of human activity the primacy of business and of profit.

    So Gove and his fellow neoliberals ultimately aim to break up and sell-off our schools to global megacorporations like Pearson and centralisation is only the tool which enables them to do this – whereas a true fascist would demand the nationalisation of schools in the most profound and complete sense imaginable.

    That the end-state both desire is hellishly dystopian and inegalitarian does not make them in any sense alike.

  4. October 4, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    But the problem is that when you start accusing a leading politician of having a fascistic bent then you suck the humour out of the room as fascism is just not very funny,

    And If you seriously argue that Gove’s policy on exam boards is fascist and indicate that he is nothing less than a fascist dictator-in-waiting then how the hell are we supposed to tell that you are joking when you quote a great chunk of wikipedia to demonstrate that his architectural guidelines are fascist?

    I really can’t see the second of those propositions as any less absurd and wrong-headed than the first.

  5. October 4, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Sorry – that last comment was much more bad-tempered and disrespectful than I meant it to be

    I really should avoid writing anything while:

    a) knackered from having just got back from Manchester and

    b) infuriated by having just watched first the presidential debate where Romney wiped the floor with Obama and magically revived his chances and secondly Stephen Twigg’s conference speech.

    And I am looking forward to your response on Gove = Fascist.

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