This paper re-evaluates the notion of progress in light of the trauma represented by interwar European fascism. It critically examines the widespread assumption that interwar European fascism demonstrates the illusory, or even pernicious, nature of progress. Seeing fascists as enraged crusaders against the march of history, whose aim was to impede the further rise of what Nietzsche contemptuously referred to as ‘the Last Humans,’ affords a perspective from which progress, at least in its main current, no longer appears invalidated by fascism. The criterion of democratic mass empowerment, furthermore, can usefully distinguish between two mutually exclusive notions of progress: the first, of largely Hegelian provenance, was committed to mass empowerment the second, while intractably opposing progress as a democratic enterprise, also appropriated it for radically anti-democratic purposes, transmuting its meaning so that the Last Humans are no longer conceived as its beneficiaries but, at most, as its tools.
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