Political commentator Chris Hedges notes: “Inverted totalitarianism is different from classical forms of totalitarianism. It does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader but in the faceless anonymity of the corporate state.” Citing the American political theorist Sheldon Wolin, Hedges continues, “Unlike the Nazis, who made life uncertain for the wealthy and privileged while providing social programs for the working class and poor, inverted totalitarianism exploits the poor, reducing or weakening health programs and social services, regimenting mass education for an insecure workforce threatened by the importation of low-wage workers.” Our inverted totalitarian system is one that retains the trappings of a democratic system—e.g. it retains the appearance of loyalty to “the Constitution, civil liberties, freedom of the press, [and] the independence of the judiciary”—all the while undermining the capacity of citizens to substantively participate and exert power over the system.

In my view, what Trump’s election has accomplished is an unmasking of the corporate state. Trump gives inverted totalitarianism a persona and a face, and perhaps marks the beginning of a transformation from inverted totalitarianism to totalitarianism proper. In spite of this, it makes no sense to me to call the system toward which we are heading (that is, if we do not stand up and resist with all our might right this second) “fascism” or to make too close comparisons to the Nazis. Whatever totalitarian nightmare is on our horizon, it will be uniquely American. And it will bear a striking resemblance to the corporate oriented system we’ve been living in for decades. Indeed, if the pre-Trump system of inverted totalitarianism solidified in the context of global neoliberalism, the period we are entering now seems likely to be one characterized by what I call “national neoliberalism.”