Wednesday, February 10, 2016
IDEOLOGY AS SHARED FANTASY
Much of what the psychohistorians write is either banal or fanciful, in my opinion, but the latest essay (below) by psychohistorian Richard A. Koenigsberg seems to me to be highly diagnostic of Leftism. So I will leave people to read it below and will offer some comments tying it in to Leftism at the foot of it
In "Constitutional Law of the Third Reich", Nazi political theorist Ernst Rudolf Huber wrote:
"The Fuhrer is himself the bearer of the collective will of the people. In his will the will of the people is realized. His will is not the subjective will of a single man, but the collective national will is embodied within him in all its objective, historical greatness. The people's collective will has its foundation in the political idea which is given to a people. It is present in the people, but the Fuhrer raises it to consciousness and discloses it." (in Murphy 1943)
According to Huber, Nazism did not arise out of the subjective will of a single man. Rather, Hitler embodied the “collective will of the people.”
The will of a people, Huber suggests, has its foundation in the political idea which is “given to a people.” This idea already is “present in the people”; but the Fuehrer “raises it to consciousness and discloses it.” In other words, a people’s political idea is latent. The role of the leader is to manifest this latent idea—to “disclose it” to the people.
Once an idea has become conscious within a people, what follows is the will to act upon it: to turn the idea into reality. The leader’s role is to create or invent ways to activate the people’s will and to set a path that enables a people to express its collective will.
Ideology, I theorize, represents or reflects a fantasy that is shared by members of a society. This shared fantasy lies at the core—constitutes the heart and soul—of a given culture. The leader’s role is to “divine” the cultural fantasy, to give it voice.
Through his language, the leader invents images and metaphors that contain the fantasy. His role, like that of a psychoanalyst, is to “make conscious the unconscious;” to enable society’s members to become aware of a fantasy that had been hidden or latent.
In order to have a significant impact, the leader himself must be deeply mindful of his culture, that is, of its central fantasies. He processes his own fantasies (the cultural fantasy that exists within him), then develops methods for presenting or “returning” the fantasy to his people. The ideology becomes the container for a people’s shared fantasies.
Why was Hitler able to hold his audiences spellbound? Why did Germans become so excited when he spoke? Because what he said evoked something deep within many of them. People were “turned on” by Hitler’s words.
We are on the wrong track if we imagine that ideas put forth by political leaders contain, or are intended to contain, some form of “truth”; that ideas correspond to some aspect of “external reality.” The coin of the realm in politics is fantasy: the leader’s ability to express his own fantasies, and to induce or seduce others to share those fantasies. The leader presents ideas that resonate with his audience. His utterances allow followers to externalize inner states of being.
Highly successful leaders are deeply plugged in to the ideological fantasies that they put forth. No one was more moved by Hitler’s ideas more than Hitler. By virtue of his ability to share his excitement and passion, he was able to evoke a similar experience within his followers.
Ideologies function to express, contain and engage society’s members’ fantasies. The ideology becomes the modus operandi: the vehicle allowing a shared fantasy to make its way into reality (man in culture, Norman O. Brown said, is “Man dreaming while awake”). They act as a gravitational force, “pulling” fantasies into the world—capturing or sequestering the energy bound to a fantasy.
Political history occurs when a group acts upon an ideological fantasy. Hitler worked to transform his fantasy of Germany into a societal discourse. His will was the will to persuade the German people to actualize propositions contained within the ideological fantasy.
Each ideology revolves around a central fantasy. This core fantasy constitutes the heart and soul of the ideology: a sublime or omnipotent object.
History is generated in the name of these omnipotent objects. For the Nazis, this omnipotent object was “Germany.” Japan fought the Second World War for the sake of “the Emperor.” The United States participated in the First and Second World Wars for “freedom and democracy,” while radical Islamic movements revolve around “Allah.”
Historians study the numerous “reasons” why specific conflicts arise at a particular moment in history, for example, the variables that lead to the outbreak of a war. But for action to be undertaken at all, there must be a core fantasy—an omnipotent object. Without “Germany” or “the Emperor” or “freedom and democracy” there could not have been a Second World War.
To understand a particular ideology is to uncover and reveal the core fantasy. In the case of Nazism, this fantasy revolved around the idea of Germany as an actual body (politic) suffering from a potentially fatal disease, the source of which was the Jew. Hitler put himself forward as “doctor” of the German people, the man who could root out and destroy the cause of Germany’s suffering, thereby rescuing the nation and saving it from death.
For any ideology, I pose and seek to answer the question: Why does this ideology exist?
* What fantasy or set of fantasies does the ideology contain or convey?
* What methods are used by the leader to encourage members of his society to believe in and act upon the ideological fantasy?
* Why are followers willing to perform violent acts in the name of the ideological fantasy?
* What do leaders and followers hope to achieve by acting upon their society’s ideological fantasy?
Ideologies constitute modus operandi for the expression and enactment of shared fantasies. They become central within a society precisely because they allow unconscious fantasies to be expressed and articulated. They are containers for shared fantasies, driving the historical process. Unconscious fantasies enter history through ideologies.
Where Freud interpreted individual dreams and dreaming, I interpret collective dreams and dreaming, seeking to ascertain latent thoughts beneath manifest content. This is what I mean when I speak of “making conscious the unconscious in social reality.”
The Nazi revolution constituted the acting out of a dream that many people were having at the same time—a shared fantasy powerful enough to give rise to an ideology and social movement. Dreaming this dream most deeply, Hitler was able to articulate the Nazi fantasy. To know why Nazism achieved popularity, one seeks to determine precisely what Hitler said that caused Germans to rise to their feet and shout "Heil Hitler."
I theorize that a necessary condition for the espousal of an ideology within a society is the existence of an unconscious fantasy shared by group members. The ideology is a cultural creation or invention permitting a shared fantasy to manifest as social reality.
It is through the medium of an ideology that a shared fantasy becomes part of the world. An ideology is believed, embraced and perpetuated—it achieves status and power as an element of culture—insofar as it resonates with a fantasy and permits this fantasy to be activated upon the stage of society.
Koenigsberg is an acute student of "Das dritte Reich". He draws a lot of conclusions from the Nazi phenomenon and the essay above is an example of that. So when he talks about ideology, he is primarily talking about a socialist ideology. And I see his remarks as quite applicable to the modern-day Left. The fantasy that drove Hitler is the same as the fantasy that drives both Communism and the the modern social democratic Left: The creation of a new Eden. Hitler had a rather clearer idea of what he wanted his new Eden to be like but he was in many ways a very smart Leftist and Koenigsberg is wise to study him and draw lessons from his words.
So it all goes back to Moses, the first articulator of an Edenic vision. And Western society has been so steeped in the Bible that it lies behind most of our ideas and traditions. It has made our mental world -- so that even non-believers are influenced by it. It is an inescapable part of Western thinking.
And that in turn explains why three strands of Leftism -- Nazism, Communism and democratic Leftism, all have the same fantasy. It goes back to Moses. The garden of Eden is a fantasy that became deeply embedded in us because of the historic influence of the Bible. Moses gave the Left its fantasy. And the fact that the modern world is so far away from an Eden explains the Leftist hate of it. Brazilian essayist Olavo de Carvalho is particularly good on Leftism as a search for a new Eden. See here
Conservatives, on the other hand are basically happy people who enjoy much about them -- their families, their traditions, their church, their sports, their clubs, their military connections, the friends they went to school with, tales of their forebears and a general feeling of connectedness with the past -- so need no fantasies of an Edenic state. They can look at the world about them calmly. They don't have to see it through a haze of hate.
The Congress Strikes Back
Article I of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to make law and to allocate how money is spent in the enforcement of those laws. The president’s role, in contrast, was envisioned by the founders as much more limited. They didn’t want a king, who could govern as he pleased without accountability to the people, and so they restricted his role to Commander in Chief of the military, with the power to make treaties only with the advice and consent of the Senate.
The modern presidency, however, has come to look very different from what the Constitution specifies. Over time, frustrations with the glacial pace of Senate proceedings, combined with a desire of congressmen to avoid responsibility for unpopular decisions, has led Congress to cede much of its authority to the executive branch. The president, either through executive orders or through regulatory agencies, now has much more power than Thomas Jefferson or George Washington would have imagined.
The imperial presidency has been an accumulation over time, but under Barack Obama it has reached new heights. The 44th president’s promise to use “a pen and a phone” to make law when Congress refuses to bend to his will shows how far we have come from the idea of limited government.
Fortunately, some Members of Congress recognize the dangers of allowing a nation of 300 million to be governed unilaterally by a single man. That why Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, allied with other liberty-minded lawmakers, are launching their Article I Project, to reclaim government from an executive out of control and restore the Congress to its rightful, Constitutional place.
The Article I Project has four clearly-defined goals:
* To restore the power of the purse to Congress by reforming the budget process.
* To put an end to legislative “cliffs” and governing by crisis.
* Regulatory reforms, such as the REINS Act, to give Congress input into executive branch regulations.
* To fix the laws that allow the president or his bureaucrats to ignore or rewrite laws passed by Congress.
The nice thing about these goals is that, while they are all import, they are not so hopelessly intertwined with one another that they can’t be pursued separately. We need not wait for a “comprehensive” reform package, with all the complications such a process involves, to get to work right away on these badly needed reforms. In fact, Paul Ryan can get started right now with the budget process that is set to begin within the next couple of weeks.
Sen. Lee and Rep. Hensarling should be applauded for undertaking this long-overdue project. FreedomWorks looks forward to assisting with these efforts in any way possible, throughout 2016 and beyond.
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Posted by JR at 1:26 AM