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20230115 – The Psychology of Totalitarianism

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MAIN IDEA:

This book is about the psychological foundation of totalitarianism that the author calls “Mass formation”. The author is looking:” to understand the shocking behaviors of a “totalitarized” population, including an exaggerated willingness of individuals to sacrifice their own personal interests out of solidarity with the collective (i.e., the masses), a profound intolerance of dissident voices, and pronounced susceptibility to pseudo-scientific indoctrination and propaganda. Mass formation is, in essence, a kind of group hypnosis that destroys individuals’ ethical self-awareness and robs them of their ability to think critically. This process is insidious in nature; populations fall prey to it unsuspectingly.” The author links this process to fear that creates a scary event like a pandemic when losing control over their lives prompts people to seek external force to remove this fear and restore control. Since gods, ancestors, and other supernatural powers disappeared from human beliefs and were substituted by reason, people expect possessors of such reason – experts and government to resolve all problems. The author sees the source of totalitarianism in this:” Totalitarianism is not a historical coincidence. In the final analysis, it is the logical consequence of mechanistic thinking and the delusional belief in the omnipotence of human rationality. As such, totalitarianism is the defining feature of the Enlightenment tradition.” Here is the author’s recommendation for avoiding this outcome:” The fundamental task facing us as individuals and as a society is to construct a new view of man and the world, to find a new foundation for our identity, to formulate new principles for living together with others, and to reappraise a timely human capacity—speaking the truth.”

MY TAKE ON IT:

In my opinion, this approach makes a lot of sense, except for the spiritual part, the author’s attempt to link it all to quantum mechanics, and his rejection of human intellect as “the guiding principle in life and society.”. I do not think the enlightenment and its promotion of human reason have anything to do with totalitarianism. Totalitarianism comes from a completely different source. It is based on the rejection of human reason as an attribute of every human individual. It believes that only some humans, experts, and politicians, possess superior reason and, therefore, should have the power to coerce others to submit to their will.  The solution to the problem of mass formation and totalitarianism is in resource distribution between people as much as possible and elimination of coercion, including governmental force, from human lives. This solution would allow all individuals to build their lives as they wish, rather than being a subject of manipulation and coercion to be used to meet somebody’s objectives.

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