THE CIVILISING PROCESS

 

125

In his book, Symbolic Exchange and Death, Jean Baudrillard examines the psychological consequences of the civilising process and concludes that while civilisation has pulled us from the primitive condition that revolved around the ideas of GIVING-RETURNING-EXCHANGING, it has sunk us into a much grimmer reality of KILLING-POSSESSING-DEVOURING.[i]

The irony that this observation reveals is that our so-called progression into the civilised beings we are, now must be seen as a bestialising process for humanity. Which means that civilisation is actually the exact opposite of what it pretends to be.

Once Baudrillard’s analysis is accepted civilisation is stripped of its pretentions to be what it says it is. The horrific consequences of civilisation have been seen over and over again throughout history, without diminishing civilisation’s own blind faith in its own existence: from the tremendous brutality of Rome with its perverse emperors; to the slave trading and war hungry empires of the modern era; to the epitome of civilised barbarity in the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin, of Mao and Pol Pot. In fact, humanity has paid an enormous price for the so-called comforts and pleasures that civilisation has brought us.

Perhaps it’s wrong to put all the blame on the civilisation process (and Baudrillard only implies the repression of civilisations without naming them), but the evolution from giving into taking (even by killing); returning into keeping and possessing; and exchanging into devouring, seems to flow with the same gravitational force that constructed the first great cities and their monuments.

In looking at the system’s death-drive instinct, Baudrillard says: “Freud installs the process of repetition at the core of objective determinations, at the very moment when the general system of production passes into pure and simple reproduction.”[ii]  For Baudrillard the radical nature of the death-drive is “simply the radical nature of the system itself.”[iii]

[i] Jean Baudrillard, SYMBOLIC EXCHANGE AND DEATH, SAGE, 1993, p. 139)

[ii] Ibid, p. 148

[iii] Ibid

Advertisements

THE PARANOID WORLD

What is more delusional: the paranoiac or the delusion forming civilisation that he/she is paranoid about?

To understand how enslaved we are by the system it is necessary to understand how vulnerable the human psyche is and how effectively Civilisation is able to manipulate this vulnerability in order to inhibit the natural, human instincts of progress.

Civilisation is, in effect, a monopolising of progress for itself. Only Civilisation has the resources to make progress happen. It not only decides to what extent it will happen, it also determines the speed at which the progress will unfold. Through the structure of Civilisation, a carefully controlled unravelling is carried out in a way that maximises the profit that those powers that drive Civilisation can make.

The combined creative potential in humanity is immense, and, if it were unleashed, societies would advance with incredible leaps and bounds. Nevertheless, Civilisation is designed to restrain this creative power in order to assimilate it for itself. Where progress appears cautious, it is because Civilisation hasn’t yet taken control of the innovations.

In this sense, Civilisation is paranoid about human progress. It is deeply concerned that creativity and know-how will develop societies in such a way that the profit from progress will no longer be guaranteed. Such an idea makes Civilisation extremely nervous. The accumulation of wealth is the basis of Civilisation, and it has grown addicted to it. It is time for it to go to rehab., but it says, no, no, no!

Our Lack of Humanity

What Civilisation lacks above all else is precisely the one thing we all share; our humanity.

Without the binding force that humanity possesses, societies feel fragmented; there is a sense that things are not properly put together; that everything is a mess. There is a feeling that the System enveloping society has no feeling for the society itself. Many parts of civilisation seem to be unnecessary or purposeless. The relationship that the individual parts have to the whole is not palpable and things just seem to be there, ad hoc, for no significant reason at all.

The result of this lack is that society becomes a neurotic collective of neuroses, and it becomes incapable of seeing the inherent contradictions in many of the values it upholds. In fact, it is a society that cherishes opposing sets of conscious values, but fails to appreciate the absurdity of the contradiction. It will worship freedom, but champion the needs for ever stricter controls. It will strive for peace, but does so by warring against its enemies at the slightest excuse. It will harken to the need for more human rights and social justice whilst enforcing economies that ensure the flow of money in a continual stream upward to the most privileged classes.

Civilisation desperately needs a psychiatric cure from the terrible neuroses that afflict it. Someone needs to lie our System down on the couch and explain to it once and for all what it is lacking and what it needs to concentrate on and recuperate. The cure is not so hard once the patient accepts the facts and looks for the lack within itself; for the cure is there, and always has been. In fact, it is the material that constitutes the very basis of civilisation itself. We call it “humanity”.

Humanity vs Pride

“… one characteristic seems to be pertinent for all neuroses …

pride governs feelings.[i]

 

The propagation and dictatorships of pride – from the personal pride to the national – is built out of a separation: the creation of borders between us and them; the manifestation of our need to measure ourselves and create an identity out of our differences (she’s got blonde hair, he’s got red hair, they’ve got black hair and the rest of us have all got brown hair). But the separation is also a superficial thing, created out of the obvious notion that we are all different in some ways and have certain similarities in others. However, in our societies there is a prejudice towards the differences via the superficial valuation that some differences are better than others (we would love to be blonde like her). However, once the difference has been established then, psychologically, it starts to get more serious and nasty. After making the separation we must conform to what seems to be ours. Certainly one can dye one’s hair, but, everyone knows that that is cheating. The rule of identities is that one must be proud of what one is, not what one should be or would like to be – and here begin all neuroses.

The sense of direction – where are we going? – is absent in the neurotic society because its “directive powers are weakened in direct proportion to the degree of alienation from self,” [ii] which is our alienation from humanity. Or, in other words, our pride in our identity, in that which makes us different from them, is denying us an identity with our real self, which is that we are all human beings.

The power of humanity, like Freud’s concept of the “ego” stands weak against the magnificent promises of the idealised society that is geared toward satisfying desires. Nevertheless, the macro-psychological ego, or true self that is humanity, may be the most positive and constructive force we could ever possess if it were allowed to be unleashed. Its weakness does not lie in its lack of potential, but rather in its lack of visibility. The problem with humanity is that we no longer perceive it: it has become a concept like “ghosts” or “flying saucers”, something that some of us may believe in, but hardly ever talk about, lest we be judged to be crackpots for having brought the subject up.

If, like a psychoanalyser, we were to examine society for traces of its humanity, we would find that very little of it is visibly operating. The structure of everything is built on division and differentiation. We might see possibilities; that certain beliefs and feelings seem authentically “human” and that the basic drives for progress and development contain an authenticity that transcends the simple selfish ones generated by the individual’s own pride, but, in general terms, “the human” remains shadowy; in the background.

However, if our analyses were to go deeper and we were able to draw society’s attention towards its humanity within our own individual psyche, then perhaps we could undermine the pride-based system, drawing it away from its own cynically defensive view of reality and instil in it an interest in the truth about itself.

Humanity must be allowed to assume responsibility for itself. This is the basic, but ignored, principle of democracy. Humanity needs to be allowed to make human decisions; feel human feelings; and develop beliefs and goals which further humanity.

In order for this to happen, awareness must be unleashed; an awareness that can only be created through an analytic process – we must put the System on the analyst’s couch and talk to it, question it; lead it towards a consciousness of its own positive force, which is its own authenticity. No matter how selfish it seems, the System is still basically a human one, and until humanity is rediscovered, it will remain a neurotic one, gasping for air in a stagnating ocean of ubiquitous pride.

[i] K. Horney, Neuroses and Human Growth, p.162

[ii] Ibid, p. 167

Image result for humanity and pride

NEUROTIC PRIDE AND THE LOSS OF AUTHENTICITY

Image result for Trump

In our post On Neurosis[i] we looked at how neurosis seeps into the very fabric of society and how the System itself encourages the illusionary reality of the neurotic. But, to what extent is our Civilisation itself neurotic?

At the macro-psychological level, we live in an economic system driven by neurotic pride and fear. Vindictive triumph runs rich in the veins of the brutally competitive, consumer-driven system. If we look at Horney’s thesis on neurosis as vindictive triumph, neurosis is described as “a regular ingredient in the search for glory.” A system that advocates competitiveness as a virtue would, therefore, contain neurotic elements. Horney also warns that “If it is the dominant motivating force in life, it sets going a vicious circle that is most difficult to disentangle. The determination then to rise above others in every possible way is so gigantic that it reinforces the whole need for glory, and with that the neurotic pride.”[ii] Hence, the virtue of striving to be an achiever contains a neurotic pathology that must make the system itself questionable.

Yet, it is not all capitalism’s fault: the vicious circle that Horney mentions has been running incessantly through the entire anti-human historical process since the dawn of civilisation.

Neurosis, or at least neurosis according to Horney’s definition[iii], is a loss of authenticity. The neurotic individual becomes so lost in the ‘shoulds’ of society that he or she loses touch with her own authentic wants and needs. Likewise, the neurotic system itself has lost sense of its primary human condition and has drowned itself in a sea of non-authentic identities based on separation: identities that create vindictive pride, and are reinforced as identities by that same vindictive pride.

But, like the neurotic, the vindictive pride that motivates the system is twisted by its authentic self; in the macro-psychological self, by humanity. Humanity is also behind the man-made system, but more as an omnipresent stranger than as a recognisable member of the system itself. Humanity is more like a spectre, haunting our System-run lives, than any real motivator of them. Nevertheless, it is omnipresently critical, working like a subconscious superego that gnaws at us and makes us feel fraudulent, unsatisfied, or even displaced in the societies we live in.

As an anti-human creation, the System suffers from a massive, ingrained inauthenticity, which in turn has a retarding effect on the System’s own desires for progress. No matter how hard it tries to push forward, it keeps circling around within itself. Without an ability to embrace its authenticity, the System is doomed to crash into the problem of self-hate. Civilisation itself is torn by a deep rift of conflict between its despised, authentic self (its humanity) and its idealised creation of itself (personified in its many different forms of identities).

Civilisation’s condition is as Horney said of the neurotic: “there is a war on. And this is the essential character of every neurotic: he is at war with himself.”[iv] Every war throughout human history has been Civilisation’s neurotic battle with itself.

 

[i] See https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/on-neurosis/

[ii] K. Horney, Neurosis and Human Growth, p. 104.

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Ibid, p. 112

FEAR AND FREEDOM

Image result for armed police guarding shops

Our global, capitalist civilisation is starting to feel like a training ground in fear and freedom that could be conceived as a deliberately engineered, vicious circle of social manic-depression.

Tests carried out in the 1990s showed that there was a link between depression and compulsive buying. Fear makes us neurotic and depressed, which is good for the consumer-based economy. In this way, bad news is profitable in the long run, especially if the bad news is propagated to as many potential consumers as possible.

Living in a city policed by heavily armed guards, is depressing; but at least it protects the way out of that depression, guarding the way to the ever-open doors of our next shopping spree.

And so, Civilisation tells us: “Fear the worst, but rejoice in your freedom to shop!”

ON NEUROSIS

Image result for the scream munch

For the neurotic, reality is an intrusion. The neurotic is the one who says: “Life is awful; it is so full of reality.”[i] There is a paradox here: Is the neurotic disturbed because of his or her rejection of reality, or is reality itself something that actually makes life awful, and, therefore, creates the neurotic who finds it intrusive? The neurotic lives an illusion: but that illusion is that things should be better.

From a moral perspective, the neurotic is right – things should be better. But, if this is the case, why can’t we learn from the neurotic? If we listen to the one who thinks things should be better, we might be able to see how better things can actually come about. Instead we nullify the neurotic mind, tranquilising its Utopian-born anxieties with drugs. Civilisation tells us that neurosis is a terrible illness, not a path to enlightenment.

But, how is neurosis an illness? According to Horney the neurotic’s problem is that he or she makes claims on things that they are not actually entitled to.[ii] The result is indignation.

It is here that we see how neurosis seeps into the very fabric of society; through the fantasy of entitlement, which is itself created by the ambiguity of that same entitlement that is fostered by civilisation. How far do our rights go? How extensive are our entitlements? What does our democratic freedom provide us with? Once one starts to attempt to answer these questions, one is pushing oneself ever closer toward a neurosis.

But inspiration itself is a neurosis forming phenomenon. The illusionary reality of the neurotic is encouraged by the System itself: “You deserve that car that you can’t afford, and because you deserve it we will give you the finance for it – all you have to do is pay us back with interest.” The luxury car, in the neurosis creating system, becomes a neurotic need. Of course it isn’t an authentic necessity for anyone, but the system tells us that it is.

The neurotic is a passive creature, “all the good things in life, including contentment of soul, should come to him,”[iii] and the neurosis creating society must also fabricate passivity. A passivity which is linked through neurosis with consumerism.

[i] K. Horney, NEUROSIS AND HUMAN GROWTH, p. 40

[ii] Ibid, p. 41

[iii] Ibid, p. 50

DADDY DEMOCRACY IS NOT THE FATHER WE THOUGHT HE WAS

alienation democracy – Bing images

There is a general feeling of alienation between the electorate and the political echelons in most of the so called democratic world, and it is important to remind ourselves that this alienation, which is real, is taking place precisely when our democracies have applauded the downfall of most of the world’s dictatorships. So, how can this be? If the world is more democratic than ever, how can it be that people are feeling alienated from the political system? The situation should be the opposite. Could it be that the accuser, now left with hardly anyone else to accuse, is now revealed for what he truly is and always was? That the accusations were smoke-screens in order to cover up his own guilt? Aren’t we now like the child who discovers indications that our perfect father is not so perfect after all: we don’t go out and openly discredit him, although deep down we would like to; we don’t run away or disown him, although we are tempted to; we start to rebel and stand up to his authority, but we don’t really believe we can change him … do we?

What we have now is quite a unique scenario. Perhaps for the first time in history, we find ourselves having to turn our backs on that which we never really had. We thought we were free, but it was a lie. So, what should we do? Try and recreate that which never was? Try and create in a real way that which we thought we had but never really did? But, how could we ever trust them again?

Once innocence is lost, it’s impossible to return there again.

OUR THYMOTIC PATHOLOGY 2: Achilles, Odysseus and the Bicameral Mind

In the evolution of Greek culture from the menis (cholera/rage) of Achilles to the metis (astuteness) of Odysseus we see a new power emerging in our species – the power of consciousness; the power of the mind. It is Odysseus and not Achilles who vanquishes Troy.

If Jaynes’ analysis of Homer and thymus is correct[i] and that an evolutionary leap took place between the composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey, showing us a literary expression of the transformation of the Bicameral unconscious man (Achilles) and the Conscious man (Odysseus), thymus and menis could also be regarded as biological facets of our temperament that were necessary to the unconscious man in his bicameral state, but became only a troublesome element for the conscious intelligence of our non-bicameral minds.

It is not the Achilles figure bursting with menis, or Hegel’s aristocrat hero sacrificing himself for his slave who should be posited as candidates for the title of the First Man, but rather the wily Odysseus. Odysseus is the first man, the first figure in world literature, who would be the first to display the tremendous advantage of consciousness and the astuteness that that consciousness empowered him with. Rather than a step forward, Fukuyama’s Hegelian idea of the triumph of thymus and the megathymotic instincts of liberal-democracy and capitalist society is in actual fact a backward leap in ontological evolution.

The Iliad man is slave to passions, which are not his passions but drives instilled by gods. It is Achilles’ thymus, stirred by Apollo, that makes him rise, leave his tent and go to battle. Achilles is a kind of schizophrenic automaton. He doesn’t think of himself but only acts when the gods tell him to act or when they stir his thymus. He is a patient potency that will explode when ignited. He will sit and wait, absorbing the world until he is called to act. He is an archetype for the invulnerable power of the masses. The masses who are stirred via their own thymus: the thymus of all religions and all nationalisms; loyal to all flags; the champion of all victims of any injustices. Achilles evolved into the masses and his thymus and his menis were preserved for anyone cunning enough to tap into to use.

Achilles, the archetypal hero of all who act when they are stirred, is a robot warrior. He is superseded in homo sapiens evolution by Odysseus, the genius survivor. As the archetypical automaton-man, Achilles is the first example of Nietzsche’s Last Man. The gods of Olympus are no longer the instigators and thymus stirring invisible protagonists of our current unfolding tragedy. They have been replaced by the cunning sons of Odysseus who learned the art of domesticating all Achilles-men. But now Achilles’ descendants, the Last Men, also have consciousness, or at least a latent consciousness, and the new god-king race of the Odysseus family must apply even more ingenious methods of manipulation to maintain the Achilles-masses automaton-slave condition.

The historical process has become a struggle to manipulate the Achilles-automatons, and keep them unconscious by convincing them that they are really free. But in between the Odysseus-god-kings and the Achilles-automaton-slave-masses are the other classes of men and women. Strange Odysseus-like creatures who use their intelligence not for cunning and manipulation but for knowing and teaching. They evolved in the post-Homeric times of poetry and philosophy (and Homer himself belonged to this same class). They stand on the outskirts of the prayer process of history, part of it, but never really accepted by it or accepting of it. They try to reshape it, redirect it.

 

If Jaynes is right, mankind as a consciously thinking species, as a true homo sapiens, has only existed for some four thousand years. Hegel saw life as a long process of becoming. A tedious but necessary process. We know that evolution has had its failures and there have been countless extinctions, so how should we imagine mankind in one or four thousand years’ time? If we were to meet such a person time-travelling back to our era we would probably not consider them human any more, just as we would probably have trouble relating in any meaningful way to Achilles. We are always in the middle of what we once were and will eventually become.

In the 1960s, when science-fiction writers tried to envisage an evolved humanity they gave us huge hands and long fingers. But our next great evolutionary leap will probably be like our last, not a physical change but a leap of consciousness. In the future men and women will have a more quantum awareness, perhaps with greater sensitivity to electromagnetic fields and, certainly, areas of the brain will be activated that we have never consciously used up to now. The shift from Jaynes’ bicameral Achilles to conscious Odysseus involved a shutting down of the bicameral activity and an activation of that part of the brain that makes us aware of the I.

We have evolved and we will evolve again if we survive extinction. “The goal is Spirit’s insight into what knowing is,”[ii] wrote Hegel. And for the Spirit to know through mankind then mankind’s perception will have to grow more acute and more finely tuned to nature. In the meantime, we must struggle against the bi-polarising of society into a conscious and unconscious one and the maintenance of that bi-polarised status quo. We still have a segregated society of Odysseus-royal-elites and Achilles-slave-masses, and a power struggle between the two. The automaton class tryies to preserve its dignity by demonstrating that it has clear consciousness, while the royal elite amplifies the servility of its multitude through the machinery of religions, patriotisms, publicity, spectator sports and other spectacular events for the masses.

 

[i] Julian Jaynes, THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND, First Mariner Books, 2000

[ii] G. W. Hegel, PHENOMENOLOGY OF SPIRIT, p. 17

 

PART ONE:

https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/our-thymotic-pathology-1-fukuyama-and-sloterdijk/

 

OUR THYMOTIC PATHOLOGY – 1: Fukuyama and Sloterdijk

The ancient Greeks had a concept called thymus which, they believed, explained our unconscious impulses to act. In the Iliad, Achilles does not act consciously, but rather it is Apollo who inspires him to go to battle by stimulating his thymus.

Of course, as a subconscious driving force, thymus can be likened to will, or a physical, personal receiver and motivator of will. Julian Jaynes’, in his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, argues that the meaning of the word evolved in its classical usage from an original concept of motion or agitation in the unconscious bicameral man, to eventually become something like our emotional soul. Perhaps in its original meaning we could sometimes associate it with energy – when a man grows tired of moving it is because his thymus leaves his limbs – but it must be given a spiritual or psychological quality as well which seems to come and go and even gives us directions. It speaks to us. The thymus can tell a man to eat and drink, or to fight. Diomedes in the Iliad says that Achilles will fight: “when the thymus in his chest tells him and a god rouses him.” Thymus then, is associated with passion.

Fukuyama introduces thymus to us through Plato. From the Republic, Fukuyama tells us that Plato envisaged the soul in three parts: desire, reason and thymus, which Fukuyama translates as spiritedness.

What Fukuyama is looking for constantly in his book is a handy definition of human nature. Definitions which can correspond to liberal-democratic intentions and thus prove Fukuyama’s thesis that liberal-democracy is the most perfect system because it reflects human nature far better than any other. Plato’s triumvirate-soul is perfect for Fukuyama and capitalism: a will to spirited desire that also has a sprinkle of reasonableness to it. Plato of course saw the triumvirate working in a different way. Its tri-nature being an explanation for the constant moral dilemma between our reasoning and our desires. Plato asks: shouldn’t we subject our desires to the judgement of reason against the danger of allowing it to be subjected to passion? Capitalism of course would argue NO. It’s better for the consumer to desire with a passion and consume with a frenzy. Capitalism wants a passionate element to reign in our souls. The kind of passion propounded by the Romantics, the kind advocated by Nietzsche.

To act with passion the consumer needs freedom, and so the liberal-plutocracy encourages it, or at least a hallucinatory version of that freedom. While you are allowed to consume with passion, you will be fully motivated to work in our system, the one, the only one that can provide the drugs one needs to feed one’s consumer-addiction – which is making the few who are pulling the strings get richer whilst the rest sink deeper and deeper into their addiction. Welcome to Huxley’s Brave New World.

For Fukuyama: “Desire and reason are together sufficient to explain the process of industrialisation and a large part of economic life more generally.”[i] But what room is there for reason in a soul that is driven by a spirited, passionate desire? How much reason can we see in an industrialisation which has scarred the planet? How much reason behind those ideas that created a slave-class of factory workers that are now abandoned to unemployment as the system mechanises the same industries? Instead of the noble concept of reason, we see only egotistical ambition. Only selfish reasons based on greed and desire.

Fukuyama perverts Plato’s idea of the soul by associating it with a singularity that is human nature. Plato himself, however, does not make this association, and in the dialogue Socrates is searching for the best individual natures to fit certain positions (e.g. what would be the right soul for an ideal guardian of the city). Plato’s argument is that the appetitive part of the soul that is desire needs to be controlled, not unleashed as capitalism does.

Fukuyama seems quite liberal (no pun intended) with Plato’s thymus. In Republic IV, 436a ff., Socrates asks: “Do we do things with the same part of ourselves or do we do them with three different parts? Do we learn with one part, get angry with another, and with some third part desire the pleasures of food drink, sex, and the others that are closely akin to them? Or when we set out after something, do we act with the whole of our soul in each case?” Or in other words the three parts that Fukuyama refers to are: that with which we learn (reason), that which gets us angry (thymus), and that which fills us with desire. Here Fukuyama’s translation of thymus, spiritedness, would probably be better rendered as passion, for thymus here is the faculty for arousing anger. Drawing this same line of argument Socrates says that he prefers the term appetite to desire, for appetite implies both desire and non-desire. Non-will is just as an important concept for Plato as will. My revulsion at the idea of eating shit is stronger than my love of eating shell-fish. My will for wanting one thing is often measured alongside a will for not wanting something else. It is between will and non-will that choices are made, and preferences. Only a monster will desire everything, and there is another perversion: the culture that wants everything is a monstrous abomination. The natural thing (and this was Plato’s point), the authentically natural thing is that desire should be moderated by a courageous will to not-want, or want-less.

Nevertheless, in Fukuyama’s perverted misreading of Plato, thymus becomes a perfectly positive drive and one necessary for human satisfaction, in fact it is related by Fukuyama to human dignity.

 

Peter Sloterdijk sees thymus, and capitalism, from another angle. After locating the origin of the word thymus in a kind of receptacle through which the gods activated mankind, Sloterdijk suggests that we are still subject to thymotic power. But now it is via the State or the system that thymus returns to its receptacle like function. Instead of being activated by gods it is now programmed by the system. He says: “Current consumerism achieves, in a significant way, the same elimination of pride in favour of the erotic without holistic, altruistic and elegant excuses, by buying from man his interest in dignity, offering material favours in exchange.” The system now functions not as a body-snatcher, but as a dignity-snatcher: “In this way, the construct of the Homo-economicus, at first totally incredible, arrives at his goal of becoming the post-modern consumer. A simple consumer is he or she that doesn’t know or doesn’t want to know different appetites that… proceed from the erotic or demanding part of the soul.”[ii]

For Sloterdijk the rediscovery of the neo-thymotic human image in the Renaissance played an important role in the rise of the Nation State in terms of that which referred to its output. He lists Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Adam Smith, Hamilton and Hegel as they who considered men’s passions as their most important qualities: their lust for fame, vanity, self-love, ambition and the desire to be recognised. All of them saw the dangers in their passions but most of them still dared to sell these vices as positive, productive aspects for society.

The thymotic drive is a creative, productive one, but it is also an angry, jealous, violent one. The will-to-want-more (Nietzschean) thymus coupled to the will-to-be-recognised (Hegelian) thymus is a pyrotechnic combination, an act of madness, throwing gunpowder into the fire. But it is what our system has always advocated. Sloterdijk makes a connection between Thymus and the Hippocratic temperament of Choleric. Both the will-to-want-more and the desire for recognition are areas in the thymotic field of psychology. They are questions of appetite and pride, of longing for success and fortune. Dreams: American Disneyland Dreams, fomented by the surplus-consumer society, our dynamic civilisation creating dynamic individuals from thymotic fantasies.

The greatest effect of the French Revolution, and the American War of Independence that preceded it, was not freedom, brotherhood and equality, but the creation of a dynamic civilisation based on the power of competitiveness, constantly fuelled by personal pride, needs for recognition, greedy ambition and motivating envy. It is these drives, applied to politics, which forces us to question our civilisation’s greatest apparent virtue – our liberal democracy.

“For the people, by the people”: by – to a certain, virtual extent; for – hardly.

Our party system is a reflection of our System, which is made of the essentially thymotic so necessary for making the market work in a dynamic way. Thus our parties are passionately competitive, power-hungry machines made up of power-hungry individuals. The parties themselves are divided into hungry factions, and each faction in ambitious individuals. How could we ever expect these vain-glorious competitors to even really care about those who voted for them except when it is useful? For the party to win it needs succulent policies and needs to sell those ideas seductively. It also needs the competitive, power hungry individuals to appear unified, and to seem to believe in the party principles. Principles that even the most utopian democrats will sacrifice to pragmatism. Over and over again the democratic politicians surprise us by their lack of vision, lack of principles and constant bowing to pragmatism.

Pragmatism is really the emergency exit out of all radical ideologies. In the great global liberal-free-market civilisation, political parties function very much like corporate groups. Voters are like customers for Coca-Cola or Pepsi: once they have been won to one side they will be more or less loyal forever. A loyal Coca-Cola consumer will rather have a Fanta than resort to Pepsi if there is no Coke. But more importantly than the loyalties it can create, modern politics is corporate through its internal competitiveness.

If Fukuyama would have been right and the triumph of liberalism had created a politically perfect system, there would no longer be any need for politics. But this is an absurd paradox. The liberal economic system needs competition. It is no surprise that the fall of communism left liberalism euphoric, but also momentarily crippled, and it was actually spiritually wavering until the Twin Towers came crashing down and the War on Terror began. It sounds like a conspiracy theory but for a system based on competition, struggle and ambition, war seems a logical necessity. And since the collapse of the Berlin Wall we have seen the liberal-democracies rushing headlong into almost any conflict that half-rears its head.

On a superficial level Fukuyama’s general thesis that liberal-democracy has triumphed as the only really viable and desirable political system is correct. Even those who don’t vote in the liberal-democrat systems would, if offered a choice, opt for the choice to vote. The grand majority of humankind want the voting option and therefore we can say that we want democracy. We also want all or some of the liberal ideas of freedom, although here we seem to split if we take the ballot-results as a fair measure between market-freedom and human-rights. The bi-partisan system of democracy is liberalism’s finest invention. By possessing its own inner competition it provides itself with its own self-criticism and its own renewal. Apart from the major options of right or left, the liberal-democratic system can offer a multitude of options for more socially complex societies: liberal-nationalism or liberal-catholicism, as well as free-market extremists and soft-core neo-fascisms.

On the surface it seems like a perfectly desirable system. Perfectly?: no, nothing is perfect. Triumphantly waiting it is, for the few last dictatorships to collapse and drop into liberal-democracy mode as well. When that happens it will be able to pronounce, with absolute conviction, that it is the perfect, and now the also the only system. But, ironically Fukuyama himself points to the liberal-democracies’ most dangerous foe. As the political systems to have fallen in the last half century have collapsed so suddenly, often without any pre-warning, taking us all by surprise, could the same happen to liberal-democracy?

[i] Francis Fukuyama, THE END OF HISTORY AND THE LAST MAN, p. xviii

[ii] Peter Sloterdijk, ZORN UND SEIT, author’s own translation from the Spanish edition, p.27

PART TWO:

https://wordpress.com/post/pauladkin.wordpress.com/2485