On the inward core of totalitarianism

Started by zarus tathra, February 08, 2014, 04:54:17 PM

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zarus tathra

Karl Popper believed that the philosophical basis of totalitarianism was "historicism," that is a belief that human history followed a predictable, deterministic course. This was certainly explicitly a feature of Marxism, and implicitly, one of fascism as well. But I don't think that the belief in the predictability of history is enough to designate a group or a movement as totalitarian for the simple reason that I think everyone who reads history or picks up a newspaper thinks that history is on some level predictable.

Therefore, if the core belief of totalitarianism is to lie within historicism, and yet not all historicism is totalitarian, then the core belief must be included in a subset of historicism. I believe that this subset of historicism is the belief that

1. History is predictable


2. A certain set of developments will bring about the END of history.

That is, once a "revolution" occurs, there will be no important divergences from the abstract plan laid out by the theorist. The proletariat will win the revolution and people will live on as educated noble savages, hunting in the morning, fishing in the afternoon, and criticizing film after dinner. The Party will successfully rationalize or suppress all internal class conflicts and the nation will grow into a universal empire encircling the globe. Saddam's statue will be toppled, a new government vaguely resembling Robert's Rules of Order will arise, and the Iraqi people will be free. etc.

I think that this pretty handily characterizes most, if not all, of the movements in recent history that have been designated as "totalitarian," and I think that it gives us insight into movements that are less obviously totalitarian and yet still fulfill this definition. For example, libertarianism. Most people can agree for the most part with the basic premise, that people should be allowed to associated with other people freely. But the apologists of the system are never content to leave it at that; they always bring out reams of largely irrelevant equations and "logical" proofs showing that x or y form of economic behavior is "optimal," and that any deviation from this system invites catastrophe. The message is ultimately the same as that of fascism or socialism or any other ism: the system is perfect. Our methods are perfect. We are perfect. You are flawed.

Therefore, it does not matter what ideology is proposed. Almost any ideology, by this definition, can become totalitarian if it becomes so arrogant that it believes itself to be The Last Word, because in order for any system to reign in perpetuity, it would have to silence every possible source of change, and to do this, it would have to have total control. There is no guarantee that this state of control can ever be achieved, but it does not keep people from killing themselves trying.
?"Belief is always most desired, most pressingly needed, when there is a lack of will." -Friedrich Nietzsche

Ideals are imperfect. Morals are self-serving.