Totalitarianism

One way of thinking about totalitarianism is as a social and political system that worships omnipotent power for power’s sake. It is important for everybody to recognize totalitarianism and its threats, when they exist, or when they threaten. Make no mistake, totalitarian states have existed before: Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union being the most well known recent examples. Surely we can learn enough to recognize a resurgence of another totalitarian regime? A problem with such recognition is that from our childhoods we are all encultured to live within a political-economic system that incites totlitarianism, as if such a system is not only good for us but is also natural and inevitable. This system is known as neoliberal capitalism in a so-called liberal democracy – both of which elements contain the seeds of totalitarianism: necessarily fruitful for capitalism, and potentially fruitful for liberal democracy.

Totalitarianism is lethally dangerous, morally regressive, and ultimately self-destructive, literally self destructive because it annihilates the ‘I’ of our imaginaed selves, attached as this is, albeit neurotically and anxiously to more or less liberal ideologies, and replaces it with an instrumentalised individual set to work as exploited slave labour for the enjoyment and power of the Masterful elites – the apparently omnipotent big Other.

Totalitarianism worships omnipotent power for power’s sake, so it displaces those things we desire that promise to make us satisfied and happy, the so-called object-a, it replaces this object with an imaginary ultimate social good, such as, say, the unity of a mythically ‘great’ nation state. It expels difference, that is the idea that there are other individuals that we should value as humans entitled to justice and care, with individual preferences that may be different to ours.

The stability of the identity of the subject of totalitarianism depends on maintaining the unity of this vision of the social good, maintaining the exclusion and disappearance of difference, and sustaining the image of the elite leaders as omnipotent above the law and above such things as mere scientific knowledge and reason. The identity of the subject of totalitarianism results from a shift in the neurotic sense of self that no longer imagines a big Other who creates a law that prohibits excess, but instead forms an identity in relation to a change in the Law that demands: “Enjoy, this little, as much as possible!”. In other words the totalitarian edict negates the idea of excess, and instead permits, promises and even demands unlimited enjoyment of the excluded little other in a way that underlines and maintains the unity of the image of the big Other (the elite leadership) as omnipotent and with limitless power to punish. Obedience and Masterful edicts are synergistic and each self- fulfilling prophecies of the other.

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