We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Nor does the authoritarian personality want anyone else to have freedom. This is because if other people are free to do as they please, they too are capable of bringing disorder into your life through actions which you cannot control. Such sentiments become especially pronounced when we encounter those who do not look or act like us, and who can trigger acute anxieties about what their intentions.

In Nazi Germany, the specter of Jewish and foreign conspiracies was constantly invoked to generate anxiety and a sense of chaotic disintegration. Jewish Germans and foreign elements were blamed for everything that went wrong in society, leading the Nazi party to demand ever more power, and to impose ever greater restrictions on the population to combat their influence. As Slavoj Zizek often points out, this even included making transparently self-contradictory claims about these foreign elements. Jews were simultaneously presented as both sub-human and in control of a vast conspiracy to control the globe. They were both insignificant and a massive threat to German hegemony. Any reasonably individuated person would notice this contradiction and insist that no rational person can accept it. But in a society where even thinking in a manner which did not conform to the interests of the totalitarian party could result in one’s imprisonment and destruction, who would dare express such opinions?

– Mat McManus, The Frankfurt School and the Allure of Submission

23 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Snorri Godhi

    Strange to see a SQotD devoted to ruling-class propaganda!

  • CaptDMO

    “Any reasonably individuated person would notice this contradiction and insist that no rational person can accept it.”
    Unless they’ve seen the Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles”.

  • Julie near Chicago

    The interesting thing is the comments to the article. The ones I read say Mr. McManus is a true-red Marxist. I had that impression from a quick skim of the first few paras, but when I read the whole thing I thought it seemed mostly reportorial.

    Here’s a comment from “breathnumber.” It’s long, but nowhere near as long as some of the 77 comments to the piece which Mr. McManus links.

    Speaking of Fromm, who writes very beautifully about love, here is a paean he composed two years after publishing The Art of Loving, in which he heaps praises upon Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, proclaiming that they represent the “flowering of Western humanity,” that they were “unselfish and with little vanity or lust for power,” and that “whatever they touched became alive.” Trotsky in particular Fromm calls a “deeply loving man”, and quotes from the great man’s diary: “Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and vileness, and enjoy it to the full.”

    It’s worth recalling, in this connection, that Trotsky wrote in 1920 a book entitled The Defence of Terrorism. “The road to Socialism,” he writes, “lies through a period of the highest possible intensification of the principle of the State … The State, before disappearing, assumes the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e. the most ruthless form of State, which embraces the life of the citizens authoritatively in every direction.”

    To which Kolakowski, the great Marxist apostate, comments: “It would be difficult indeed to put the matter more plainly. The state of the proletarian dictatorship is depicted by Trotsky as a huge permanent concentration camp in which the government exercises absolute power over every aspect of the citizens’ lives and in particular decides how much work they shall do, of what kind and in what places. Individuals are nothing but labour units. Compulsion is universal, and any organization that is not part of the state must be its enemy, thus the enemy of the proletariat. All this, of course, is in the name of an ideal realm of freedom, the advent of which is expected after an indefinite lapse of historical time.”

    All this, that is, in the name of love.

    .

    Also, I wasted my entire afternoon writing up a little on my own views. Probably won’t cross the threshold into Cyberspace.

    I will say this: There’s a lot to “the Authoritarian personality.” I think all of us is a little bit bossy, deep inside, though hopefully most people keep it at least a bit under wraps unless they’re being paid to be bosses. And even then, most bosses do best by keeping their bossiness on a short leash.

    Seems to me that some people are “authoritarian” either because they think they’re supposed to be (like some some schoolteachers and coaches) or because they’re in it for the Power.

    But I say that humans need the sense that we know what to expect, generally speaking, and some of us (not I myself of course, Snorri) sometimes find ourselves at sixes and sevens when other people seem to be getting away with breaking what we’re accustomed to taking as The Rules.

    And for a variety of reasons (subject of the earlier comment, not yet made) people generally speaking tend to acquiesce to Authorities and to policies or rules that they don’t really like very much.

  • bobby b

    Is he decrying authoritarianism qua authoritarianism, or is he decrying some authoritarians’ ability to drive social sentiment in irrational directions?

    What if an authoritarian is convincing society to move in rationally supportable directions? Still bad simply due to the reliance on authoritarianism?

    (Probably, but I don’t think he makes that case.)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Meant to give the link to Mr. McManus’s earlier piece, “The Frankfurt School and Postmodern Philosophy”:

    https://quillette.com/2019/01/03/the-frankfurt-school-and-postmodern-philosophy/

    77 comments so far, some of them quite lengthy. For those who like their comments meatily philosophical, whether or not of O’ist, conservative, Classical Liberal, Petersonist, or leftist bent, this is your piece.

    I’m not up to reading it yet.

  • Julie near Chicago

    “…almost all of us is … “? Quoth I ??? Ye gods!

  • From the quote’s second paragraph, Mr McManus seems to have one thing I connect to the authoritarian personality – the will to simplify the views of those he dislikes so he can ridicule them without the effort of understanding them. I dislike Nazis too, but I can see the absurdity of thinking that the Nazis thought the Jews were subhuman in a sense that would obviously contradict the idea of their achieving wealth and power.

    (Revealingly, Mat does not even mention the loudest and most frequent accusation the Nazis (and others) made against the Jews (and financiers) in the interwar years, namely that they had started WWI. If he had known it then he might have realised that a somewhat different contradiction – a somewhat different unthinkable thought – was important to many Nazi personalities. That is immensely relevant to history back then but immensely irrelevant to the needs of PC propaganda now, and I seriously doubt the issue even crossed Mat’s mind when he wrote the quoted text above.)

    The first paragraph has more quotable content but – again, revealingly – Mat speaks of those who ‘look or act’ different although his point about “bringing disorder into your life through actions which you cannot control” clearly relates to ‘act’ in the sentence after, so to put ‘look’ in the sentence at all, let alone putting it first, requires a bit of the kind of deeper-thought analysis that seems lacking in the passage.

  • Snorri, we have quoted a great many people who have said interesting things, such as Mao Tse-tung for example.

  • Alsadius

    McManus is actually a long-time personal friend of mine. He’s an interesting fellow in some ways. Not a Marxist (he’s far more Obama than he is Lenin), but he’s definitely on the left.

    Still, he’s always tried hard to engage with conservatives/libertarians/”the right” respectfully, and these days he’s putting a lot of work into speaking our own language to us in our own media outlets. This is why he writes for Quillette and The Post Millennial(which you guys might not know in the UK? But it’s fairly big here in Canada on the right).

  • Lord T

    Does anyone else note the similarities between this and Brexit. Contradictions, sub human, manipulative, wanting control and shutting down speech.

    I feel I may be moving back to the 1940s.

  • Snorri Godhi

    OK, last night i just wanted to write something short & provocative before going back to watch the US Open. (This is in reply to Perry.)

    There are 2 specific items that triggered me in the quote: the “authoritarian personality” and Slavoj Zizek.

    I believe the “authoritarian personality” to be a pseudo-concept, just like “social Darwinism”.

    As for Slavoj Zizek, it seems (fast forward to about 3:20) that he explicitly endorses mass murder, on the principle that you can’t make an omelette without breaking the eggs.

    Having said all that, i am in the middle of reading McManus’ essay and i find it of interest. At the very least, it demands a reasoned counter-argument, rather than a breezy dismissal.

  • Snorri Godhi (September 6, 2019 at 1:16 pm), I don’t think Perry is correcting you for criticising McManus – after all, if he is, as Alsadius suggests, “more Obama than Lenin” that leaves scope for samizdatan criticism 🙂 (and I have certainly been critical in my comment above). Perry is noting that appearing as SQotD is not necessarily an endorsement of all or even any of the quote – not if you’re keeping company with Mao. 🙂 If McManus is indeed “trying to engage (in discussion) with … the right respectfully” then that is a plus relative to the standard left of today”.

    I will again request that SQotD titles be given some variety that lets the comment sidebar show which ones are getting attention.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Niall: I meant no disrespect to Our Blogmaster in saying that my first paragraph was in reply to Him.

    I have been kind of busy with the US Open, so i cannot say much more about McManus’ essay right now. Except that it led me to another essay, in which he and his co-author discuss different concepts of freedom, as we did about a month ago on Samizdata.

  • Nullius in Verba

    I found another bit of the essay interesting.

    “This brings us to the most despairing feature of Frankfurt thinking about freedom; under the right conditions many of us do not want it for ourselves or others. Freedom naturally brings with it the possibility of chaos. If I have to choose for myself what to do, there is always a good chance I will choose incorrectly and make a mess of my life. For a true individual, this possibility is to be accepted or even welcomed since it is our mistakes as much as our successes which define us. That is too high a risk for proto-authoritarians. It is far easier and safer to submit to authority and its promises to order your life for you.”

    It reminded me somewhat of some of what has recently been said around here about fences. Wouldn’t a world without fences – a total anarchy – be chaotic? Do people “need boundaries”? Or feel they do? Do they feel the need for guidance from outside authority – to feel safe, to feel confident certainty that one is right and justified, to feel a part of something bigger and historically more important, to evade the responsibility for making risky choices?

    I’m dubious. I find it hard to believe that it is anything as simple as a generalised agoraphobia in a world without fences, or such people would not complain so much when the old fences are replaced by new ones in different places. If people simply found comfort from boundaries, then why would they not find the same comfort in the new rules? On the contrary, they are their most vehement opponents.

    I have said before, I think much of it arises because people are imprinted with ‘The Rules’ of their society when they are children; it is an aspect of the Moral Instinct. Some people find them comforting and familiar, and feel alienated and isolated in a strange place when they change. Others in turn feel alienated by society’s rules as the stand, rebel against their oppressiveness, and fight to build a new world with new rules where they can fit in. Could it be that the difference is some biological/cultural thing – whether the imprinting process ‘takes’ in an individual?

    An interesting speculation. It might even be scientifically testable, with some observations on the behaviour of teenagers… 🙂

  • bobby b

    “I have said before, I think much of it arises because people are imprinted with ‘The Rules’ of their society when they are children . . . “

    Oh, gosh, yes. I taught my kids not to touch the hot stove. That was a fence, a rule, and we built it into their ROM so that it became habit. I taught them to stay out of the roads, to not lick strange dogs’ faces, to wear clothes outside even when it’s hot. Fences become like muscle memory – when you learn to ski, or box, or whistle, you do certain things over and over so that your body just does them when necessary. That’s a fence.

    Other people taught their kids, from infancy, to hate blacks, to open doors for girls, to say “bless you” when someone sneezes, to hate gay people, to brush their teeth after meals . . . All are fences. Some bear scrutiny, some don’t.

    I’ll add my own corollary to your rule: I don’t think we get rid of the bad, unsupportable fences until they die out with the last of the generation which was inculcated to adopt them. X% of people are going to hate blacks until they die, and no rational argument is ever going to alter that. Y% are going to hate gays until they die, and no rational argument is ever going to alter that. The best we can do is to end the inculcation of new people with those unsupportable fences.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    bobby b: “X% of people are going to hate blacks until they die, and no rational argument is ever going to alter that.”

    Yes, we are all severely constrained by our upbringing. There was a time when the problem indeed was that some proportion of Europeans were brought up to hate Africans. Today, the problem is rather that too many children of African heritage are brought up to hate Whitey — but that is difficult for people of our generation to say out loud. Indeed the problem is worse than that — too many children of European heritage are also brought up to hate Whitey.

    “I don’t think we get rid of the bad, unsupportable fences until they die out with the last of the generation which was inculcated to adopt them.”

    It is probably true that it takes generations to make change — but each new generation is also being inculcated with some belief system. Think about the nonsense & hate which is being inculcated into today’s young minds in our failing educational system. Regretfully, we have to acknowledge that the Long March Through The Institutions has been an overwhelming triumph for the kind of people many of us would rather not see on the winning side.

  • Chester Draws

    What if an authoritarian is convincing society to move in rationally supportable directions? Still bad simply due to the reliance on authoritarianism?

    Yes, still bad.

    What starts out as rationally supportable, always descends.

    Pinochet is an example. Rationally defensible to prevent a leftist coup, he had no restraints and so the response to opposition to his rule went way past what was necessary. The result is that the right in Chile remains tarred with his brutality.

    Things didn’t really come right there until he resigned. Because authoritarian governments always exceed rational bounds.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Yet we notice that in fact Pinochet did resign. For an “authoritarian,” this is highly unusual.

    And as dictators go, Pinochet was at most second-tier on the “harshness” scale.

    I also think we ought to ask — and I honestly have no idea as to the answer — whether the “excessive” brutality was executed because of Pinochet’s agenda or in spite of it.

    . . .

    The thought occurs to me: Is martial law ever, under any circumstances, acceptable? What should be its aims and its constraints?

    And, is this question answerable in the abstract? I would bet not — i.e., that the answer depends to a degree on the particular circumstances, the context.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Getting back to fences, around here we have an old saying that to this farm girl just about says it all:

    Good fences make good neighbors.

    This has various interpretations and applications, all of them wise.

  • neonsnake

    The best we can do is to end the inculcation of new people with those unsupportable fences.

    I agree, bobby b, unsurprisingly (hopefully)

    How do we do so, without resorting to violence? Or at least, vicious online commentary? 😉

    I took a kicking the other day for suggesting that we just shut down these types.

    But how? I’m uncertain that an “open debate” is the answer here. Feels kinda cowardly, if I’m honest. At a point, we need to say “Enough, sunshine.”

    Or not? Do we give them equal airtime?

    Identity politics have really screwed us all. It’s now “PC” on our side to stick up for the free speech of the most awful people.

    And we forget the “we despise what you say” side of the equation, and don’t make that clear.

    I despair of position sometimes, tbh.

  • Paul Marks

    The Frankfurt School Marxists invented concepts such as the “Authoritarian Personality” in order to claim that Marxism was basically different from Fascism and National Socialism.

    Marxism is NOT basically different from Fascism and National Socialism – all three are forms of Collectivist Tyranny. The idea that Marxists are nice people who just want to get to freedom another way, is false. Many Marxists became Fascists in Italy or National Socialists in Germany without changing their basic beliefs and attitudes.

  • It’s now “PC” on our side to stick up for the free speech of the most awful people. … we forget the “we despise what you say” side of the equation, and don’t make that clear. (neonsnake, September 8, 2019 at 8:04 pm)

    All my life, it has been possible for western supporters of communism – a system of lies, mass-murder and dismal failure of all its promises – to enjoy all the benefits of free speech (and often far more respect and flattery than just that) and at best be debated and disagreed with (and mocked) in a forthright manner. That much less common phenomenon, an avowed supporter of Adolf, is at their level morally, but mostly, the people whose free speech rights we defend are (when they are not truth tellers and heroes) either Count Dankula-style jokers or loudmouths whose unshared prejudices still leave them far short of that reality. I think remembering how we personally, and society generally, have endured the speech of the 100-million-dead fans should be calming as regards how we endure the speech of people whose death-count would never match that – and who are in vastly less danger of being able to try.

    Such calming thoughts can help us practice John Stuart Mills’ advise: to ensure

    that no scattered particles of important truth are buried and lost in the ruins of exploded error

    It certainly has helped me over the decades reach the point where I could write my first comment in this thread.

    (And if, after thus calmly seeking for fragments of forgotten truth, you decide that in a particular case there are absolutely none whatever, well, free speech lets you say so. If you say so about someone it’s utterly safe to hate today, then you’ll need no help from here – though samizdata commenters may offer both agreement and debate. But if you say so about some communist sympathiser or similar and the state decides it’s ‘hate speech’, then defenders and sympathisers will be here.)

  • neonsnake

    Ah, yes, the million dead. I’m a fan. Post hardcore band. Other than sheer punkiness, I encourage you to look up the guy’s political stance.

    That aside, I think I’ve been pretty clear: I’m totally cool with punching the nazi. With one caveat: if so, then I’m allowed to punch the guy in the Che Guevara t-shirt.

    As for Count Dankula, Carl Benjamin et al – sure. They can do what they like. But we need to be clear – we will stick up for their right to say it. But we despise it.

    If we don’t, then we’re the bad guys here.

    We.

    Need.

    To make it clear.

    That we despise it.

    And I’m not seeing that. I’m seeing people excusing them, excusing Generation Identity under the guise of Free Speech, and not making robust arguments against them. And that makes me think that maybe, we’re kinda agreeing with them.

    Which, fine, ok. Go for it. Good luck.

    We agree with their right to free speech. We also disagree with the principle of removing their right to remove “others” right to self determination.

    Orrrrrr…maybe not. Some of us don’t

    *Shrugs*

    Fine.

    But dont get upset when some of us get a bit fighty.

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