Skip to main content

A lot of intellectuals contributed to the current situation, and even though many of them are changing sides, nobody has discussed where all these dangerous ideas first came from. Now before you read this, you may want to crack a cold one and cue up the theme music from the Twilight Zone. Which is appropriate because we are going back to 1962.

In 1962, WWII had been over for less than 20 years. The famous scientific historian Karl Popper wrote a history of the early Prussian empire in the 1820s, and how it used Greek philosophy, and how it would later give birth to Facism. It's call "The Open Society and Its Enemies." It also gives Marxism a big smack down.

After the American and French Revolutions, the role of monarchy was in doubt, so the Prussian princes hired Hegel to cobble together an offical philosophy that could be used the address the "problem of the Constitution" - the reforms that the public was demanding.  So Hegel obliging came up with a plan that the "king could use to purge his government of reformers and national liberals who had contributed to his success." Hegel dusted off Plato to create a policy of worship for the State, a winner-take-all world view where success was clearly an expression of God's will. Using Aristotle's concept of "essence," Hegel said that a state only defines itself interms of warfare with its neighbors. Popper points oput that these ideas were not original, just waiting to be dusted off, and that if we are to prevent the rise of totalitarian states, we should never forget that they have a playbook ready to pull out, and that there are students always being indoctorinated with this philosophy.

Philosophically, Hegel used dialectics to "prove" that what people thought they would get from a Consitution was completely the opposite of what they wanted, and that clearly a monarch was far better protection than a Constitution. Schopenhaur would later describe this an "intelligence destroying pseudo philsophy" and a "mischevious and criminal misuse of language." (p 63) to justify a totalitarian state

Here are the specific points:

One nations "spirit" must dominate the world (v2 p 62) so it "must ultimately aim at world domination." (v2 p63)

Pre-emptive war is the moral equivalent of defense (v2 p 76)

War is not only inevitable, it is a logical imperative (v2 p65)

War is what defines a nation and reveals its true potential (v2 p 65). Apparently the phrase "War President" had not been invented.

Success in war is the only standard for success of a nation, "History is sole judge." (v2 p 62, 66)

The State is exempt from any moral obligation (v2 p 62), and it is above the law of man since its fate is an expression of God's will.

War is essential to unite the population (v2 p 69)

The State must permeate "art, laws, religion, and science" (v2 p63)

The country must be lead by a Great Man who is "gripped by superior powers of Fate" (v2 p72,73)

The Great Man "knows how to despise public opinion" (v2 p 73)

The Great Man is motivated by "passions, private aims, and the satisfaction of selfish desires." (v2 p74)

The Great Man has the "philosophy of a gambler" (v2 p78). "For it is an attack on the idea of civil life itself; this is denounced as shallow and materialistic, because of the idea of security that it cherishes. Live dangerously! is its imperative." (v2 p75) (Can you say "ownership society?")

"Their power lies in the fact that they respect none of the limitations that justice and morality would imposse on them." (v2 p74)

Propaganda is always justified, and since (philosophically) belief is the same as reality (v2 p 41, 68), propaganda IS reality. The only "bad" propaganda is propaganda that is not strong enough.

Truth becomes whatever you believe, or what the Great Leader tell the people to believe (v2 p73)

Traditional Christian and Jewish moral law must be ignored or replaced with an Apocalyptic vision in which "any attempt to improve the human condition is a petty rebellion against God." (v2 p 63,67,76)

"There is a neurotic, an hysterical element in this exaggerated stress on the importance of the stress between the self and the collective.... (v2 p276 And who is Fox News calling a traitor this week?)..the secret of the strong emotional appeal of the ethics of hero-worship, of the ethics of domination and submission." (v2 p276)

"It is the morality of those who, being polical or intellectual aristocrats, have a chance of getting into the textbooks of history." (v2 p277)

"This absolute not a popular creed. It is a confession characteristic of an esoteric group who have surrendered their reason, and with it their humanity." (v2 p76)

Now if someone had written this today, some critics would say this was "sour grapes" but this was written in 1962.

Originally posted to bernardpliers on Sun Mar 19, 2006 at 11:15 AM PST.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  wow. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joy Busey

    good diary. could use still more discussion.

  •  Let's tweak that a bit. (4+ / 0-)

    The mob, in contention with other mobs, is the vehicle of human progress.

    Violence is the responsible and moral way for mobs (called nations) to deal with one another.

    Since everybody else wants wants to kill you, it's moral and responsible for you to try and kill (or actually kill) everybody else first.

    Violence is what defines a mob (I mean, a nation) and reveals its true nature.

    Rapine and pillage is the only standard of success for a mob, I mean, a nation.

    The mob is moral and responsible, but even if it isn't -- just for a second or two -- it is above the law of man since its violence is an expression of God's will.

    Violence is what unites the mob in common cause.

    The mob can either seize "art, laws, religion, and science" (v2 p63), or destroy them all. It's all the same.

    The mob must be led by a Great Man who is both moral and responsible -- in other words, violent, reactive, suspicious, intemperate and lacking any compunction whatsoever.

    The Great Man makes war on public opinion, which inevitably wants to destroy him, so it's cool for him to destroy the public first.

    The Great Man isn't afraid to bet the lives of others, to destroy that which offends him which by definition is everything not of himself.

    The mob's power lies in the fact that justice and morality are for suckers.

    Lies are always justified, and since belief is the same as reality, lies ARE reality. The only "bad" lie is a lie that is not strong enough.

    Truth becomes whatever you believe, or what the Great Leader tells the mob to believe.

    Moral law must be ignored or replaced with an Apocalyptic vision in which any attempt to stop the mob's reign of terror is a petty rebellion against God.

    Loyalty to the mob and the Leader is a measure of how willing one is to take great risks to cause great harm to enemies, and succeed at these endeavors. To fail, of course, is to fail the mob and the Leader, who can do no wrong.

    The only moral code that matters is what the powerful say it is, when they say it is. And when they say the moral is something else, it has always been something else...until they change it right back.

    Absolute nihilism is not a popular creed. And that is why it is beyond reproach.

    It's not that they don't know Jack. It's that they don't know him on a first-name basis. :)

    by cskendrick on Sun Mar 19, 2006 at 11:44:56 AM PST

  •  Amazing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Julia Grey, cmlorenz, Joy Busey

    The GOP, like the Stalinists and fascists before them, subscribe to, and are dependent on the Great Man Theory of history. I understand why they would want a controllable dolt like Bush in that role, but I am much less certain that he can possibly make it another three years without breaking down completely.  Right now they are coasting on propaganda to the fearful-- their base.

    I think that utter reliance on propaganda will be their undoing in the long run. In order to propagate a lie, it is important that only the very elite (Rove, Cheney, and their nameless sponsors) to know it's a lie. Those tasked with selling the lie to the public (Bush, O'Reilly, and their ilk) have to believe it, at least in a cynical, self-serving way. The rule about "repeating a lie often enough" should have an addendum, "half-hearted lies go nowhere."

    But here is the problem: you can't take public action that exposes the lie. You become the slave of the lies you have created. So, if you claim Iraq is at peace, you can't order an extra 100,000 troops into action. If you claim you are rebuilding the country, you can't stop spending reconstruction money on projects that will be blown to bits. In the end, your energies are consumed feeding the lies, protecting the infallible image of the Great Man. Basically, this is the way the Soviet Union met its demise.

    Why did the President choose to break the law?

    by Olds88 on Sun Mar 19, 2006 at 11:53:47 AM PST

  •  An important diary.... (0+ / 0-)

    We all know who subscribes to the "Great Man Theory," don't we?

    The absolute gall of some imbeciles - especially the sons of "great" or "would-be-great" or "just-THOUGHT-they-were-great" men just amazes me, sometimes...

    Molly hit it right on the head today - she said (of Newt - but easily applied to all of them) that he was and is an utter nincompoop! NINCOMPOOP!


    He is acting according to his nature. You can't turn a snake into a pootie.

  •  Hegel's influence (0+ / 0-)

    I used to interact with wingnuts all the time, but never heard any of them mention Hegel -- it would be hard to call him their formal philosopher.

    On the other hand, they all knew what Plato's "noble lie" was, and often specifically endorsed the idea.  (Just like the parable of Talents is the only thing they ever learned from the Bible.)

    Beyond the "noble lie" type ideas (reality is what you make it, etc.), the two other major concepts you're attributing to Hegel seem to be 1) the idea that states express themselves through violence, and 2) the idea of the "great man" as a lynchpin of history.

    I think the new con men endorse the violence idea without even comprehending or reflecting on it.  In their view, what's the point of creating the most expensive, best-armed military in history if you're not going to use it?

    But no one who believed in a "great man" theory could possibly support Bush for that reason.  Even those with the rosiest-colored glasses would have to recognize him as an insufferable drip.

    Fundamentally, though, I don't think our present monsters-in-charge have a formal philosopher, or even a plan beyond trying to accumulate more power and money for those financing them.  They only have marketing gurus and tacticians.

    They have constructed a remarkably stable government of the people, by the rich and well-connected, for the rich and well-connected.  They loot the country at home, and endorse middle-east military adventures because they all secretly believe in peak oil and think that sending troops will help secure a little more oil, for a little bit longer, and that this will be to their benefit.  

    Meanwhile, there seems to be no check in sight to new con man ability to continue transferring more and more wealth and power toward the top.  So much for the Hegelian triad (thesis, antithesis, synthesis).  There is no real "thesis," per se.  With the brain-dead, lethargic Democrats we have "leading" the opposition, there is no real antithesis.  And, as American conceptions of reality continue to diverge, no prospect any time soon of synthesis.

    Anybody seen my owl?

    by Minerva on Sun Mar 19, 2006 at 01:26:53 PM PST

    •  No antithesis (0+ / 0-)

      Minerva is correct: the Democrats lack the vision, confidence, and historical literacy to imagine any higher, more complete truth. As long as this remains the case the Right can goon claiming that everything that is real, is rational, and represents the final perfect embodiment of Spirit. This is why Francis Fukuyama, a Hegelian, took the end of the Cold War and the global triumph of capitalism as the END OF HISTORY.

      Here's hoping that Fukuyama was premature and that we'll eventually identify an emerging antithesis.

  •  Neoconservatism (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aitchdee, eru, lifexpert

    The bloodline runs through Plato--Machiavelli--Hegel (fer da Prussians)--Nietzche--Heidegger (fer da Nazis)--Leo Strauss (brings it to America)--Allan Bloom (Closing of the American Mind)--and then on to the Kristols, Podhoretzes, Wolfowitzes, etc.

    Basically an elaborate pseudo-philosophical justification to be a punk.

    "Survival of the fittest,"  "Natural Law,"  "Right of the superior to rule over the inferior,"
    "Law of da jungle."

    All dat crap.

  •  A minor complaint: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aitchdee, eru

    A lot of intellectuals contributed to the current situation, and even though many of them are changing sides, nobody has discussed where all these dangerous ideas first came from.

    Simply not true, and more fodder for the right's war on academics.  

    Yes, there have been intellectuals whose ideas were shameful, and who contributed to the propogation of dangerous and harmful theories.  But the wording here makes it sound as if Bad Ideas were grown in university hothouses.

    Dictatorships existed before Plato, just as cruel, amoral regimes existed before Hegel.  Machiavelli based his Prince on a real person, and Marx based his theories on the growing industrial class.  

    I'm sorry if this is reactionary of me, but you have to understand that this line of thinking has a long and sad historical base.  

    In Russia, for example, the intellectuals were 'blamed', first for having been bourgeois anti-revolutionaries, then for having developed the theories that led to the revolution in the first place!  This disguises the unspoken truth: that dictatorships grow out of thugs who may appropriate the language of philosophers to lend their regimes some kind of 'justification.'  

    How many Fascists do you think were peace-loving democrats until they read Hegel?  Lenin's vision of the union had so little to do his supposed philosophical forefathers that Soviet academics had to coin a new term: Marxist-Leninism.  Dictators don't debate Schopenhauer.

    Some wingnut is now pushing a book saying that Fascism is actually a left-ist idea.  This shows an astounding lack of understanding about the word Fascism (which is as far right as you can go), but he's using the same line of thought that you do: the concept was first formulated by leftist academics (not true).  

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Mon Mar 20, 2006 at 08:26:48 AM PST

    •  Aristotle Essence (0+ / 0-)

      >but he's using the same line of thought
      >that you do: the concept was first formulated
      >by leftist academics (not true)

      that's 180 degrees backwards. Leftist academics contributed to Marxism. Modern fascism blossomed to crush marxism, using the philosophy of the 19th century German philopsophers

      Hegel took elements of Plato and Aristotle and created a political handbook for the creation of totalitarian state while being paid by the Princes. And he did it to create a tool for purging the political parties AND academic communities of progressive.

      Popper looks at how various romantic ideas eventually gave rise to Marxism, then how the reaction to that created Facsism. Within his lifetime, Popper saw democracies go both directions.

      Read the book!

      •  If you're saying (0+ / 0-)

        that my conflation of academics with leftists is 180 degrees backwards, then you're correct, and I apologize.

        If you're saying that my defense of academics as not having developed these ideas is 180 degrees backwards, then my criticism stands.  I have read Popper and Plato, and Hegel, and Marx, and quite a few others.  You haven't addressed my specific issues with this line of thinking:

        Dictatorships existed before Plato, just as cruel, amoral regimes existed before Hegel.  Machiavelli based his Prince on a real person, and Marx based his theories on the growing industrial class.


        How many Fascists do you think were peace-loving democrats until they read Hegel?  Lenin's vision of the union had so little to do his supposed philosophical forefathers that Soviet academics had to coin a new term: Marxist-Leninism.  Dictators don't debate Schopenhauer.

        Unless you can give me compelling evidence otherwise, my criticism still stands.

        You know that line in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, "The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose"?  That's what's going on here - the appopriation of philosophical justification after the fact.  Knowing what we know about, say, Mussolini, are we dealing with a power-hungry political opportunist, or a misguided guy who was led astray by Hegel?  

        Don't lean to heavily on Popper, who is a good (not a great) historian (but a better and more interesting philosopher), and whose work on Hegel has come under a lot of criticism.  Popper doesn't make a terribly compelling argument that Hegel had any interest in providing those princes with any kind of justification  - it's simply not supported by Hegel's own writing.  Hegel believed, rightly or wrongly, that philosophy was a history of which his own philosophy (and the writing of the history of philosophy) was only the latest chapter.  Even in his political theory, this transient nature is there - and allows no establishment of the kind of fascist state that Popper envisions.  

        Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

        by pico on Mon Mar 20, 2006 at 09:43:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Essence (0+ / 0-)

          That's the basic criticism of Aristotle - that his carefully defined "essence" of thing is still not the thing itself. There were puppies before Aristotle ever tried to define "puppy." Popper covers that pretty well. Propaganda is how the leader defines the essence of a nation.

          I'll certainly agree with your point that philosophers aren't responsible for how their ideas are applied (sort of a guns-don't-kill-people), but when certain ideas are mixed with politics, we don't want to be staring like sheep into the muzzle of the gun just because nobody ever explained what happens next.

          And even if you feel that Poppers criticisms are unfair to Hegel, we still have to live in the real world where people are being indoctorinated with the most vile ideas. So if you can offer some fresh insights into how that happens and where those ideas come from, do us all a favor and share them. Provide references.

          •  I just finished teaching (0+ / 0-)

            Plato's Republic to a group of students.  We discussed the implications, the possible interpretations, and we certainly didn't shy away from the work's potential proto-totalitarian underpinnings.  

            Somehow I doubt any of those students will grow up to champion totalitarianism, although I may be naive.  

            These are the things that worry me: fear, poverty, ignorance, insecurity.  In any historical disaster, these are the emotions that are taken advantage of for political power, regardless of the stated justifications.  That happened before any of these writers set pen to paper (or quill to papyrus, or whatever), and it'll continue to happen long after other writers have provided other justifications.

            These are the things that do not worry me: Plato, Machiavelli, Hegel, Nietszche. Thousands of people have read those books without becoming fascists.  I'd worry much more about someone like Ayn Rand, whose social philosophy is equally dangerous (potentially), but who actually appeals to the average reader.  

            I agree that we don't want to be "staring like sheep" when our politicians quote these writers.  But we don't have to.  There is ample evidence in any of these same writers to contradict and deflate any of the claims our leaders make.  How Nietzsche ever became a symbol for the Nazi party is beyond me - and certainly requires a ridiculously selective reading of his work.

            (Another great historical joke: Freidrich Engels wrote that the Communist Revolution should take place anywhere but Russia.  They conveniently ignored that.)

            But our leaders don't care, because philosophy as such doesn't interest them.  They're appealing to fear, poverty, ignorance, and insecurity.

            And your "guns don't kill people" comparison is not accurate.  Guns are built with the purpose of killing.  Hegel was not.

            Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

            by pico on Mon Mar 20, 2006 at 10:46:03 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Agreed - more later (NT) (0+ / 0-)
              •  I'm glad you'll be posting more; (0+ / 0-)

                I hope my comments didn't come off too aggressively - this is a topic I'm interested in, so I'm glad you're posting on this.

                Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

                by pico on Mon Mar 20, 2006 at 11:37:49 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  It's not intellectuals that we should worry about (0+ / 0-)

                  A few thoughts on turning philosophy into propaganda. Name this author - no fair using Google !

                  "... the program of a philosophy is the formulation of a declaration of war against the existing order....(but it is) useless if it is only a reservoir of 'bright people.'"..."The more modest (propaganda's) intellectual ballast, the more exclusively it takes into consideration the emotions of the masses, the more effective it will be. And this is the best proof of the soundness or unsoundness of a propaganda campaign, and not the success in pleasing a few scholars or young aesthetes."..."The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas of the great masses and finding through a psychologically correct form, the way to the attention and thence the heart of the broad masses. The fact that our bright boys do not understand this merely shows how mentally lazy and conceited they are."..."The psyche of the great masses is not receptive to anything that is half-hearted and weak."..."At first the claims of the propaganda were so impudent that people thought it was insane; later, it got on people's nerves; and in the end it was believed."

    •  The genealogy of morals (0+ / 0-)

      is something that academics, especially philosphers HAVE been talking about for, let's say, dozens of centuries. You are absolutely correct to point out this naive statement.

      What is fascinating in that genealogy is the relation between works and politics.  There is a huge slice of folks on the left whose foundation comes from Heidegger who was at best a Nazi sympathizer and following folks like Marcuse, hold the early analyitcs, especially any self-identified logical positivist, to be a stooge of the hegemonic patriarchy.  Whereas, at the time when fascism was an on-the-ground reality it was folks like Rudolf Carnap, Otto Neurath, and Bertrand Russell who were the voices of the left.  I find it incredibly sad that this wing of the "logical left" has been all but forgotten. -- The playground is open.

      by SteveG on Thu Mar 30, 2006 at 05:18:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site