[lit-ideas] Re: Giving Thanksgiving/Adorno and TAP

  • From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 5 Dec 2010 04:31:26 -0800 (PST)

Is it even possible to "vote for dictatorship" ? It might even be a 
contradiction in terms, and empirically I don't know of any dictatorship that 
had a genuine and fair voting system. Those dictatorships that apply voting in 
some form don't publicly describe themselves as dictatorships. Of course, 
Hitler was originally voted in, but not on an open platform of dictatorship.


--- On Sun, 12/5/10, Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Giving Thanksgiving/Adorno and TAP
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Date: Sunday, December 5, 2010, 10:47 AM

--- On Sun, 5/12/10, Eric Yost <mr.eric.yost@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Donal goes the Adorno route to
> explain, or perhaps to frame, the question of
> totalitarianism. 

You are confusing me with Veronica, admittedly an easy mistake to make in the 

Brief comments

> In his course on the Biology of Human Behavior, Sapolsky
> stresses that no human behavior can be explained by putting
> all explanations in a single "bucket" (his term). Using his
> thesis, one would have to explain totalitarianism by
> developmental psychology, evolutionary biology,
> environmental stresses, neurobiology, neuroendocrinology,
> and a host of others factors operating in individuals and
> groups.

The first sentence I understand and would tend to agree and disagree: agree if 
"explained" means 'fully explained', as nothing (human behaviour or otherwise) 
can be fully explained; disagree in that insofar as human behaviour is capable 
of understanding, using a multiplicity of explanations, the fullest possibile 
understanding will be in the "bucket" containing the multiplicity. If his point 
is that the multiplicity of explanations will not be reducible to a single, 
over-arching explanation, then I tend to agree. However, to explain fascism by 
way of the frontal cortex, for example, seems as far-fetched as explaining GDP 
this way. Fundamental to why it is far-fetched is because new problems arise at 
the level of human sociology that are not reducible to human psychology, which 
in turn gives rise to problems that are not reducible to biology, chemistry or 
physics. For those interested in considering this point, about the emergence of 
higher-level problems
that are irreducible to the lower-levels from which they emerged, it is worth 
considering the failure of attempts within the natural sciences to reduce 
chemistry to physics or of Russell's valiant attempt to reduce maths to logic.

> The frontal cortex, for example, is in its operation, a
> part of the limbic system. (See _Descartes' Error_ by A.
> Damasio.) Therefore species-dependent emotional centers as
> well as socialization come into play in the way people vote.
> And people do seem to vote their self-idealization or vote
> their emotional defense of a symbolic self.

It is surely worth mentioning that, given genuine choice, they rarely vote for 

> Yet to postulate a "personality" prone to totalitarianism
> seems unnecessary. Rather one can look at kinship and
> "pseudo-kinship" in shaping aggression in groups.

If we are to take "kinship" or "pseudo-kinship" as an explanatory framework 
here, it ought to be taken in proper neo-Darwinian terms: there of course it 
has been the subject of much discussion, for a fundamental problem for 
Darwinism is accounting for apparent altruism. Even taking a genes-eye view of 
things, the role of 'kinship' as an evolutionary force is problematic and 
controversial; and the genes-eye POV is hardly adequate to even partly explain 
the political organisation of human societies, since the levels of explanation 
needed for human society involve factors far beyond those needed to explain 
genetic material.

> One can see pseudo-kinship in Hitler Youth, al-Qaeda, the
> US army, and even Peace rallies where, again,
> species-dependent emotional centers as well as socialization
> overtake the supposedly rational mind.

Yes. One can equally "see" 'pseudo-kinship' in the workings of democratic 
political parties, in our accepting the results of a democratic vote and our 
obeying democratic laws etc. Also in going to war against fascist states. So 
how does pseudo-kinship furnish a specific explanation for fascist tendencies 
as opposed to anti-fascist ones? [Not for nothing did Spielberg et al title 
their anti-fascist warriors the "Band of Brothers"; and of course in, say, the 
Spanish Civil War we have people fighting their fascist genetic kin - it is 
hard to imagine a genes-eye POV that could explain why some 'pseudo-kinship' 
trumps kinship here, rather than the explanation lying in the moral beliefs of 
the anti-fascists]. 


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