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

  • From: "Veronica Caley" <molleo1@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 5 Dec 2010 13:51:35 -0500

Omar: "Conversely, if Saddam Hussain had been genuinely elected by the majority 
of Iraqis, he would not then have been a dictator but an authoritarian 

In following the discussion on this thread, I looked up Juan Peron.  To 
determine which of these he was, having been elected.  Like most things, it 
depends on who you ask.  The Argentine population seems divided on it.

Re-election or not, and aside from the kind of governance practiced, the US 
presidential electiion of 2000 stands out spectacularly.  Beyond that, one can 
certainly pick apart the democratic or dictatorial aspects of the electoral 
college in US.  If one had time, which I don't.  But the contributions to this 
thread are wonderful.  Thanks to everyone.  I am following it carefully.  

Veronica Caley

Milford, MI
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Omar Kusturica 
  To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
  Sent: Sunday, December 05, 2010 7:44 AM
  Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Giving Thanksgiving/Adorno and TAP

        I mean, I would think that what distinguishes an authoritatian 
presidential system like the one in the US from dictatorship is the fact that 
the US president rules with the consent of at
        least the majority of the populace. If this circumstance were removed, 
it would be a dictatorship then. Conversely, if Saddam Hussain had been 
genuinely elected by the majority of Iraqis, he would not then have been a 
dictator but an authoritarian president.


        --- On Sun, 12/5/10, Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

          From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
          Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Giving Thanksgiving/Adorno and TAP
          To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
          Date: Sunday, December 5, 2010, 12:31 PM

                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 


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

                  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 dark. 

                  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 
                  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 dictatorship.

                  > 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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