Freitag, 19. August 2011

Psychology of the State

Psychologists recognize the gregarious impulse as one of the strongest primitive pulls which keeps together the herds of the different species of higher animals. Mankind is no exception. Our pugnacious evolutionary history has prev~nted the impulse from ever dying out. This gregarious impulse is the tendency to imitate, to conform, to coalesce together, and is most powerful when the herd believes itself threatened with attack. Animals crowd together for protection, and men become most conscious of their collectivity at the threat of war. Consciousness of collectivity brings confidence and a feeling of massed strength, which in turn arouses pugnacity and the battle is on. In civilized man, the gregarious impulse acts not only to produce concerted action for defense, but also to produce identity of opinion. Since thought is a form of behavior, the gregarious impulse floods up into its realms and demands that sense of uniform thought which wartime produces so successfully. And it is in this flooding ofthe conscious life of society that gregariousness works its havoc. For just as in modem societies the sex-instinct is enormously oversupplied for the requirements of human propagation, so the gregarious impulse is enormously over-supplied for the work ofprotection which it is called upon to perform. It would be quite enough if we were gregarious enough to enjoy the companionship of others, to be able to cooperate with them, and to feel a slight malaise at solitude. Unfortunately, however, this impulse is not content with these reasonable and healthful demands, but insists that like mindedness shall prevail everywhere, in all departments of life, so that all human progress, all novelty, and nonconformity must be carried against the resistance of this tyrannical herd-instinct which drives the individual into obedience and conformity with the majority. Even in the most modem and enlightened societies this impulse shows little sign of abating. As it is 9.riven byinexorable economic demand out of the sphere of utility, it seems to fasten itself ever more fiercely in the realm of feeling and opinion, so that conformity comes to be a thing aggressively desired and demanded. The gregarious impulse keeps its hold all the more virulently because whenthe group is in motion or is taking any positive action, this feeling of being with and supported by the collective herd very greatly feeds that will to power, the nourishment of which the individual organism so constantly demands. You feel powerful by conforming, and you feel forlorn and helpless if you· are out of the crowd. While even if you do not get any access to power by thinking and feeling just as everybody else in your group does, you get at least the warm feeling of obedience, the soothing irresponsibility·ofprotection. Joining as it does to these very vigorous tendencies of the individual the pleasure in power and the pleasure of obedience-this gregarious impulse becomes irresistible in society. War stimulates it to the highest possible degree, sending the influence of its mysterious herd-current with its inflations ofpower and obedience to the farthest reaches of the society, to every individUal and little group that can possibly be affected. And it is these impulses which the State-the organization of the entire herd, the entire collectivity-is founded on and makes use of. There is, of course, in the feeling towards the State a large element of pure filial mysticism. The sense of insecurity, the desire for protection, sends one's desire backto the father and mother, with whom is associated the earliest feelings of protection. It is not for nothing that one's State is still thought of as Father or Motherland, that one's relation towards it is conceived in terms of family affection. The war has shown that nowhere under the shock ofdanger have these primitive childlike attitudes failed to assert themselves again, as much in this country as anywhere. If we have not the intense Father-sense ofthe German who worships his Vaterland, at least in Uncle Sam we have a symbol ofprotecting, kindly authority, and in the many Mother-posters of the Red Cross, we see how easily in the -more tender functions ofwar service, the ruling organization is conceived in family terms. A people at war have become in the most literal sense obedient, respectful, trustful children again, full of that naive faith in the all-wisdom and all-power ofthe adult who takes care of them, imposes his mild but necessary rule upon them and in whom they lose their responsibility and anxieties. In this recrudescence of the child, there is great comfort, and a certain influx ofpower. On most people the strain ofbeing an independent adult weighs heavily, and upon none more than those members of the significant classes who have bequeathed to thelll; or have assumed the responsibilities of governing. The State provides the convenientest ofsymbols under which these classes can retain all the actual pragmatic satisfaction ofgoverning, but can rid themselves of the psychic burden ofadulthood. They continue to direct industry and government and all the institutions of society pretty much as before, but in their own conscious eyes and in the eyes of the general public,·they are turned from their selfish and predatory ways, and have .become loyal ..servants of society, or. something. greater than they-the State. The man who moves from the direction of a large business in New York to a post in the war management industrial service in Washington ..does not apparently alter very much his power or his administrative technique. But psychically, what a transformation has occurred! His is not now only the power but the glory! And his sense of satisfaction is directly proportional not to the genuine amount ofpersonal sacrifice that may be involved in the change but to the extent to which he retains his industrial prerogatives and sense of command. From members of this class a certain insuperable indignation arises if the change from private enterprise to State service involves any real loss of power and personal privilege. If there is to be any pragmatic sacrifice, let it be, they feel, on the field ofhonor, in the traditionally acclaimed deaths by battle, in that detour to suicide, as Nietzsche calls war. The State in wartime supplies satisfaction for this very real craving, but its chief value is the opportunity it gives for this regression to infantile attitudes. In your reaction to an imagined attack on your country or an insult to its government, you draw closer to the herd for protection, you conform in word and deed, and you act together. And you fix your adoring gaze upon the State, with a truly filial look, as upon the Father ofthe flock, the quasipersonal symbol ofthe strength ofthe herd, and the leader and determinant ofyour definite action and ideas. .The members of the working-classes, that portion at least which does not identify itselfwith the significant classes and seek to imitate it and rise to it, are notoriously less affected by the symbolism of the State, or, in other words, are less patriotic than the significant classes. For theirs is neither the power nor the gloiy. The State in wartime does not offer them the opportunity to regress, for, never having acquired social adulthood, they cannot lose it. If they have been drilled and regimented, as by the industrial regime ofthe last century, they go out docilely enough to do battle for their State, but they are almost entirely without that filial sense and even without that herd-intellCtct sense which operates so powerfully among their "betters." They live habitually in an industrially serfdom, by which though nominally free, they are. in practice as a class bound to a system of a machine-production, the implements ofwhich they do now own,and in the distribution ofwhose product they have not the slightest voice, except what they can occasionally exert bya veiled;intimidation which draws slightly more of the product in their direction. From· such serfdom, military conscription is not so great a change. But into the military enterprise they go, not with those hurrahs of the significant classes whose instincts war so powerfully feeds,butwith the same apathy with which they· enter and continue in the industrial enterprise. From this point ofview, war can be called almost an upper-class sport. The novel interests and excitements it provides, the inflations ofpower, the satisfaction it gives to those very tenacious human impulses-·.gregariousness and parent-regression-endow it with all the qualities of a luxurious collective game which is felt intensely just in proportion to the sense of significant rule the person has in the class-division ofbis society. A country at war-particularly our own country at war~oes not act asa purely homogenous herd. The s~gnificant classes have all the herd-feeling·in all Its primitive intensity, so that this feeling does not flow freely without impediment throughout the entire nation. A modern country represents a long historical and social. process of disaggregation of the nerd. The .national at peace is not a group, it isa network of myriads of groups representing the cooperation and similar feeling. of menon.all-·sorts of planes and in all sorts ofhuman interests andenterprises.cIn.every modem industrial coUntry, there are parallel planes of economic· classes with divergent attitudes and institutions and interests-bourgeois and proletariat-.with their many subdivisions according to power. and function, and even their interweaving, those more highly skilled workers who habitually· identify themselves with the owning and the significant classes and strive to raise themselves to the bourgeois level, imitating their cultural standards and manners. Then there are religious groups with a certain definite, though weakening sense of kinship, and there are the powerful ethnic groups which behave almost as cultural colonies in the New World, clinging tenaciously to language and historical tradition, though their herdishness is usually founded on cultural rather than State symbols. There are certain vague section al groups. All these small sects, political parties, classes, levels, interests, may act as foci for herd-feelings. They intersect and interweave, andthe same person may be a member of several different groups lying at different planes. Different occasions will set offhis herdfeeling in one direction or another. In a religious crisis he will be intensely conscious of the necessity that his sect-or sub-herd-may prevail; in a political campaign, that his party shall triumph. To the spread ofherd-feeling~ therefore, all these smaller herds offer resistance. To the spread ofthat herd-feeling which arises from the threat of war, and which would normally involve the entire nation, the only groups which make serious resistance are those, of course, which continue to identify themselves with the other nation from which they or their parents have come. In times of peace they are for all practical purposes citizens oftheir newcolijltry. They keep C\!jvetheir ethnic. traditions more as a luxury than anything. Irtdeed these traditions tend rapidly to die out except where they connect with some still unresolved nationalistic cause abroad, with some struggle for freedom, or some irredentism. If they are consciously opposed by a too invidious policy ofAmericanism, they tend to be strengthened. And in time ofwar, these ethnic elements which have any traditfonal.connection with the enemy, even though most of the individuals may have· little real sympathy with the enemy's cause, are naturally lukewarm to.the hard-feeling9fthe·nation with goes back to State ttaditionsmwh1~h they have no shart:,_~Butto the natives imbued with State...reeling, any such resistance or apa,~y .is intolerable.~_This herdfeeling,~ isnewly.. awakened cons,?ioust)ess of. the State, demands universality. The leaders o£the significant classes, .who feel most intensely this .State-compulsion, dem~d a on~. hun
- Randolph Bourne

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