'The Psychology of Totalitarianism' Mattias Desmet

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alisonfletch
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'The Psychology of Totalitarianism' Mattias Desmet

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How did Covid-19 capture the minds of the masses? What led people to willingly sacrifice their freedoms and way of life?

Professor Mattias Desmet deconstructs the underlying factors that may have led to the irrational, fear-based response to Covid-19.

Mattias Desmet is a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Ghent University in Belgium and is regarded as one of the world's leading experts on the theory of mass formation. He has recently published a new book The Psychology of Totalitarianism which has been described as an 'indispensable guide to the times we live in'.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANHaHNr4qxU&t=14s

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Psychology-Tot ... 1645021726

Clay Garner
TOP 1000 REVIEWER on AMAZON
5.0 out of 5 stars ‘totalitarianism is belief in a kind of “scientific fiction” that’s a “radical contempt for facts”’
Reviewed in the United States on 20 June 2022
Verified Purchase
“Sloppiness, errors, biased conclusions, and even outright fraud had become so prevalent in scientific research that a staggeringly high percentage of research papers—up to 85 percent in some fields—reached radically wrong conclusions. And the most fascinating thing of all, from a psychological point of view: Most researchers were utterly convinced they were conducting their research more or less correctly. Somehow, they failed to realize that their research was not bringing them closer to the facts but instead was creating a fictitious new reality.’’

Now, I’ve recently read several books about this problem. It’s well known to scientific, academic world.

But, why connect to totalitarianism?

“This, of course, is a serious problem, especially for contemporary societies that place their faith in science as the most reliable way of understanding the world.’’

‘Faith in science’ is the cause of . . .

“. . . problem is directly related to the phenomenon of totalitarianism. In fact, this is precisely what Arendt exposes: The undercurrent of totalitarianism consists of blind belief in a kind of statistical-numerical “scientific fiction” that shows “radical contempt for facts”: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction and the distinction between true and false no longer exist.”

From ‘science’ to ‘science fiction’. So . . . so . . . sad.

“The poor quality of scientific research reveals a more fundamental problem: Our scientific worldview has substantial shortcomings, the consequences of which extend far beyond the field of academic research. These shortcomings are also the origin of a profound collective unease, which, in recent decades, has become increasingly palpable in our society. People’s view of the future is now tainted with pessimism and lack of perspective, more so everyday. Should civilization not be washed away by rising sea levels, then it certainly will be swept away by refugees. The Grand Narrative of society—the story of the Enlightenment—no longer leads to the optimism and positivism of yesteryear, to put it mildly.’’

‘Grand narrative’ from the enlightenment has broken down.

And this is key theme here. He credits Hannah Arendt for this insight. In fact, this work uses her book as foundation. Nevertheless, Desmet writes like a journalist, not like Arendt, who is a philosopher.

How did this happen?

“However, from the beginning, the tree of science also sprouted a branch in another direction—the exact opposite direction of that original scientific practice. Based on the great achievements of science, some people tipped from open-mindedness to belief; for them, science became ideology.’’

Changed from an open mind to closed belief. Right.

“It was mainly the mechanistic-materialistic branch, the so-called hard sciences, that most enraptured us. Simple in its principles (the laws of mechanics), specific in its object (the tangible, visible world), and awe-inspiring in its practical applicability (from the steam engine to television and the atomic bomb to the Internet), this science has everything to seduce human beings. With this branch of science, man conquers space; it enables us to see and hear what is happening on the other side of the planet and visualize brain activity; it gives us the ability to move faster than sound and to perform microsurgical procedures. In the past, people waited in vain for God to perform miracles, but this science made them actually happen. Man had left the stage of believing and could now rely successfully on what he knew. At least, so he believed.’’

Left belief and found certainty! Wow!

How bad is this?

“To the extent that the scientific discourse became an ideology, it lost its virtue of truth-telling. Nothing illustrates this better than the so-called replication crisis that erupted in academia in 2005. This crisis emerged when a number of serious cases of scientific fraud came to light. Scientific scans and other imaging were proven to have been manipulated, archaeological artefacts were found to be counterfeit, embryo clones had been forged;8 some researchers claimed to have successfully transplanted skin from mice, whilst they had simply dyed the skin of the test animals without performing any surgical procedure. Other researchers had manufactured missing links from pieces of skulls of humans and monkeys; and yes, it appeared that some even completely made up their research.’’

Public not (yet) aware of this disgrace. What will be damage when absorbed?

What about scientific ‘facts’?

“By attempting to measure the unmeasurable, measurement becomes a form of pseudo-objectivity. Instead of bringing the researcher closer to his research object, the measurement procedure leads him further away. It hides the examined object behind a screen of numbers.’’

False objectivity. True deceit.

PART I Science and Its Psychological Effects   
1  Science and Ideology
2:  Science and Its Practical Applications   
3:  The Artificial Society   
4:  The (Im)measurable Universe   
5:  The Desire for a Master

PART II Mass Formation and Totalitarianism   
6: The Rise of the Masses   
7: The Leaders of the Masses   
8: Conspiracy and Ideology

PART III Beyond the Mechanistic Worldview   
9:  The Dead versus the Living Universe
10:  Matter and Spirit
11:  Science and Truth

What about trusting the ‘numbers’?

“The German philosopher Werner Heisenberg was awarded the Nobel Prize for his uncertainty principle—“It’s not a matter that we’re not yet sure now; the point is that we can never be sure”—but we don’t like it. If the data don’t provide certainty yet, we’ll collect more. In this way, as a society, we are mesmerized by an endless procession of numbers and never arrive at what really matters: an open debate about the subjective and ideological frameworks from which we interpret the numbers.’’

All numbers must . . . always . . . be interpreted!

“It is the unspoken tensions, fears, and disagreements on an ideological level that prevent the numbers from settling down and that makes society polarize. The real questions to be asked are situated at the ideological level. For instance: Do we view man as a biochemical machine that has to be technologically monitored and pharmaceutically adjusted, or as a being that finds its destination in mystical resonance with the Other and with the eternal language of nature?’’

Huge difference. Are we machines or sons of God? Creates two completely different understandings.

What can be done to dig for deeper insight?

“The first and foremost guideline for members of this third group is that they should let their voices be heard and in as sincere a way as possible so as to not let the resonance of the dominant, hypnotic voice become absolute. The way in which this can happen varies throughout the process of totalitarianism (the dissident voice is progressively more censored and banned from mass media and from the public sphere), but there always remain opportunities. The assertion of a different voice always has an effect on the other two groups. As Gustave Le Bon described in the nineteenth century, dissonant voices (i.e., the voices of the third group) usually do not succeed in breaking through the hypnosis of the first group, but it does reduce the depth of the hypnosis and prevent the masses from committing atrocities. Also, the leaders prove sensitive to the dissonant voices, which is what we described in the previous chapter where we referred to the “waking up” of the Nazi leaders who were deployed to Denmark and Bulgaria. Asserting one’s voice should typically be done in the calmest and most respectful way possible, never in an intrusive way and always with sensitivity to the irritation and anger it may generate but with determination and persistence.’’

(Recalls Peter’s direction . . .

“ . . . always ready to make a defense before everyone who demands of you a reason for the hope you have, but doing so with a mild temper and deep respect.’’)

What’s Desmet’s conclusion?

“The journey of science does not end in superior knowledge but in a kind of Socratic modesty. A human who has traveled this journey far enough knows better—he just knows—that all rational knowledge is relative and remains alien to the essence of the object he is trying to understand. At the end of this journey awaits an encounter with something that cannot be grasped with logic and rationality. The great minds of science have testified to such encounter in many different ways. Albert Einstein liked to talk about the elusive mystery that he found everywhere in the universe and about the wonderful structure of reality. Niels Bohr understood that poetry has more grip on all things Real than logic. And Max Planck said that all matter is grounded in a conscious and intelligent Mind that holds the fate of the world and every human being in its almighty hand.’’

I agree.

This is an important book. I didn’t provide the many connections Desmet makes to the ‘scientific’ reaction to the pandemic.

Outstanding. Fascinating. Insightful. Important.

Deserves ten stars!

Hundreds and hundreds of notes (linked)

Many linked to references.

Tremendous scholarship!

From blurb about author . . .

“Mattias Desmet is recognized as the world’s leading expert on the theory of mass formation as it applies to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is a professor of clinical psychology in the Department of Psychology and Educational Sciences at Ghent University (Belgium) and a practicing psychoanalytic psychotherapist.’’ IMTanuki
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