Ay?e Akal?n 2016208027 Bo?aziçi University Department of Sociology Of

Ay?e Akal?n

2016208027

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Bo?aziçi
University

Department of
Sociology

 

         Of the many thinkers engaged in political conceptual
work, many of them have put forward different types of psychological/cultural
concepts, facts and relations. Different groups of sociologists associated with
social theory and research such as Frankfurt School thinkers and political
culture scholars have come up with alternative paths to social development and
concepts that prevent the development of democracy.

Democracy-impeding
Cultural Concepts, Facts and Relations

          Frankfurt
School was an attempt to make Marxist theory relevant to the changing nature of
capitalism. They aimed to continue the critique of capitalism that Marx have
begun, but wanted to take it to a different direction. They have put forward a
critical theory, which involved turning away from Marx’s superstructure model
of society, in which the economic base determines the ideological and political
superstructure, and developing a dialectical model, approaching
ideological-cultural and economic elements individually. They aimed to
establish an ideal human society that is against totalitarianism. Arendt’s,
Adorno’s and Fromm’s conceptualizations of totalitarianism and its origins
represent core elements of their contributions to modern political thought.

          They were
interested in the emergence of mass media, they thought that the media acted as
control mechanisms which led to the unexpected development of capitalist
societies. Theodor Adorno, one of the important members of Frankfurt School
thinkers, described the coming together of mass culture as ‘culture industry’. According
to Adorno, media creates an administered society, which leaves individuals no
room for their own thinking, robs them of their imagination and manipulates
mass society into passivity. Easy pleasure and popular culture make people
think they have false needs that can only be satisfied with the help of
capitalism. Culture industry form a commodified culture, where each purchase
serves the ideological role of maintaining capitalism, because a lack of
alternative to capitalism is created. The culture industry acts a role of a cyclical
manipulation of freedom. He theorized that mass culture has a political
implication as well, that ensures the continued obedience of the masses. Fascist
Germany, with the help of culture industry and propaganda through mass
communication, could organise the people into its troops. He says that,
impressing powerless people with brilliant high-technology became a propaganda
for capitalism, and this applies for the propaganda of Nazism, Stalinilism, and
the Allies. For him, using something as the mass media to convey a progressive
message is to agree with manipulation, putting the artist in a hierarchy above
the audience. He even goes as far to remark that the telephone is progressive
and egalitarian because it allows two-way conversation, while the radio is
actually authoritarian – the listener has no chance of talking back. He
addresses the contradiction of elevation of subjective freedom, and the
domination of subjects through commodification. Its logic separates subject and
object, just like Arendt suggests in his view of totalitarianism.

          Hannah
Arendt, another member of Frankfurt Schoolers, approaches the reasons why human
society becomes a part of the game in a totalitarian system. A totalitarian
regime aims at the idea of masses and turning social groups into individualized
masses. It destroys organized groups and create lonely individuals. It
displaces ‘men’ by ‘man’, people lose the right to be a member of a political
community. Those lonely individuals are in need of protection, and this makes
the totalitarianism come to power easily. Arendt says that totalitarianism is
when abuse of ideological and political elements create individuals that lack
sense of reality. The belief that the regime is imposed from the outside is
completely wrong as it suggests that people would get rid of it if they had the
power to. Totalitarian government needs mass support, as it would not sustain
itself if it was only led by coercion. The regime gets the support it needs
because it massifies the people, makes people lonely and dependent on the
government. As anti-semitism is not merely the hatred of Jews, imperialism not
merely a conquest, totalitarianism is not merely a dictatorship.

        Why we
choose to escape freedom and submit to authority leads to question of what we
do if we do not sumbit to authority. To deal with the feeling of lack of
belonging, Erich Fromm suggests that we choose the path to destruction. Thus,
it is a competition of submission vs. destruction. Destructive capacity projected on other people is
found mostly in the German lower middle class in Nazi Germany, the people who
wanted to destroy other people’s freedom that they could not find in their own
lives. Freedom of other people meant that they did not submit to this
authority, are enjoying their lives, their existence comes to remind you of
your artificial existence. Other people’s freedom reminds them of freedom that
they never had. Fromm analyses various “mechanisms of escape” by which the
alienated seek relief from the burden of individual autonomy. Prime strategy of
totalitarianism is the unthinking submission to the leader.

          Frankfurt
School was not good enough, and they needed a much more measurable, empirical
analysis concerning the political variables. Thus political scientists decided
on the need of subjectivity, but psychoanalytic analysis was not good enough.
They needed a new form of human subjectivity which they called political
culture. Political culture is the idea that a society’s political order
reflects its people’s beliefs and values. Different countries have different
political cultures, which can help us understand how and why their governments
are organized in a certain way, or why democracies succeed or fail. Political
culture scholars examine the role of mass beliefs and value change in
democratization processes, and argue that mass beliefs are of critical
importance for a country’s chances to become and remain democratic. For mass
beliefs determine whether a political system is accepted as legitimate or not,
which has a major impact on a regime’s likelihood of surviving, as mass beliefs
play a crucial role in deciding whether a regime flourishes or is overthrown.

          Gabriel
Almond defined political culture as “subjective aspects of politics”. But, the
emergence of political culture as a theory was with Almond and Verba’s work
‘The Civic Culture’. Therefore, The Civic Culture remains in the central of
political culture researches. Almond and Verba claimed that political regimes
become stable only in so far as their authority patterns meet people’s
authority beliefs—’regardless of regime type’. According to this congruence
thesis, authoritarian regimes are stable when the people believe in the
legitimacy of dictatorial powers, just as democratic regimes are stable in so
far as people believe that political authority ought to be subject to popular
controls. Almond and Verba construct three ideal political cultures: parochial
cultures, subject cultures, and participant cultures. In parochial cultures,
citizens have low cognitive, affective, and evaluative orientation towards the political
objects. In these simpler societies, there are no specialized political roles
and little expectation for political change. In subject cultures, there is high
cognitive, affective, and evaluative orientation towards the political system
and policy outputs, but orientations towards political parties are minimal.
Thus, orientation towards the system and its outputs is channeled via a
relatively detached, passive relationship on the part of the citizen. Subject
cultures are most compatible with centralized, authoritarian political
structures. In participant cultures, members of society have high cognitive,
affective, and evaluative orientation to the political system, the input
objects, the policy outputs, and recognize the self as an active participant in
the polity. In general, participant cultures are most compatible with
democratic political structures. With these three forms of political culture, Almond
and Verba state that the parochial and subject cultures are incompatible with
the development of democratic political structures.

         After
Civil Culture, another group of political scientists lead by Robert Ingleheart
lead and developed another concept of post-materialism which was very widely
used to explain the political developments. Ronald Ingleheart came up with a
different idea of political culture, albeit applying these same methods as
Almond and Verba. The concept of modernization. is a transition from
agricultural to industrial occupations from rural to urban societies, from
peasants to working class, from aristocracy to bourgeoisie, from traditional
forms of domination to modern forms of dominations. Ronald Inglehart and
Christian Welzel have extended these propositions to suggest that in order to
endure, political regimes must supply democracy at levels that satisfy the
people’s demand for it. In support of this claim, they provide empirical evidence
demonstrating that, during the global wave of democratization, those countries
in which mass aspirations for democracy exceeded the extent to which democratic
institutions actually existed around 1990, subsequently made the greatest
progress in democratization; while those countries in which the supply of
democracy exceeded the level of mass aspirations for democracy, actually tended
to become less democratic during the subsequent decade. Modernization and
democracy are also path dependent. Modernization at a certain point of its
development, according to the writer, gives rise to a cultural milieu, and it
gives rise to democracy. The linkage between these is political culture. They
suggest that a few factors matter for a regime change; like geopolitical
location: the closer you are to the west, more chances to end up with
democracy. Even if modernization brings about this cultural change, if the
path, location of the country in the world are not right, it is not possible to
have a regime change.

          When
one wants to explore the role of mass beliefs in transitions from authoritarian
rule to democracy, one must identify orientations that motivate people to
oppose authoritarian rule and struggle for democratic institutions. One of the
examples of the fact that a political order requires compatible orientations
among its people was the failure of democracy in Weimar Germany. The democratic
constitution adopted by Germany after WWI seemed an ideally designed set of
institutions, it never took root among a people who were accustomed to the authoritarian
system they had previously experienced. When the new democracy failed to
provide order and prosperity, Hitler came to power through democratic
elections.

Compare
and Contrast

          The
dimension of the politics of culture has changed from that of the critical
theorists of the Frankfurt School to American sociologists like Gabriel Almond
and Sidney Verba. While Frankfurt schoolers focused mostly on cultural context
of dictatorship using cultural and psychological origins of authoritarianism/totalitarianism,
Political Culturers choose to pursue their works mainly focusing on the
cultural context of democracy on the invention of the concept of political
culture as a precondition of democracy. While Hannah Arendt’s ideas and
theories remain applicable to this day, others’, such as Almond and Verba’s
Civic Culture theory, do not remain in use.

Why
Totalitarianism Rises: Faced by Democracies Today

          
Donald Trump is not a totalitarian, but his creation of social movement
is very dangerous. He understands that he is not only a political figure, but a
leader of a mass movement. Most importantly, he is aware of the essential
nature of loyalty in mass movements. Mass movements, writes Hannah Arendt, are
one of the core elements of totalitarianism. Arendt does not say that all mass
movements are totalitarian; it can not be claimed that President Trump is
leading a totalitarian movement. It is equally irresponsible to ignore the
important similarities that the president’s movement shares with
totalitarianism. While Trump is not a totalitarian in her understanding, he
incorporates what she states as elements of totalitarianism. She thinks that
one of the core elements of totalitarianism is that it’s based in a movement.
One of the things that Hannah Arendt writes a lot about in the “The
Origins of Totalitarianism” is that the true origin of totalitarianism in
the modern age is the homelessness, loneliness and rootlessness that people
feel today. Hannah Arendt says is that it’s this pain in life and the loss of
the meaning of life through religion and tradition and family and our belonging
in a coherent community that drives us to embrace movements. In doing so we
find meaning and purpose in life. In such a context, easy solutions are
preferred over deeper analysis and informed opinions. This approach was applied
by totalitarian leaders such as Hitler, Stalin, and so on. In this sense,
Trump’s strategy of blaming Muslims or Mexicans for terrorism, crime or
unemployment, and claiming that a wall will be an easy solution, is nothing new. Our
inability to understand why Trump’s unacceptable behavior do not affect his
support among his base is the same inability that doomed politicians in early
20th century: “It has been one of the chief handicaps of the outside
world and dealing with totalitarian systems that it … trusted that, on one
hand, the very enormity of totalitarian lies would be their undoing and that,
on the other, it would be possible to take a leader at his word and force him,
regardless of his original intentions, to make it good. The totalitarian
system, unfortunately, is foolproof against such normal consequences.”

 

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