Vygotskian Writings Теоретическая психология Выготскианские тексты


The failure of totalitarian states



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The failure of totalitarian states


This dilemma emerges when the characteristic feature of classical capitalism, namely that the capital and the labor force are separated from each other and that capital simply purchases and consumes the labor force but does not produce it, is done away with.

The first solution to the dilemma in world history is what Attila József formulated in his thesis quoted at the head of this paper: together with an etatic expropriation of the means of production, in general, the state carries out that of working people, too, for the capital goods to be expropriated are by then incorporated in the working ability of these individuals. Attila József theoretically formulated what was then already (and still) the existing practice of a post-capitalist formation.

This practice solves the dilemma in favour of capital, similarly to the one pursued by other post-capitalist formations without having established the planning system for lack of expropriating the means of production by the state. As is well known, in the present period there are several countries where the state has intervened in the relation between capital and labor under conditions that can be characterized by the above dilemma although the means of production are privately owned and the market system is in effect. This intervention by the fascistic totalitarian state, too, tries to bias the solution of the dilemma in favour of capital by allowing for a supervision of the labor force which provides guarantees for capital to recover with a profit the costs of “human investment”

The totalitarian state, irrespective of which variant is realized – whether the one with planning or the one with the market system – restricts to a minimum the individual’s possibility to choose. But the individual’s decisions, as has been seen, are the stumbling block for the efficiency either of the plan directives or the price.

In addition, the totalitarian state offers complementary guarantees for the owner of capital (whether of private or state property) in case indi­vi­dual decisions should happen to be made: it manipulates social identity which we defined earlier in this paper as the determinant mediated by posi­ti­ve or negative imitation of real choices made in the balanced situation of Bu­ridan’s ass when changed circumstance will not result in a changed beha­vi­or but in an altered experience of an unchanged behavior. The totalitarian sta­te manipulates social identity either by extending the social category the in­dividual belongs to such an extent that the totality of the society the sta­te controls could be squeezed into it, or by reducing the individual’s social category to such an extent that he finds himself totally alone in it, face to fa­ce with the authoritarian leader who can decide at any moment who of the atomized individuals should belong together and who should be the enemy.

The totalitarian state, e.g. the Third Reich, attempts to achieve the former with by the familiar method of treating that section of society which falls outside the chosen category as something to be totally annihilated.

The latter effect is presented in Ervin Sinko’s The novel of a novel, the diary of the author’s long journey in Stalin’s empire (in 1935-l937), describing a totalitarian state where the atomi­zation of society, which in the classical capitalist economy was only a tendency – analyzed by Marxists and the most passionately hated by communists – reached its perfection.

However, the totalitarian state has proved incapable of producing the psychological conditions necessary for the operation of either the planning or the market system for two interrelated reasons.

The first is that the above dilemma entails another twin dilemma on the end opposite to that of the labor force in the scale of the post-capitalist social structure. What happens here is this: the position that in the classical capitalist formation is occupied by the capitalist entrepreneur is split into two: those who have capital may lack the enterprise to invest it into ventures promising profit, whereas those who have a knack for taking optimal risks may not have anything to risk.

Capital assets and enterprise – material and personal condition, respectively, of the operation of this economic system – must be brought together. But in what structure? In one where the capital employs the entrepreneur (manager) as it employs the worker and disposes of both? or in one where the entrepreneur takes up a loan, pays for the use of the capital as he pays for the use of the land, but he disposes of both?

The dilemma of the material and personal condition is decided by the totalitarian state, whether built on planning or the market system, again in favor of capital. Enterprise is a disposition which means that someone has a different idea from everybody else’s, without a preliminary directive, to boot; and what could be the arch enemy of the totalitarian state if not the citizen who has original and spontaneous ideas, and, especially, if he even acts upon them.

Above we saw how the totalitarian state provides capital with gua­ran­tees that the “human investment” will be recovered, so this time it is the ca­pital that guarantees for the totalitarian state that the spontaneity of the en­ter­prising person it employs will not exceed the strict limits marked out by the technical directives of capital, and if he should still do so, it will emp­loy ano­ther person’s originality in his place. It is important that in this res­pect pri­vate capital, where surviving, can provide the totalitarian state with the sa­me guarantees as capital that is handled by the state where there is sta­te pro­perty. It is just as important to note that in the former case in the mar­ket sys­tem and in the latter with planning the same observation can soon be ma­de: the enterprising spirit is missing. That type, more exactly, the bea­rer of which would be such a person to whom there and then would oc­cur a dif­fe­rent idea from all others’ without preliminary directives where and when the technical directives prescribe it, and in whose place anyone who may at any moment be put in his place would have an original idea in the same way.

In his book The pyramid climbers (Fawcett World Library. N.Y., 1964) Vance Packard cites some findings of an opinion-poll conducted by Nation’s Business to find out what the new claims of managers are, which brought out that the new claim number one is: Be a creative conformist.

The Palo Alto school has done a detailed investigation into the pathogenic paradox of prescribing spontaneity (see e.g.: Watzlawick, Beavin and Jack­son: Pragmatics of human communication. NY: Norton, 1967; and Watzla­wick, Weakland and Fisch: Change. Principles of problem formation and prob­lem resolution. NY: Norton, 1974). The paradox of social similarity and diffe­ren­ce that is very closely related to that of vulgar originality has been in­ves­tigated in my paper entitled Les paradoxes de la catégorisation sociale (Re­cherches de Psychologie Sociale, 198l. pp.l3l-l4l; see also Pages: Les paradoxes classificatoires de Garai: espace de repérage et d’affectation. Ibid.,143-151)

The other reason why the totalitarian state has failed to create the psychological conditions necessary for the operation of the economic system is that it can only set about tackling the task of producing the personal conditions according to that logic which the post-capitalist system inherited from the capitalist formation and according to which the latter produced the material conditions of its operation.

According to this logic a person carries his properties just as a thing does, and these properties can be changed in the same way as those of a thing can. If something or someone does not fit a goal it can only be adjusted to it by a larger or smaller cost. The larger the distance between the actual state of the thing or that of the person and the goal, the larger the necessary input. Whenever I know the technology of producing a thing or a person bearing a property a and that of producing a bearer of the property b I have only to combine two technologies in order to produce something or someone that bears both properties. Nothing can me prevent from changing over from the prototype to mass-producing the model by the hundred, thousand or million. If the input has produced the expected output, new inputs may multiply the outputs. The costs of production are calculable, and it can be determined whether the production is more economical if those to be involved in the technological process are previously selected, if all the people are worked upon without selection and everyone is trained as long as necessary, or perhaps if after a certain period of time the waste is eliminated from among the unselected lot of individuals.

And the worst of these arguments, and of the logic they are all based on whether in the planning or the market system, is not that when you examine it consistently you inevitably end up with the formula of the death or labor camp, thus, they are loathsome from a moral point of view, but that they are no use from a purely pragmatic viewpoint, too, because they neglect the most significant aspect of producing the personal condition:

The personal condition complementing the material condition of production is not necessarily present or absent as a material feature of the persons but may also manifest its existence or lack as personal interrelation. The classic experiment of Elton Mayo (The human problems of an industrial civilization. Macmillan, N.Y., 1933) has demonstrated that the disposition of a group of women workers to increase their productivity both when their working conditions were improved and when they were deteriorating was due to the fact that the management distinguished them by its exceptional interest. This, clearly, is not one of the material conditions of work like lighting, temperature, ventilation of the workshop; neither is it a material trait of persons like the IQ, reaction time or fingerprint.

If it was something like one of the material conditions of work, management could ensure it as soon as its interest in what the key working condition for productivity was had been satisfied, whereas what happens is that as soon as this interest is satisfied, it ceases to exist, although this very interest is the looked-for condition itself. If, on the other hand, the factor at issue were one of properties beared by the person like a thing bears its features, it would only be a question of input and efficient technology to form this useful quality in each member of the production unit. In actual fact, however, if really could be carried out, that each and every worker without exception became subject to exceptional interest, then none of them would have any more this “property” which, however, so basically determined their disposition to production.

There are two methodologies to produce the personal properties necessary for production: l. selective quality exchange when those who possess the particular property are selected from the existing staff and the rest are replaced by those selected from the population according to this property; 2. retraining each member of the existing staff until the required property has been developed. It can be presumed that if the property in question is, say, the sense of absolute pitch, it is more practicable to apply the first paradigm, and if it is, say, competence in BASIC, then the second. It can however be easily understood that neither of these psychotechnical procedures will help provide the personal condition in the above example (to be the target of exceptional interest by the management).

Let us now come back to that personal disposition which, as has been shown above, is just as indispensable a condition of the operation of the post-capitalist economic system as it is missing under the relations of the totalitarian state: namely, enterprise. Try to imagine that someone decides to produce this condition (the disposition of a person to have original ideas spontaneously) according to the logic of material production as outlined above. It is not hard to see that the more sophisticated the organization producing this spontaneity is, the less it will be possible to produce spontaneity in this technological process. Also, that the larger the output capacity of the organization which is supposed to produce the originality of the person is, the less it is capable of producing originality.

The emerging need of the production system to re-establish the split po­sition of the capitalist entrepreneur and the failure of the totalitarian sta­te to produce or select under the dominance of capital the spirit of enterpri­se as a material property necessarily leads to the only possible attempt that a person should emerge who has different ideas from the rest of the people with­out directives in such a way that he does not jeopardize the totalitarian sta­te: and this person is the authoritarian leader in whom the totalitarian sta­te is incarnated.




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