Discourses of Political Destruction: One

We have been discussing the extraordinary manifestations of collective,
societal violence in the Twentieth Century politics, with nearly two-hundred
human beings killed as a consequence of activities called "war," "genocide,"
"revolution," etc.

I suggested that one might characterize what has occurred as a form of
civilizational psychopathology, and that there may be common psychological
processes that sustain the cultural constituted patterns of behavior.

One hypothesis is that violence or destructiveness is the consequence
of a form of submission to an ideology, whereby individuals are willing to die
and kill in the name of defending or valorizing an idea to which one is deeply
attached. I focus on the "nation" as a fundamental ideology to which persons
bind themselves, but as others have pointed out, a similar dynamic may govern
attachment to religious beliefs and political ideologies (such as communism).

Human beings elevate an ideology or belief system into something larger
or more significant than the self, identify themselves with this ideology,
and then submit or bow down to the idea that has come to represent them. Killing
and dying arise out of passionate, hysterical attachment. One is willing to
die and to kill in order to prove one's devotion to the symbolic object with
which the ego has become identified.

Insofar as the self has become identified with the omnipotent idea, the
destruction of the ideology is experienced as destruction of the self. The
"grand narrative" becomes psychosomatically situated within one's body.
Destruction of the idea is experienced as the fragmentation (disintegration) of one's

I focus on Nazi Germany because I believe that what occurred there
constitutes a paradigm for the destructive political processes of the Twentieth
Century. Rather than being an anomaly, Hitler crystallized certain fundamental

Freud viewed neurosis and psychosis as extreme forms of psychological
processes that occur in everyone. Similarly, genocide constitutes an extreme
form of "normal" or ordinaryh political processes. In conceiving and executing
the Final Solution, the Nazis were acting out the ideology: " It is necessary
to kill the enemy in order to save the nation." Hitler carried this idea to its
logical, bizarre conclusion.

Hitler may be characterized as a radical conformist. He put forth
common, ordinary political ideas, then expected his people to embrace these ideas
absolutely or totally.

He said, "We wish to have no other God, only Germany." With Hitler, the
religion of nationalism reached its apotheosis. Hitler asked his people to
adore and worship Germany. The other side of the coin of worshipping Germany was
the destruction of all those who refused to bow down: "Thou shalt have no
other god before me."

Hitler declared to the German people: "You are nothing, your nation is
everything." Alongside the glorification of the nation was negation of the
subject. Rather, the subject was relocated in the nation. The nation was
glorified as an omnipotent object. The German people bowed down to this projection of
themselves, but in so doing negated (and eventually destroyed) themselves.

Rudolph Hess often declared, "Hitler is Germany, just as Germany is
Hitler." Violence and destructiveness grew out of the intense, passionate
attachment that binds the ego to an object conceived as omnipotent.

Hitler said, "We may be inhumane, but if we rescue Germany we have
achieved the greatest deed in the world." This is the fundamental structure of
thought that generates political destruction. Those who initiate violence
recognize that what they are doing is not exactly wonderful or groovy. However, they
overcome their compunctions based on the idea that what they are doing is

What is necessary is that the omnipotent idea or ideology be preserved
at all costs. What must be rescued is belief in the object and its goodness.
That which must be destroyed is the OTHER ideology or nation. From within the
framework of the other discourse, one's own nation, god or ideology is NOT
conceived to be good or omnipotent.

Hannah Arendt's views were discussed in relationship to my theory.
Arendt's biographer, Elizabeth Young-Bruehl observed that Arendt located the
capacity to do evil in what she called "thoughtlessness," that is an inability or
choice "not to think, to inquire, to question, but a rote following or rules or
acceptance of another's judgment."

Eichmann's explanation at his trial suggested that he had substituted
"the Fuhrer's will for the Kantian categorical imperative," and that Hitler's
will became the "ultimate source of lawfulness."

The subtitle of Arendt's book, the "banality of evil," generated a
certain line of analysis that focused upon the tendency of German bureaucrats to
"follow orders." This mode of interpretation emphasizes "obedience" as a prime
motive underlying societal destructiveness. According to this perspective, it
is not as if Eichmann truly desired or wished to kill Jews. Rather, he was one
of many ordinary, "thoughtless" persons who simply executed or carried out
the requirement of the bureaucracy, demands of society and orders of its

Is such a characterization of Nazi destruction accurate? Are we able to
comprehend what has occurred within such a "bloodless" perspective?

With regard to ideologies of violence, sacrifice and murder, what is
the relationship of the subject to these societal discourses?

With regards,

Richard Koenigsberg

Richard A. Koenigsberg, Ph. D.
Library of Social Science

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