Harold Walsby: Development and Repression
We are now able to apply some of the results of the foregoing pages and describe in brief outline the main stages in the typical course of ideological development. In order to do this it will be convenient to choose the typical course of ontogenetic development, that is to say, the course of development pursued by the individual. There is every reason to believe, however, that – as in biological growth – the development of the individual broadly recapitulates, and sometimes extends, the series of evolutionary stages passed through by the group. This correlation of ontogeny and phylogeny in ideological development is forced upon us by a broad historical survey of the growth of religion, science, philosophy, politics etc., and the study of savage behaviour, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, by the study of the intellectual growth of the individual in modern society.
We shall distinguish two main and consecutive phases in the ideological development of a person: the first we shall call the eido-static phase, and the second we shall term the eido-dynamic phase. The earlier or eido-static phase begins approximately at birth and continues, through superstitious and primitive religious stages, well into the first stages of the scientific mode of thought. It embraces those modes of thought which are typical of mass social groups and therefore includes ideological levels which correspond successively with the typical ideological forms of political absolutism or fascism, conservatism and (towards the end of the phase) liberalism. The later or eido-dynamic phase proceeds from the first stages of scientific thinking and continues through more developed scientific stages. It includes modes of thought which are characteristic of intellectual social groups and contains, therefore, those ideological levels which successively correspond with typical ideological forms of socialism, communism and (towards the end of the phase) anarchism. Let us examine these two main phases of development more closely.
The eido-static phase begins, we have said, approximately at birth. It would be absurd, however, to suppose that the beginning of mental life corresponded with the comparatively sudden event of being born. During the period passed in sheltered seclusion of the womb, the nervous system of the individual is rapidly built up and differentiated; it is, moreover, active. Towards the latter end of the intra-uterine period certain sensory stimuli must penetrate the seclusion of the womb – both from the mother herself and from the more remote outside world – which are able to activate appropriate receptors and nerve paths in the nervous system of the unborn child. However, we must remember that in its womb-life the child has none of the urgent needs which it is to feel after birth, for all its bodily requirements are supplied by its mother. In the womb, therefore, there are no severe internal restraints or limitations (such as the stimulus of hunger) upon its inherited assumption of self-determinism. And, moreover, because of its sheltered position inside the mother’s body, it is also protected from any severe limitations which would be otherwise imposed by intense external stimuli. Such vague sensory patterns as are actually received – e.g. rhythmic swaying from the mother’s body – movement, muffled sounds, maternal heartbeats, tactile sensations etc. – constitute no serious limitations upon the absolute assumption.
Nevertheless, we may suppose that some differentiation between stimuli, however little, actually occurs within the womb, especially towards the early stages of the unpleasant and painful birth-process. From the initial “tonic,” or partial, inhibition of “neutral” stimuli, and the generalised sensory identification, develop the beginnings of emotional positive and negative identification. The more constant and familiar features of stimuli – e.g. rhythmic pattern – will get positively identified with the absolute assumption, and mild negative identification will therefore be developed towards the strange, occasional, more unfamiliar and disturbing intrusions into the monotonously rhythmic patterns. Thus it is suggested that the nascent stages of conditioning, assumption and identification begin in utero.
This primitive stage of intra-uterine bliss is recognised by psychoanalysis and is called the “feeling of unconditional omnipotence” by Ferenczi, who, I believe, was the first to draw attention to its importance. “In this state,” he writes in his “Contributions to Psychoanalysis,”
the human being lives as a parasite of the mother’s body. For the nascent being an ‘outer world’ exists only in a very restricted degree; all its needs for protection, warmth, and nourishment are assured by the mother. Indeed, it does not even have the trouble of taking the oxygen and nourishment that is brought to it, for it is seen to it that these materials, through suitable arrangements, arrive directly into its blood vessels. In comparison with this an intestinal worm, for example, has a good deal of work to perform, ‘to change the outer world,’ in order to maintain itself. All care for the foetus, however, is transferred to the mother. If, therefore, the human being possesses a mental life when in the womb, although only an unconscious one – and it would be foolish to believe that the mind begins to function only at the moment of birth – he must get from his existence the impression that he is in fact omnipotent. For what is omnipotence? The feeling that one has all one wants, and that one has nothing left to wish for. The foetus, however, could maintain this of itself, for it always has what is necessary for the satisfaction of its wants, and so has nothing to wish for, it is without wants.
With the onset of birth a radical change takes place. In the mental state of the child; for, in the process of being turned out of its shelter into a “hostile” world, its body is increasingly subjected to great physical constraint and painfully intense stimuli. There occurs an almost complete reversal of the state of affairs which previously existed in utero. The strange, new and intense stimuli now predominate over the monotonous and rhythmic patterns; and with the final emergence of the child, these latter are practically lost, they are no longer presented. A strong negative identification is rapidly developed toward these new and relatively intense stimuli, and soon after delivery the newborn babe exhibits this strong emotional rejection by violent uncoordinated motor reactions (struggling) and by crying. After experiencing further disagreeable sensations which continue to impose intense limitation upon the absolute assumption, the child is eventually pacified, as Ferenczi pointed out, by its being placed in a situation similar to the intra-uterine one. It is wrapped in soft, downy and warm coverings; it is placed where it is protected from intense optical, auditory and tactile stimuli; once again the muffled, monotonous and rhythmical patterns of stimuli are reproduced by gentle rocking movements and soft, low crooning sounds. These events induce the re-establishment of the absolute assumption: the limitation is overcome and the child passes into sleep, a condition which closely resembles the previous condition in the womb – to which latter state we give the name “self-identification” (i.e. the feeling of dependence upon the self).
Sooner or later the bodily needs of the infant make themselves felt. Once more intense somatic stimuli impose limitation upon (or “disestablish”) the self -deterministic assumption. Again the child reacts by emotional rejection of the stimuli; once again it manifests motor reactions and cries. This situation eventually causes a teat to be placed in its mouth. When this is done the inborn sucking-reflex comes into operation, the infant imbibes, the limiting stimulus is gradually removed, and, with the re-establishment of the absolute assumption, sleep again intervenes. The series of events is continually repeated. So that before long, by the process of conditioning, the child comes to identify itself positively with certain sensory patterns which imply the unconditioned stimulus (teat in the mouth) and, through this, the re-establishment of the absolute assumption.
Thus, the infant comes eventually to “accept” the limitations imposed by certain comparatively intense stimuli which it previously would have rejected (e.g. those involved in its being handled or picked up for feeding, nursing, rocking etc.). However, it still emotionally rejects most other sensory patterns, particularly those of strong stimuli (such as loud noises and those involved when it is being changed, washed, bathed etc.) and continues to manifest its negative identification with these in the usual manner. (This is apart, of course, from those above – mentioned relatively soft and rhythmic patterns with which it is already strongly identified in the positive sense.)
As the child grows and its routine becomes more complex, chain conditioning proceeds apace. More and more limitations come to be accepted as, one after another, various sensory patterns and stimuli are assumed to imply the re-establishment of the absolute assumption. Similar conditioning also occurs, of course, with regard to the disestablishment of that assumption. Hence, after a period of time, the child has built up a structure of positive and negative assumptions to which it is more or less strongly attached by a corresponding system of positive and negative identifications of varying intensities. But each new acceptance of a limitation can only be achieved in so far as the limitation is actually assimilated into or reconciled with the absolute assumption – i.e. in so far as it leads to the re-establishment of that assumption. Each new acceptance of a limitation, therefore, involves the transformation of a negative assumption into a positive assumption and the transformation of a negative identification into a positive identification. Transformation also occurs in the other direction: that is to say, a limiting stimulus which has become “accepted” may cease to lead to re-establishment and, instead, lead to disestablishment. The positive assumption and identification are thus transformed into their negative counterparts. This takes place to some extent in the extinction or internal inhibition of a conditioned reflex.
Now, the process of transformation we have just described corresponds, not only to a form of inhibition, but also to the well-known process of repression originally discovered by Freud. That is to say, a negative identification is simply a “repressed” positive identification. And the strength of the negative identification is therefore proportional to the strength of the repression. Similarly, the positive identification (which, we have seen, results from the acceptance of a limitation and the inhibition of “passive resistance” – i.e. the inhibition of the inhibition of a stimulus) constitutes a form of “return of repressed material” – another familiar psychoana1ytíc concept. But “the return of repressed material.” “the acceptance of a limitation,” “the transformation of a negative into a positive identification” – which are all the same thing – necessarily involve the limitation, i.e. the repression, of the egoistic absolute assumption.
Thus we can now distinguish two kinds of repression: “internal” and “external.” External repression is the repression of an external or objective limitation upon the egoistic assumption of self-determinism – in other words the repudiation or renunciation of the limit as a necessary and positive one. This is equivalent to the transformation of a positive into a negative identification (or assumption). “Internal repression,” on the other hand, is the repression or limitation of the absolute assumption itself – i.e. it is the repression of an unnecessary and negative form of that assumption, a form which itself constitutes an internal or subjective limitation upon re-establishment. And this is equivalent to the transformation of a negative into a positive identification (or assumption). It can be seen from the foregoing that each kind of transformation or repression is but the inverse form of the other; and that each of the two types, in its occurrence, involves the simultaneous occurrence of its inverse type, but relative to opposite material or opposite kinds of limitation (i.e. either subjective or objective limitation). Moreover, it is the mutual interaction of internal and external repression – involved in the acceptance of objective and necessary limitations, and the rejection of subjective and unnecessary limitations – which actually constitutes the intellectual and ideological development.
Let us now return to the mental development of the child. The human infant remains helpless and dependent upon its parents or nurses for a relatively long period – a period which is unique among animals. We have seen that the child is nevertheless able to overcome limitations, and obtain its needs, by the simple method of displaying its emotional rejection of those limitations: that is, by motor reactions and crying. This mode of behaviour works tolerably well as a mode of resisting or overcoming limiting stimuli – especially in the earliest stages – so long as there are human beings to respond and minister to the infantile needs. The new-born infant soon comes to learn that these reactions are the necessary conditions for re-establishment, that they are the all-powerful password to success and satisfaction. The method soon becomes a kind of magic ritual; and here, indeed, We have the origin of magic, of magical ritual and passwords. And since religion and science have developed from magic, we have here, too, the very primeval roots and rudimentary beginnings of these.
But while this method of overcoming limitation works well in relation to the human part of the child’s environment, it can have little success relative to the non-human organic or animal environment – and, of course, none at all in relation to the merely material and inorganic part of its environment. However, neither the child nor the primitive savage makes any such conscious distinctions. Whether the primitive mind accepts or rejects a limitation – whether it makes, in short, a positive or negative assumption – the reality or independence which it is forced to accord the limiting stimulus (human and non-human alike) is but the projection of its own nature, its own reality, its own assumption of
independent, self-determined being. Nevertheless, a nascent distinction is at this stage beginning to appear in the primitive ideological structure. For though the projection of reality occurs for both types of assumption (and identification ) – that is, positive and negative assumptions – the kind of reality which is projected in each case differs. And it differs according to whether the projection is that of the modified self which accepts certain limitations (the part of the self which is composed of the “returned material,” the structure of assimilated positive assumptions and identifications – the de-repressed or conscious self) or whether the projection is that of the unmodified self which rejects limitations (the part of the self to which relates the “internally repressed” forms of the absolute assumption and the still “externally repressed” material: the negative assumptions and identifications – the unconscious or subconscious self).
Thus, because of this growing differentiation within the self (viz. the ideological structure) of a repressed part and a “returned” or “de-repressed” part, the reality which is accorded to stimuli relating to negative assumptions and identifications will differ from the reality which is given to stimuli pertaining to positive assumptions and identifications. The actual distinction which the child (or the savage) gradually comes to make between these stimuli, is the distinction between “good” and “bad” faithful projection of the child’s own good and bad (or naughty) character. Inanimate objects which remain indifferent to the magic ritual of cries, whimpers, words, grimaces, gestures etc., or which frustrate the child’s aims, are therefore wilfully “bad” and “naughty.” On the other hand, those human beings who respond to the magical technique and minister to the child’s aims, are “good” and well loved.
In actual practice, of course, the division is not so clean-cut. As the child is able to extend the magical technique to include the simple manipulation and control of certain objects – in short, as it is able to get about and do things for itself – the mental situation gets more complicated. For in learning to manipulate and control objects, the child is forced to accept more limitations which it previously rejected; de-repression or transformation from negative to positive assumption occurs. (Derepression or “return of repressed material” is, we have seen, equivalent to or concurrent with internal repression.) Objects are therefore good in so far as they respond to the extended magical technique of manipulation, and are bad and naughty in so far as they do not respond. Again, parents and nurses have by now begun to impose limitations upon the child’s aims and behaviour in the form of certain prohibitions. In so far as these frustrations are resented, or not willingly accepted, then external repression occurs: i.e. the transformation of positive into negative assumptions and identifications. Those who impose the restrictions (parents, nurses, and later on, schoolmasters and others in authority) are therefore, in so far as the limitations are not accepted, “bad,” “naughty,” or evil. Nevertheless, despite this growing ambivalence towards humans and nonhuman objects, the ideological structure of the child (and of the savage, too) is such that, on the whole, the positive assumptions and identifications are generally orientated towards persons and people, whereas the negative assumptions and identifications are orientated towards nonhuman and inanimate objects. The primitive mind, therefore, owing to its inability to understand and control material objects – or, what is the same thing, because of the material object’s frustration of its aims is repressed with respect to the inanimate world in general. This external repression (which is, as we have seen, the emotional rejection of an objective limit) manifests itself as a tendency towards a general repudiation of matter and a predisposition or predilection for refusing to recognise its determining influence. The attitude is well known to exist among primitive and savage peoples and, in its more developed forms, characterises the outlook of the majority of people in modern civilised communities. Inanimate matter is regarded as of evil significance. In the case of the child and the savage, however, the “evil” (or frustrating) nature of the inanimate object is attributed to a wilfull, intractable spirit: a projection of their own internally repressed and “evil” (“bad” or “naughty”) nature.
The recognition of this external repression in relation to the inorganic material world, as a characteristic feature of the primitive intellect, is vital for the understanding of ideological development. For, as mentioned above, ideological growth largely depends upon the interaction of internal and external repression. And in these early stages of development the ideological structure shows quite clearly the broad division of its assumptions and identifications into two main groups: one of which (the externally repressed, sub-conscious or negative group) is orientated towards the inanimate world of matter, and the other of which (the de-repressed, conscious, or positive group) is orientated towards human society. Although it undergoes considerable modification in further stages of development, this basic orientation of the ideological structure remains fundamentally the same throughout most of the eido-static phase. Moreover, it provides us with the key to the understanding of the so called herd instinct and the formation of social groups; for we now see that there is a two-fold compulsion on the primitive individual: one, positive, and drawing him into association with humans, and the other, negative, driving him away from isolation or association with inanimate nature. Hence, most humans, especially children and primitive people, have a great dislike, or even fear, of being alone, of being isolated from the social group with only inanimate non-human being for company. Such is the individual’s attachment to the human group that he will accept the severest limitations and prohibitions imposed by group – life rather than quit his fellows for a life of solitary independence. Each individual seeks independence only within the confines of the social group. We can now quite easily discern the origin of the universal fear or dread of offending the group, of the fear of public opinion, and of the urge of of the mass towards conformity.
In the case of the small child, the social group, of course, begins with the mother and then extends to the father and to the rest of the family. In the same way as we have seen the projection in negative assumption to be the projection of the child’s “bad” self, so we find that the projection in positive assumption is the projection of the child’s “good” self – i.e. the conscious de-repressed and modified self. This is the self – or that part of the ideological structure – which accepts limitations; it is therefore not only the self in which resides all the virtues but also the self which is the more successful in overcoming limitations and the more capable of exercising control. Hence, when the child positively identifies itself with its parents (or with later authorities, with heroes and leaders of the social group) it is not only projecting its own more virtuous nature, but also its more successful, capable, and powerful nature as well. Within the family circle, therefore, the child will most strongly identify itself with the most powerful and capable member: usually, of course, the father. The strength of other positive identifications made with the rest of the family will also largely depend upon the rank and power of each particular member. It can easily be seen that this hierarchy of identifications sets the pattern for a great deal of behaviour later on in larger social groups: in school, in the army, in business, in political life etc. It is this strong positive identification with the group and with rank, power, leadership, heroes and authority, on the one hand, and the strong negative identification with material nature on the other which predispose youthful, ignorant and primitive minds to identify themselves with the mass ideology of fascism.
As the child grows and the ideological development proceeds - greatly assisted by the processes of more or less organised education – the animistic stage in mental growth (in which inanimate objects are invested with the infant’s projection of self-determinism) is rapidly and considerably modified. We have seen that in the primitive animistic ideological structure there appeared an incipient dualism. Originally, all objects, human and nonhuman alike, were emotionally rejected. Then, when the somatic needs of the newborn infant imposed greater limitations upon its selfdeterministic assumption than those imposed by external stimuli, the child was forced to accept those limitations which led to re-establishment. It continued, however, to reject those external stimuli which led to disestablishment and frustration. The child thus built up a primitive structure of positive and negative assumptions and identifications which became broadly divided, so that the positive structure directly related to human beings and the negative structure related to inanimate nature. The nascent dualism to which we wish to draw attention concerns the projection of selfdeterminism into the inanimate object.
At first no very clear distinction is made between the object itself and the self-deterministic spirit which pervades it. Later, however, after much investigation of the object (largely brought about by the obsessive interest and intense pre-occupation with material objects caused by the external repression) the child comes to make the distinction – based on analogy with itself – between the obvious and determined exterior of objects, and their mysterious and self-determining interior; between the sensory patterns of matter and the inherent force which resists and frustrates the child. It wishes to see “inside” the object. It wants to pull things to pieces. After much further experience in the manipulation of objects, and not finding “inside” them what it is unconsciously seeking, it comes, in the process, to accept further limitations imposed by the nature of matter, and thus is able to master the object and satisfy its intense curiosity. The object no longer frustrates it as before. Re-establishment occurs; and so, therefore, does transformation of negative to positive assumptions. The de-repressed or returned material, with its corresponding internal repression, along with the newly introjected limitation – the abstract stimuli –constitutes the individual’s increased understanding. The de-repression (and concurrent internal repression) constitutes, in other words, the assimilation into the ideological structure of the newly assumed mutual relations between sensory stimuli.
This increased understanding and control of the material object purges it of its inner, mysterious, intractable and indeterministic spirit. The purging process, however, is limited and not complete, for the very simple reason that the individual’s understanding and control of the object remains limited and incomplete. The inherent self-determinism or indcterministic nature of inanimate objects remains in the form of mysterious, intractable forces which, in so far as they are not understood and controlled, are regarded as responsible for chance, accident, luck or ill-luck. Success or failure in any aim or enterprise thus comes to depend upon whether these mysterious inherent forces are favouribly or unfavouribly disposed towards the individual. (This attitude is essentially that which is typical of the many millions in modern society who “believe in luck” or who are obsessively preoccupied with betting, gambling and other forms of speculation upon chance.)
Again, the purging process begins with the depersonification of self-determinism only in the most familiar, investigated and immediate of inanimate object. The more remote and inaccessible objects, associated with large-scale and more mysterious phenomena, retain their spiritual or personified counterparts for much longer. Moreover, as the understanding and depersonification of the individual’s immediate material surroundings proceed, and the fundamental distinction or dualism between mind and matter becomes more and more manifest, these remoter spirits become progressively more detached and distinguished from their material abodes. They thus become capable of leaving their dwelling-places in trees, rivers, mountains etc. and of acting and exerting their mysterious powers elsewhere. Unencumbered by the shackles of gross materiality, these disembodied spirits – beneficent or malevolent according to whether they aid or frustrate the individual – exercise their capricious, whimsical, fancy-free, indeterministic (i.e. magical) control over mere material things by spoken commands and incantations, by ritualistic behaviour and gestures. They disappear, they assume many and various forms, they span great distances in an instant; and mundane material objects, like craven slaves, obey their least commands in a flash. It is all so patent that these miraculous and omnipotent powers over matter are nothing but projections of internally repressed forms of the self deterministic or absolute assumption.
This conception of the more remote and ultimate nature of the material world or universe (any individual’s conception of which we call his “cosmic situation“) results, as we have said, from the externally repressed limitations of matter upon the absolute assumption, on the one hand, and the internally repressed forms of that assumption, on the other. Internal repression, we saw, originally referred to the individual’s relation to the social group and its members (his conception of which we call the “group situation“). It will be obvious that projection in the “cosmic situation” provides a kind of compensation for the limitations upon and frustrations of the absolute assumption actually suffered in the group and in contact with matter. Again, it will be evident that the cosmic situation is largely influenced by the individual’s organisation of the group situation. These two trends become plainer as the individual progresses further from the animistic stage into dualistic idealism.
With the fuller appearance of this latter stage of the cosmic situation, the depersonification of the material world is almost complete. The indeterministic spiritual realm is divested of much of its former parochial character and largely divorced from the material universe. It is an abode for the departed of everlasting bliss if they were “good” and accepted the limitations imposed by the group, and of everlasting punishment if they were “wicked” and rejected the group restrictions. The organisation of the spirits is upon a large-scale family basis, with an omnipotent Spirit at the head of the family hierarchy who is regarded as the Father and Creator of all things and especially of all men, who are His children. The other side of this dualistic cosmic situation shows that, with the more or less complete separation of the spiritual or self-deterministic realm from the material universe, the way is left open for the development of those early modes of scientific thinking which concern the mechanistic behaviour of matter.
The group situation corresponding to this dualistic stage is typified in the conservative mode of thought. Here again, the social life of the nation and of the group of nations is interpreted largely in terms of the assumptions and identifications of typical family life. The adored monarch, president, or other head of the state, is regarded as the virtuous and powerful head of the national family or empire (family of nations). The king is the father of his people; he is the symbol of the national group, the members of which are related by blood-ties, and a symbol, also, of the whole body of group restrictions – i.e. the constitution or status quo. The hierarchy of identifications characteristic of the earlier group situation of family life, and later of larger groups, is finally transferred to the whole national group itself. The national heroes, past and present, are thus modifications and adaptations of the earlier matter – and later father-identification “Motherland,” “fatherland,” “mother-country,” mother-tongue,” “John Bull,” “Britannia” etc. are words and symbols of a type especially recurrent in conservative thought. “What was good enough for my father is good enough for me” is the traditional conservative sentiment. Other nations, especially those with origins and histories more in common with one’s own, are “our cousins,” “our brothers” or “sister-nations.” Political merit for the conservative consists in the preservation of the “good,” i.e. those hierarchic institutions which express his cosmic and group situations. “God, King and Country (or Empire)” is thus the watch ward and quintessence of the conservative attitude. Those who are politically “good” and” right” are those who accept and preserve the continuity of the group limitations; those who are “bad” or “wrong” are those who reject the group restrictions and traditions and who rebel against the group. (Here, of course, the Oedipus complex, discovered and described by Freud, plays its part.) The conservative outlook or group situation is thus to be interpreted in terms of the earlier group situation into which the individual was largely driven by his external repression of the objective limitations imposed by inanimate matter.
Further progress in the ideological development leads from the cosmic situation of “dualistic idealism” to that of “mechanistic materialism.” We saw that the progressive separation of the indeterministic spiritual realm from the material world followed upon an increasing understanding of the way matter works – in other words, upon depression of the externally repressed objective limitations imposed by matter. As the individual’s knowledge grows concerning, on the one hand, the physical nature of the mare remote universe and, on the other, concerning the mechanical, physical and chemical nature of organic matter, the process of depersonificatian of the universe proceeds through its last stages towards its limit. At that limit the dualism of spirit and matter (of self-determinism and determinism) becomes absolute: that is to say, side by side with the growing understanding that the material world is not composed of fundamentally different types of being but is composed of one fundamental type, there: occurs a similar breaking-up of the different beings of the indeterministic spiritual world into one basic type – a type of being which can have no material characteristics whatever and which has no existence inside space and time. Thus, self-determinism in the farm of spirit or mind is isolated or eliminated from the material universe. It requires but one more step really to complete the process and make the separation of spirit and matter absolute; and that is to regard indeterministic spirit or mind as entirely non-existent. For in possessing existence spirit has something in common with matter, and depersonification therefore remains incomplete. The final step annihilates the conscious dualism and leads directly to mechanistic materialism.
The gradual approach and development of this cosmic situation of the individual reacts on his group situation. His increasing understanding of the mechanistic nature of the universe necessarily involves depression – i.e. the acceptance of progressively more limitations upon the absolute assumption; it involves, in short, further internal repression. He is becoming less and less externally repressed with respect to the nature of inanimate matter; he no longer believes in spirits or other apparitions; he no longer fears being alone with inanimate matter and his own thoughts. He is thus no longer impelled by a strong negative identification with matter into the refuge of strong positive identification with the primitive group. On the contrary, the family group, with its permanent hierarchic structure, its traditional taboos, sentiments, etc., becomes a fetter upon the individual’s new-won freedom and independence in the cosmic situation. The conservative group situation – which, with its hierarchy of identifications with power and success, assumes the fundamental inborn inequality of men and their innate division into permanent and qualitatively distinct levels of classes – becomes incompatible with the new assumptions, derived from the individual’s cosmic situation, of the fundamental qualitative sameness and equality of all being.
Alongside, therefore, with the development of the new cosmic situation, there develops a growing rejection of those assumptions and identifications which are essentially characteristic of the conservative outlook and way of life. A new ideological level is emerging that begins to express itself in terms which challenge the former assumptions of pre-ordained, innate and permanent hierarchy of all human and material nature. Transferring from the cosmic to the group situation the general ideas of universal change and natural development, the individual now begins to call for “Progress,” “Reform” and “Social Change.” The conservation of a more or less rigid unchangeable hierarchic social structure becomes a shackle upon the progress and development of the members of society, particularly those of the “lower orders.” “Freedom of the Individual,” “Tolerance,” “Liberty of the People,” thus become additional watch-words with the emergence of this newer stage in ideological development: a stage which is everywhere typified in the liberal mode of thought.
With the further growth of the deterministic and scientific view of the material universe, and the approach of the individual’s cosmic situation towards the philosophy of mechanistic materialism, the liberal group situation ripens into maturity. And with the full onset of these latter stages of growth the eido-static phase draws to its close. Simultaneously with this recession there occurs an ever-increasing positive identification of the individual with the principles (or assumptions) of universal change and determinism. In the cosmic and group situations of the eido-static phase all objects and entities of the external world – human and non-human alike – are given the status of independent, self-determined things in themselves, undergoing only such changes as do not alter their different qualitative natures, which latter remain, therefore, fixed, static and absolute. With the approach and advent of the eido-dynamic phase, however, the absolute status of each separate entity disappears. As the deterministic principle becomes more and more enthroned in the cosmic situation the assumption of, the independent and self-deterministic nature of entities gives way to the assumption of their complete dependence and relativity.
The final ascendancy and supremacy of the assumption of determinism coincides, as we have seen, with the complete elimination of self-determinism from the material universe – i.e. with the final internal repression of the assumption of self-determinism. Subjective mind ceases to exist; objective matter alone is real. For the mechanistic materialist, therefore, the principle of universal change or development can strictly apply only to the qualitative changes in the forms of objective material entities and beings. Hence, in the later stages of the liberal group situation, which typically come under the sway of the deterministic principle and mechanistic materialism, the liberal intellectual can still have no conception of a real, independent social evolution – i.e. an evolution involving not only qualitative changes of the material entities within the social organism, but involving also a series of fundamental qualitative changes of the whole social organism itself. Such social changes and reforms of the social structure which the liberal advocates, and with which he is emotionally identified, still leave the fundamental quality of the social and economic system – its hierarchic or class structure – as it was. The liberal does not advocate the abolition of capitalism with its inevitable hierarchy of economic categories, but rather the abolition of the conservative rigidity of that structure. All men must have an equal opportunity to raise themselves in the social structure; the common or poor man must have an equal opportunity to better himself; the hierarchic structure must become more fluid.
The foregoing is approximately the position at the outset of the eido-dynamic phase of development. The fuller and more definite growth of this phase involves the transition from the liberal to the socialist group situation, during which it becomes increasingly evident that the whole ideological structure is undergoing a major and fundamental re-orientation. We saw how, in the early part of the eido-static phase, the ideological structure was broadly divided so that its negative assumptions and identifications related to the non-human material world (the cosmic situation) and its positive assumptions and identifications related to human beings (the group situation). In other words, the primitive mind is externally repressed with respect to its cosmic situation and internally repressed with respect to its group situation. The negative identification with inanimate nature results from frustration, or “disestablishment,” in dealing with matter, and produces (a) the cosmic projection of forms of self-determinism which are internally repressed and (b) an obsessive interest in matter and in overcoming its limiting influence.
This state of affairs, we saw, became altered as understanding grew of the material world. As more and more of the limitations imposed by matter came to be accepted, transformation from negative to positive assumptions and identifications occurred. The growing mind became progressively less externally repressed with respect to the material world, and progressively more internally repressed with respect to it. The new growth led to the gradual isolation of the projected self determinism from the material world until, when the process of depersonification became complete, the absolute or self-deterministic assumption was completely repressed and expunged from the universe and from the mind. The deterministic assumption, derived from increasingly successful experience with matter, finally became enthroned in consciousness. The development of the cosmic situation, however, reacted upon the group situation. The rigid hierarchic structure of the group, together with the ideology which maintains and perpetuates it, becomes a fetter upon the individual’s development and begins to frustrate him. Transformation from positive to negative assumptions occurs, therefore, in respect of the existing group structure and the group modes of thought which support it. These latter become, in a word, intellectually and emotionally rejected. The individual (now separated from the mass group as an independent intellectual) has now become internally repressed with respect to the cosmic situation and has become externally repressed with respect to the group situation.
This eido-dynamic re-orientation of the ideological structure is a complete reversal of the orientation in the early part of the eido-static phase. The earlier eido-static orientation resulted in the projection of subjective self-determinism into the material world. When, later, self-determinism was separated from each and every object, finally repressed and expunged from the universe in favour of the deterministic principle, every object and entity became completely determined and relative. But this, of course, is only another way of regarding the material world as an entirely objective whole, independent, self-contained, self-determined, absolute and complete in itself. Thus the whole universe of relative, changing, determined and objective beings becomes itself a form of self-determinism – an absolute, constant and real objectivity, a reality completely independent of mind.
Now, we have learnt that, in the eido-dynamic re-orientation of the ideological structure, the individual becomes externally repressed in relation to the group. The earlier eido-static projection of subjective forms of self-determinism no longer occurs. But the mere exchange of the group situation for the cosmic situation as the sphere in which external repression operates, does not, of course, end the necessity of projection. In the same way that negative identification with matter resulted in the projection of self-determinism in its subjective form, so now, in the new phase – with its transposition of the cosmic and group situations – the negative identification with the group structure results in the projection of self-determinism, but in its objective form of complete and absolute determinism.
With this projection the individual now comes to regard the group structure as determined, not by the subjective and illusory ideas of the group members, but by quite independent objective laws and processes – particularly and ultimately economic laws and processes. By the operation of these same basic laws the group structure is changing and developing. For, as the minds of people are all equally and wholly determined by material conditions and do not determine themselves, as ideas and ideologies are but reflections of the objective world, then the large-scale and fundamental changes in the material economic conditions must necessarily produce fundamental ideological changes on a mass scale. Since these fundamental ideological changes must inevitably bring about an increasing understanding and rejection of the existing social structure on the part of the huge majority which occupies the inferior position in that structure, then the class or hierarchic nature of society is finally doomed to extinction by the concerted action of the masses. Human society is, therefore, developing towards a classless social order, in which all individuals shall be free and equal, in which wealth is produced for the use of all and not for the enrichment and power of the few, and in which the whole of the people shall own and control society for the benefit of all. The ideologies which support the class nature of society will fade away and become as extinct as the dodo. The classless society is therefore objectively self-determined and ideologically homogeneous.
Thus does our individual arrive, in his ideological development, at the socialist group situation. In the eido-static phase the subjective form of self-determinism was projected as a separate spiritual realm in which deterministic matter no longer frustrated the individual. It was a kind of compensation for the limitations and frustrations actually suffered. So, too, we see, in the eido-dynamic phase, there occurs a projection into the future, of the objective form of self-determinism – i.e. the objectively self-determined and rational social order. This, too, is a form of compensation for the actual limitations and frustrations suffered by the socialist intellectual in his relations with the group and its obstinate and persistent identifications with personal power, wealth, success, hierarchy, authority, leadership, “bosses” etc. In essence this projection is his own objective and deterministic attitude projected into the group.
Further development in the eido-dynamic phase leads more and more to the frustration of the intellectual in respect of the actual group and its dominant ideologies. The new growth leads, by successive stages similar to those we have already described, first to the communist group situation and then to that of the anarchist. As this occurs the intellectual develops stronger and stronger negative identification with the existing group structure; he becomes more obsessively interested in it and studies its origin and growth with increasing assiduity. The study of the group reacts upon his cosmic situation and this develops, from mechanistic and evolutionary materialism, to “dialectical materialism” – in which latter the repressed self-deterministic assumption partially returns to consciousness in the form of the dialectic principle, as the universal principle of all forms of change and motion.
However scientific he may be with regard to the study of material conditions and development, the intellectual’s strong and increasing emotional repudiation of existing class society, and his equally strong and increasing emotional sympathy for the projected classless society, prevent him from gaining a proper and adequate understanding of the masses and of the real nature of their characteristic ideology. For the violent emotional repudiation of the class or hierarchic structure extends to the “upper” or “capitalist” class, with whom that structure is associated. Similarly, the strong emotional sympathy or positive identification with the projected classless society extends to the “lower,” or “working,” class, who are associated with that society. The mass ideologies which perpetuate and support class society thus become identified with the capitalist class, who tend to become the repository of all that is vicious, machiavellian and irrational. The intellectual ideologies, on the other hand, become identified with the working class, with the masses themselves, who become thereby the repository for all that is socially healthy, virtuous, intelligent and rational.
This growing and “irreconcilable” dualism (between the existing society and the projected society) within the group situation of the eido-dynamic phase is a similar and complementary growth to the earlier dualism (between the existing world and the projected world) which developed in the cosmic situation of the eido-static phase – i.e. in dualistic idealism. In the eido-static phase the dualism was finally overcome by the increasing study and understanding of the material world. So, too, with the dualism within the group situations of the eido-dynamic phase: it can only be finally overcome by the further scientific study of the group – i.e. its ideological nature.
Continue reading The Domain of Ideologies by Harold Walsby (1947)
Part I Mass Groups and Intellectual Groups
Forward | The Paradox | The Political Groups | The Left Wing and Intellectualism | The Masses and Emotional Suggestibility | Fear of the Group | Political Collectivism | Political Individualism | The “Mass Rationality” Assumption
Part II Ideological Structure and Development
The Ideological Field | Definition of Ideology | Cognitive Assumptions | The Process of Assumptions | The Absolute Assumption | Identification | Development and Repression | Conclusion | Bibliography | Index
- PSI Circular Number Two (February 1979)
- PSI Circular Number One (January 1979)
- Joshua Feldman: Reconceptualising (systematic) Ideology in the Wake of Political Psychology
- George Walford and Ike Benjamin: The Sad Case of the SPGB
- Linda Sloane: Systematic Ideology and Identity / The Triangle of Society, Ideology and the Individual
- Their “Operation Utopia”
- George Orwell Letters to George Walford
- George Walford: The New Magic
- George Walford: Exploring Ideology
- George Walford: Sciences