“… the fully enlightened earth radiates disaster triumphant. “1 This is the second sentence of Dialectic of Enlightenment; an extremely depressing view of modernity. “Instrumental rationality, modern science, bureaucracy and capitalist economic behaviour, the elements of Weber’s modern nightmare, appear in a new light. “2 Unlike Weber, who considered the twentieth century to be one of both formal and substantive rationality, Adorno and Horkheimer argued it is substantively irrational.
The latter part of the Dialectic of Enlightenment, Elements of Anti-Semitism oncentrates on the reasons behind the atrocities perpetrated by the Germans towards the Jews. This essay intends to: look at the theory of the charismatic leader; to describe very briefly their seven elements of anti-Semitism; and together with some of their other publications, to examine in a little more detail some of their psychological reasons put forward for the rise of fascism. It will also consider some of the criticisms against Adorno and Horkheimer’s theses of collective hatred.
Adorno and Horkheimer as Jewish members of the Frankfurt School left Germany during the rise f Nazism and moved to the United States. As Marxists, they linked capitalism to anti-Semitism. `”The long term tendency towards … domination went through a classical capitalist stage before reaching its apotheosis in fascism. “3 They thought they recognised similarities between the features of American mass culture and the rise of nazism in Germany. The cult of the ‘star’, which could be seen in the United States, they considered to exhibit similar features to the adoration shown towards Hitler.
It is this type of ‘charismatic leader’ that Weber called a ‘natural leader’, where the performance and personality re important, not the content of the speech. This type of leader worship is an example of the irrational, regressive and childish nature of humankind being pushed into the foreground. 4 The charismatic leader proved to be a successful vehicle for the use of propaganda, achieved by the way they: “Identify themselves with their listeners and lay particular emphasis upon being simultaneously both modest little men and leaders of great calibre… … his personalised propaganda is essentially non- objective. ”
The propaganda becomes the content, and functions as a wish fulfilment. Audiences are ‘let in’ to an ‘elite circle’ where scandals, sexual excess and atrocities are told. Adorno argued that the indignation expressed by the listener is nothing but a thinly disguised rationalisation of the pleasure received from listening to these stories. 6 Nazi propaganda was particularly efficient at attacking imaginary opponents, through simple and repetitive use of words the speaker bypasses the control mechanisms of rational examination.
The word becomes a sign, “… a black-shirt, a member of the Hitler Youth and so on, are no more than names. “7 In the same way, the Jews ere no longer members of the human race, but filthy, sexually promiscuous vermin. Hitler took on a complex mixture of Freud’s primitive all powerful, sexually potent father, together with the son; who with his brothers will overthrow and eat their father. 8 This father figure may have sexual magnetism, but is also terrifying, whereas the son has the image of protector. When these two psychological images are placed into one person, the attraction becomes overwhelming.
It taps into a dark and dangerous part of the human psyche, and the symbolic violence of ranting peeches, rallies and uniforms are turned into real violence which satisfied the repressed nature of human beings. This partly explains the rise of collective hatred towards the Jews, but we shall now look at Adorno and Horkheimer’s Elements of Anti-Semitism. The first part considers two Liberal theories, firstly arguing that the Jews are viewed as an opposing race and must be destroyed. The second, that irrational anger in society no longer has a place.
It therefore must find an outlet, and it was found in the Jews. Part two looks at anti- Semitism as a populist movement. Anti-Semitic behaviour is generated in situations where blinded men robbed of their subjectivity are set loose as subjects. “9 Freud argued that civilisation involves giving up our barbaric pleasure in sacrifice, but in doing so we make an internal sacrifice; we become neurotic and repressed. The pogroms were no more than an imprinted schema of ritual murder and sacrifice. The third chapter examines bourgeois anti-Semitism.
It is argued that the Jews were the spreaders of capitalism, although not real capitalists as they did not own the means of production. Even so, the Jews were the scapegoats for those who suffered under the capitalist regime. Part four examined the religious aspect of anti-Semitism, suggesting that the link between the religion and the consciousness has been cut, through enlightenment and domination. 10 Therefore, “It is impossible to arouse the feelings of the masses today by suggesting that the Jews are obstinate unbelievers.
The fanatical faith in the leader is an outlet for repressed religious feelings. Parts five and six deal with the theory of mimesis, the human instinct to mimic, and false rojection. True mimesis, the basic instinct of mimicking the environment, has been altered by civilisation. Mimesis went through a magical phase of dressing and dancing in the form of animals; art and theatre are also forms of mimetic behaviour. It then reached its scientific phase. Science and technology has allowed us, instead of mimicking our environment, to control and dominate it; we force the environment into our own image.
The bourgeois mode of production has turned mimesis into social domination as it needs to control and produce a sense of order. Control nd domination does not mean the fear and terror of nature goes away, on the contrary it is always with us but it is repressed and pushed into the far reaches of the id. The ego which Freud argues separates the external world from itself12, Adorno and Horkheimer suggest developed to resist the instinct to mimic. “In the constitution of the ego reflective mimesis becomes controlled reflection. 13 The id is not simply a receptacle for natural mimetic behaviour, but as Freud suggested it is; “… the unconscious locus of the primitive, unsocialized instincts. “14 The sense of smell embodies a deep desire for lower forms of existence,15 and a prominent feature of many Jews is their nose. Freud argued, cleanliness, beauty and order are requirements of civilisation,16 yet in a civilised society, smell together with uncontrolled sexuality and bodily excreta are considered as base instincts and a feature of lower animals.
When fault is found with civilisation we try to find the roots of the problem. Adorno and Horkheimer argue that fascism and capitalism go hand in hand, the Jews were an obvious target because they were the non- roducers, the middle men. Once a group has been marginalised its members become the focus of hatred, all the repressed instincts of sexual desire, bodily dirt, and greed are recognised in the ‘other’. The hatred and fear felt is projected onto the other, and if the other has those feelings then they must hate and want to harm those to whom the feelings really belong.
This is a false projection. “This type of false projection was equivalent to paranoia, but instead of being a personal problem, paranoia had been politicised in the modern world. To many who succumbed to its appeal, fascism rovided a mass delusional system that was mistaken for reality. “17 Fascism with its rituals, uniforms, and gestures and words being repeated is a vehicle for false mimetic behaviour, creating a desire to dominate and a frenzy of collective hatred. “The normal member of society dispels his own paranoia by participating in the collective form. 18 Enjoyment is found in the persecution of the other, and this brings us back to the charismatic leader as it is done through both identification and mimicry of authority. The final section of Elements of Anti-Semitism, the only part written after the end of World War Two, opens with the statement: “But there are no more anti-Semites. “19 Although this sounds like an absurd statement, it is suggested here that Adorno and Horkheimer were saying that no one would admit to being an anti-Semite in the United States, but anti-Semitism existed in a less obvious form.
Political candidates would not stand on an anti-Semitic ticket, but it was still one of the planks of their platform. By voting for them the fascists can return to power, because you cannot choose the planks you want without taking the whole stage. One of the arguments that has been put forward against Adorno and Horkheimer’s work is that: “… there is an element of biological determinism which makes the argument against the racist, racist itself. “20 This may be true to a certain extent, but if the Authoritarian Personality is read it becomes clear that they certainly recognised there was anti-Semitism in the United States. 1 They argued that capitalist societies help to produce a weak ego, leaving people open to the attraction of demagogic personalities.
A second argument against Adorno and Horkheimer is that they ppear to be arguing that the only reason the ego develops is because it is in conflict which the id. 23 Once again this is true of the Dialectic of Enlightenment, but Horkheimer has been seen to take a more traditional Freudian view of ego development through the father. 24 Adorno and Horkheimer have been criticised for linking anti-Semitism in America with that of Nazi Germany. 5 This it is suggested here is a ridiculous complaint, firstly prejudiced views can never be tolerated as they can lead to the most monstrous behaviour as was seen in Germany. Secondly, as America, is a country of great power anti-Semitism there could have global effects. Adorno and Horkheimer, although presenting different elements of anti-Semitism made no attempt to weigh the relative significance of each one.
This leaves the reader with a desire to ask them which ones they considered the most important, but as Nietzsche urges, one should learn: “… o employ a variety of perspectives in the service of knowledge”27 There are three remaining problems with Adorno and Horkheimer’s work which need to be discussed . Firstly, their work depends heavily on Freudian theories of civilisation, the ego and the d. If the reader believes that Freud was a charlatan as Masson, Schatzman or Crews do, then there is nothing left of their argument except that capitalism is the cause of anti-Semitism. This brings us to the second difficulty with their work.
If capitalism is as tightly connected to anti- Semitism as the authors suggest, then why were the Jews persecuted in the USSR during Stalin’s regime? There is also a problem with other forms of prejudice which one assumes have a similar basis to anti-Semitism. Yet Rwanda, which is not an advanced capitalist state, has witnessed imilar atrocities to those that took place in Germany even if not on the same scale. Finally, Adorno and Horkheimer appear to offer no way out of this depressing state of affairs.
We all have these destructive repressed instincts buried in our individual id, with an ever weakening ego due to the expansion of mass culture, at the slightest inducement the contents of the id will break free and we shall return to barbarism. This essay has attempted to outline Adorno and Horkheimer’s account of collective hatred; their connection of anti-Semitic behaviour with capitalism, and how the cult of the star and the harismatic leader have similarities. They suggested that rather than science and technology producing more freedom, it has dominated the environment and the human race.
In discussing their theories of anti-Semitism it became clear that Adorno and Horkheimer considered the perpetrators of the Holocaust to have recognised in the Jews all their own fears through false projection. Although this essay has criticised their insistence in tying capitalism to anti-Semitism in the way they did, and for having such a pessimistic view of the future, it is suggested here that hey have provided a plausible reason for collective hatred that many other writers were unable to find.
The contrast between the rationality of the means and the irrationality of the ends of the ‘Final Solution’ has brought forth many different explanations. These have ranged from historical, to economic, to it was all Hitler’s fault, but none of these on their own or when placed together ever quite managed to explain why ordinary people could suddenly change into the monsters of the Third Reich. Perhaps Adorno and Horkheimer have succeeded where others have failed.