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Surgical Totalitarianism

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Dan Corjescu       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   3 comments

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You don't have to control everything to be in total control.


In the modern world this seeming paradox is a systemic reality.


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In the past, classic totalitarian governments sought to literally control every aspect of biopower.


As it turned out, this was a very inefficient and self-defeating way to maintain and increase scientific knowledge and technology, capital accumulation, and total effective power over the long term.

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Modern totalitarian arrangements are far more culturally efficacious, superficially unobtrusive, stylistically democratic, and, most importantly, surgically precise.


In addition, modern totalitarian elites not only demand de facto control over society as such, but they also desire, as part of their inner ideological ethos, the exercise of that power to reproduce itself under maximum conditions of ease, pleasure, and comfort. Thus, the creation and maintenance of a consumerist society both materially and ideologically aids in the reproduction of neo-totalitarian power.


A consumerist society is to a large extent a self-regulating mechanism for the constant pursuit of public spectacle and private stimulation. The senses and general life instincts are caught in a web of the pursuance of small pleasures. In this way, pleasure itself becomes an insidiously saccharine form of domination. Yet, from time to time, consumerist relations must be guided, reinforced, and given new goals and reflationary impetus from above.

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The political structure in modern, surgical totalitarianism is set up in such a way as to give the appearance of active participation, psychological inclusion, and periodic mass mobilization. However, all consequential decision-making takes place behind this fraudulent structure and represents the true "commanding heights" of power. The political superstructure serves, at best, as perennial decoy and public delusion.


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PhD in Continental Philosophy. Regular contributor to Counterpunch.org Teach at Ravensburg-Weingarten and Neu Ulm University of Applied Sciences.

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2 people are discussing this page, with 3 comments  Post Comment


Dan Corjescu

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  New Content

Back to Marcuse!

Submitted on Wednesday, Jan 9, 2019 at 8:11:51 PM

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Kenneth Johnson

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Reply to Dan Corjescu:   New Content

As a dialectical thinker, Marcuse was also able to see both sides of the coin.

Radical, huh?

Since 1945, we have been conditioned to believe that Germans are radical.

Submitted on Thursday, Jan 10, 2019 at 8:27:59 PM

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Dan Corjescu

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Reply to Kenneth Johnson:   New Content

Yes, Marcuse is father to us all. But I think that power, particularly in the form of hierarchy, predates capitalism. Marcuse touched on this of course but, as a Marxist, I think he was misled into thinking that capitalism was driving total power; I think, as I wrote, it's the other way around.

Submitted on Thursday, Jan 10, 2019 at 9:15:09 PM

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