Escape 24: So, where do we go from here?

Roger Albert - Always a Sociologist

Escape 24:  So, where do we go from here?

At the end of Chapter 8 Becker has a short section on transference.  Freud wrote a book on transference, a phenomenon he observed in clinical practice where a patient would transfer to his doctor feelings she once had towards her parents.  Patients were quick to abandon their egos to the new power figure in their lives.  Others, among them Adler, Rank, Jung and Fromm extended Freud’s observations.  It’s because of them, Becker argues that “today we can say that transference is a reflex of the fatality of the human condition.  Transference to a powerful other takes care of the overwhelmingness of the universe.” (p.127).  Transference is an incredibly powerful impulse.  How is it that “men were so sheeplike when they functioned in groups – how they abandoned their egos to the leader, identified with his powers just as they did once…

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Escape 23: Each society is a hero system that promises victory over evil and death.

Just let the title of this post sink in. Then ask yourself if it’s reasonable to think that the promises of victory over evil and death are possible. Meditate on that for a bit. Review history books. Read Becker.

Roger Albert - Always a Sociologist

Escape 23: Each society is a hero system that promises victory over evil and death.

Since there is no secular way to resolve the primal mystery of life and death, all secular societies are lies…Each society is a hero system that promises victory over evil and death.  But no mortal, nor even a group of as many as 700 million clean revolutionary mortals, can keep such a promise…it is not within man’s means to triumph over evil and death.  For secular societies the thing is ridiculous…cultures are fundamentally and basically styles of heroic death denial. 

 If each historical society is in some ways a lie or a mystification, the study of society becomes the revelation of the lie…We can then ask empirically, it seems to me, what are the costs of such denials of death, because we know how these denials are structured into styles of life.  These…

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Escape 22: The Science of Man after Hitler

Roger Albert - Always a Sociologist

Escape 22: The Science of Man after Hitler

I have lingered on guilt, sacrifice, heroism, and immortality because they are the key concepts for the science of man in society that is emerging on our time. 

 Sociology has largely ignored this kind of analysis because it’s been caught up with it’s own immortality-project, it’s own definition of itself as a structural or constructionist endeavour.  History, evolution and process are not welcome in its parlour.  In my younger days I thought that if I wrote interesting and relevant material I would be taken seriously.  I was a bit naïve.  Sociologists could ignore Hitler or Mao as aberrations.  Becker mentions two sociologists who bucked the trend, Kenneth Burke and Hugh Dalziel Duncan.  I don’t know their work.  It was never on the curriculum when I studied at university.  Although Burke died it 1995 he was born in 1897 so his work…

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Escape 21: Scapegoating 101: “Hell is other people.”

Yup, for most of us hell is other people, but not just any other people. Read on.

Roger Albert - Always a Sociologist

Escape 21: Scapegoating 101: “Hell is other people.”

This is going to be a shorter post than the last few…which have been way too long.  I fear I’m getting pedantic in my old age.  Say it ain’t so.  I’ll carry on now, pedantry or not.  One positive thing I’m getting out of this is that my typing skills are improving, if nothing else.

So, in the last post we looked at Becker’s use of the term ‘sacrifice’.  This post is about a related term, scapegoating.  Scapegoating is a form of sacrifice…in the early days using a real goat.  Now we do it with people, mostly people we blame, realistically or not, for all of our troubles.  Becker opens this part of Chapter 8 with a quote from Jean-Paul Sartre, the existentialist, who said “Hell is other people.”  I need to put that on a T-shirt, damn it!

From the beginning…

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Escape 20: Why do we have to fight the death star?

Just read it.

Roger Albert - Always a Sociologist

Escape 20: Why do we have to fight the death star?

No, this post isn’t exactly about Star Wars, but that movie is such a brilliant commentary on a power mega-machine gone mad that it could easily serve as a basis for the discussion here. In many ways, movie makers have been more intuitively in tune with the insanity of the world today than most intellectuals and politicians, of course. Maybe after I finish this Becker marathon, I’ll turn to how movies and books have given us insights into our basis fears of life and death.

Chapter 8 in Becker’s EFE is called The Nature of Social Evil.  It’s a very dense chapter in which Becker can now get to the nitty-gritty.  He’s laid the groundwork and summarizes it in the first paragraph of the chapter, which I reproduce here in its entirety.

We have seen with Rank that the driving…

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Escape 19: All you wanted to know about human evil but were afraid to ask!

Does this ring a bell? From this post: In his conclusion that much of the misery on this planet is a consequence of our attempt to deny our animal nature, the question for Reich is: how could we so willingly give over [our] destiny to the state and the great leader? (p. 93) Because we’re such suckers for promises of prosperity and good times ahead if only we follow the great leader, the steady, thoughtful great leader. But, unfortunately, in attempts to avoid natural plagues and disasters by investing our trust in great leaders we unwittingly unleashed another plague brought on by our thoughtless allegiance and obedience to the politician.

Roger Albert - Always a Sociologist

Escape 19: All you wanted to know about human evil but were afraid to ask!

Well, it looks like I may just get through this 30 day Becker marathon in 30 days.  I’m on Chapter 7 now, which starts on page 91.  Since there’s 170 pages in the book I’m close to half way there.

As noted earlier, Becker is the great synthesizer.  He gleans in a critical way the works of others to build his own model of how the world works.  Those ‘others’ include hundreds of scholars of all disciplines as can be verified by a glance at the bibliographic entries in his many books, but major influences have been Hocart, Huizinga, Brown and Rank.  The school of psychoanalysis to which Becker subscribes is the school, which broke away from Freud.  Rank was a special protégé of Freud’s but could not accept Freud’s Oedipus Complex and other aspects…

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Escape 18: Our Bodies, Our Deaths.

Be sure of this: in our society, poverty is sin.

Roger Albert - Always a Sociologist

Escape 18: Our Bodies our Deaths: What evil has history wrought?

Chapter 6 in EFE ends with a section called The Demonics of History.  How to summarize Becker’s arguments here?  Not without some difficulty: every sentence is jam packed with meaning.  In the last post we noted that money is the new immortality ideology but ‘new’ here means after the fall of primitive society and the rise of classes some 10 to 12 thousand years ago in some parts of the world, much later in others.  But, it’s complicated.  As Becker writes:

If we say that ‘money is God,’ this seems like a simple and cynical observation on the corruptibility of men.  But if we say that ‘money negotiates immortality and therefore is God,’ this is a scientific formula that is limpidly objective to any serious student of man…We see the changes from tribal modes of achieving power to money…

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