The Essence of Totalitarian Humanism

A very interesting discussion between Paul Gottfried and Richard Spencer. Listen here. About 36 minutes into this, Gottfried describes what I would consider to be the essence of Totalitarian Humanism: A system where the state controls all resources in the name of engineering social equality and ostensibly assisting designated official victim groups.

The development of a solid and comprehensive critique of Totalitarian Humanism is essential to the development of a serious anarchist movement in the advanced industrialized countries of European cultural origins. It is this ideological framework that increasingly provides the legitimizing mythology of the state. It is this ideology that serves as a cover for the continuation of traditional efforts by states to control thought, speech, and association.

I do not regard this as a Left/Right issue. Just as sensible people of every political ideology had serious reason to oppose ideological movements like Bolshevism, so do both sensible leftists and rightists alike have an interest in opposing Totalitarian Humanism. Indeed, I consider this issue to be the contemporary version of the historic battle between Anarchists and Communists.

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  1. Keith,

    Do you have any thoughts on how Totalitarian Humanism ties in with Democracy Worship? Gottfried writes about both. I see a connection, egalitarianism. I also believe that the ruling class is influenced by both. And, as you pointed out in your commentary on the recent “Ruling Class” article, the ruling class is also tied to the military industrial complex. Totalitarian Humanism and Democracy Worship are both used nowadays to justify war/occupation/bombing campaigns/etc.


  2. I would consider Mass Democracy to be the preferred form of political organization for the Totalitarian Humanists. I define totalitarianism in the same way as the inventor of the term, Mussolini: “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” A society is totalitarian to the degree that the state permeates it. In America, the state consumes something like 37% of GDP. In Europe, it’s well over 50% sometimes approaching 60%. North Korea is 100% or close to it. This probably explains why Europe is arguably further along the route to totalitarian humanism than America (gun control, speech laws, the EU, etc.) America has a cultural bias against statism that is not as pronounced in Europe.

    A state can theoretically be totalitarian without being a formal dictatorship in the Hitler/Lenin sense. A formal democracy can simply have a statist bureaucracy that is so large it becomes totalitarian by nature. Also, Hayek said that the hallmark of totalitarian law is not necessarily its brutality as much as it arbitrariness. We’re started to see more and more of that in all areas of law-criminal, civil, family, regulatory, etc. Of course, you’d probably know more about that than I would given your line of work and expertise.

    Totalitarian Humanists deify mass democracy largely due to the influence of Rousseau and Marx on their thinking. They adhere to the myth of the democratic state as a reflection of some kind of nebulous “general will” and are also influenced by the Marxist view of the state as an instrument of class power. I think both the Rousseauan and Marxist views are partially rooted in the weakness of Locke’s protective view of the state. They really think the state can be a neutral umpire that merely upholds rights, and they want to expand the realm of “rights” to include all of the positive rights promoted by modern leftists. This can only be done through a massive statist permeation of society, a vast enforcement bureaucracy, interference in all areas of life, which will somehow be “liberatory” and “democratic” because the state remains a formal democracy and somehow reflects a general will.

    “Totalitarian Humanism and Democracy Worship are both used nowadays to justify war/occupation/bombing campaigns/etc.”

    See Christopher Hitchens. I think Chomsky’s dissection of “military humanism” is actually quite good on this question.

  3. The Humanists are direct descendents of the Puritans who burned down the settlement at Merry Mount and burned Native Americans alive in their wigwams, through the Unitarians who gave us the Civil War and Prohibition. Even now most Unitarian Universalists list their “religion” as Humanist, oddly enough the second largest bloc in Uni-Uni cult identify themselves as Jewish. And that explains alot, the whole New England cabal of self rightous imperialists meet up every Sunday in their white wooden “churches” with their Rainbow flags fluttering out front and gloat and congratulate themselves on how much better they are than everyone else. When the term New England Brahmin was coined to refer to this crowd, I always thought it was simply referring to the fact that they were the nations power elite. But having been living up here amongst them, I see that they actually do see themselves as Americas Brahmin, not only are they the power elite, but they honestly do see themselves as pure, guiltless and above reproach. Granted a great many of them are useful idiots, oblivious to the crimes commited by their “caste” but a whole hell of a lot them are concoiusly evil.

  4. Keith,

    One wrinkle I’ve noticed in the ruling class’s approach to democracy is that if the masses do not vote the correct way, they use the courts to thwart the popular will, as in the right to gay marriage.

    Another point: Rousseau believed that by participating in democracy, the masses would improve their malleable human natures, which are currently set to vicious and greedy. Of course, the opposite is true. To the extent human nature is malleable, voting for the State to take money from your neighbor and give it to you can only be corrupting.


    I can totally picture a Uni-Uni church and congregation from your description.

    My hunch is that Rousseau’s ideas came to America through the Unitarians. Horace Mann, if not a Unitarian himself, was connected to the Unitarians, and his ideas on public education are very Roussean: transform currently bad human nature to good human nature through public education.


  5. “One wrinkle I’ve noticed in the ruling class’s approach to democracy is that if the masses do not vote the correct way, they use the courts to thwart the popular will, as in the right to gay marriage.”

    That’s compatible with the Rousseauan-Jacobin view that man must be forced to be free, as well as the Leninist view that the proles are too unenlightened to know their own true interests, so an elite must come in and impose it on them.

  6. That’s true. Rousseau’s concept of the general will wasn’t simply another word for the vote tally. The true general will wouldn’t always be reflected by the results of the voting booths.

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