Law School Discussion


« Reply #110 on: May 30, 2006, 07:07:32 PM »
Fromm portrayed fascism as a perfect example of the sadomasochistic symbiotic relationship that could be exhibited in the entire character structure of a society. He declared that there were "great parts of the lower middle class in Germany and other European countries [in which] the sadomasochistic character is typical." This type of society, according to Fromm, has a strong desire to submit to an overwhelmingly strong authority, while simultaneously needing to be seen and treated as an authority figure among other social groups, thus sustaining a hierarchy of power. Adolf Hitler was seen by Fromm as the embodiment of the sadomasochistic authoritarian. Fromm described how Hitler understood and used the need for security and the desire to escape from freedom via submission to a higher authority. He recognized Hitler's use of the domineering style of oratory as well as the brainwashing techniques that are now known to be used in conjunction with fear, physical exhaustion, alienation, subsequent group assimilation, and the formation of a social structure in which group superiority over others is emphasized.

Fromm delineated a particular type of destructiveness — a pernicious form of continual, subdued, fervent hostility that "waits only for an opportunity to be expressed" — that could be equated to terrorism. This, Fromm believed, evolves from a lack of individual empowerment, the inability of an individual to express self, and the absence of positive freedom. Fromm referred to it as a "thwarting of life." Hitler's Nazi party manipulated and used this type of destructive behavior to further its aims. Ironically, as Fromm noted, the destruction most likely will be aimed at those who offer freedom — the freedom which brings with it feelings of insecurity and powerlessness, the freedom of not knowing what to do or when to do it — fueled by resentment of a new structure that does not possess the power to instill the level of fear that the populous had lived with for many years.

Fear of Freedom: Destroying "Self"

Fromm also discussed a form of mental self-destruction. He noted that an illusory result of the hunt for escape from aloneness and anxiety was the deletion, or at a minimum, a strong suppression of one's real self and the subsequent replacement with what he called a "pseudo self." This pseudo self or superficial self eases into the security of conformity, submission, and identity with a "larger whole." Fromm argued that conformity and submission of the pseudo self was evident in the "part of the [European] population [that] bowed to the Nazi regime without any strong resistance, but also without becoming admirers of the Nazi ideology and political practice." This subset was made up "of the working class and the liberal ... bourgeoisie." These groups, while initially hostile to the Nazi party, collectively dropped their resistance in the interests of hiding within the security found in conformity and submission. Fromm cited a "state of inner tiredness and resignation." Fromm noted that in Germany during the 1930s, the working class developed a strong "feeling of resignation, of disbelief in their leaders, of doubt about the value of any kind of political organization and activity. ... Deep within themselves many had given up any hope in the effectiveness of political action." Thus they suppressed or destroyed their questioning, rebellious, hopeful selves.

But resignation to a devil is one thing — actively fighting for him is another. Fromm observed that an interesting psychological aspect of the suppression of self is the individual's transference of identity to a larger whole (also noted in Orwell's 1984). Although working -class members of Hitler's Germany did not self-identify with the Nazi image, they did identify strongly with their country. Hitler and the Nazi party virtually became Germany:

It can be observed in many instances that persons who are not Nazis nevertheless defend Nazism against criticism of foreigners because they feel that an attack on Nazis is an attack on Germany. ... This consideration results in an axiom which is important for the problems of political propaganda: any attack on Germany as such, any defamatory propaganda concerning “the Germans" ... only increases the loyalty of those who are not wholly identified with the Nazi system.

Fear of Freedom: Survival of the Fittest

Characteristic of the authoritarian sadomasochist, Hitler began his crusade on the heels of and surrounded by those he considered inferior. The achievement of ultimate power was their driving force. This quest for world domination was, to Hitler, justified as the ultimate realization of Darwin's theory of survival of the strong over the weak:

The love for the powerful and the hatred for the powerless which is so typical for the sado-masochistic character explains a great deal of Hitler's and his followers' political actions. While the [Weimar] Republican government thought they could "appease" the Nazis by treating them leniently, they not only failed to appease them but aroused their hatred by the very lack of power and firmness they showed. Hitler hated the Weimar Republic because [italics added] it was weak, and he admired the industrial and military leaders because they had power. He never fought against established strong power but always against groups which he thought to be essentially powerless. Hitler's — and for that matter Mussolini's — "revolution" happened under protection of existing power, and their favorite objects were those who could not defend themselves.

In other words, fascist power (like the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing) has historically been aided and abetted (albeit unconsciously) by the weaker government it eventually replaced. The manner in which both Mussolini and Hitler fell from power (in the minds of those who were ruled by them) was consistent with Fromm's depiction of a mutual sadomasochistic relationship between the oppressed and the oppressor. In Fromm's descriptions of the authoritarian character, one could extrapolate a tendency of totalitarian societies to implode. The sadomasochistic personality sees "lack of power ... [as] an unmistakable sign of guilt and inferiority, and if the authority ... shows signs of weakness, his love and respect change into contempt and hatred." Thus, Fromm explained the basis of Mussolini's fate at the hands of his followers in 1945, Hitler's problems with his trusted elite toward the end of the war.
I shall remain an impossible person so long as those who are now possible remain possible.

« Reply #111 on: May 30, 2006, 07:24:43 PM »
tania, your expose is admittedly respectable. I would like to add some other interpretations of the "fascism" phenomenon, given the importance the theme will play in the near future.

The insistence that fascism emerged first and foremost through the medium of disturbed or inadequate personalities and that, therefore, its social manifestations are simply the articulation of deeper psychological drives, proved highly convincing within an inter-war context in which psychological theories were particularly fashionable in European and North American intellectual circles - with the general popularisation (and trivialisation) of Freudian beliefs.

Social psychologists of the inter-war period insisted that the key to fascism lay not in the collective psychological breakdown of the masses alone, but rather in the extreme character structures of the fascist leaders and activists themselves, which gave them a messianic mass appeal and the fanatical zeal necessary to achieve their goals, with Hitler singled out as the prime example. Thus the Reich ... [for Hitler] replaces the phallic force of a normal man (Raymond De Saussure's "Collective Neurosis of Germany") The main problem with this "Hitler the deviant abnormality" thesis is explaining why so many Germans accept him as their leader? De Saussure asserted that the authoritarian beliefs of most German fathers were chiefly to blame -- ensuring the development of latent homosexual characteristics in their sons, while unconsciously making the German 'fatherland' into an ideal mother, leading to a subservient attitude towards a centralised state. Further, the advent of the First World War created a secondary 'super-ego' in such individuals fracturing the personality and giving rise a paranoid society which Hitler and Mussolini had exploited politically. Erik Erikson (1942) claimed that Hitler's fascism was a form of adolescent rebellion caused largely by the rejection of his father and ambivalent feelings towards his mother. Taken to its logical conclusion, interpreting Hitler's drives in such purely psychological terms would make one to link his invasion of the Soviet Union in 1942 to an attack aimed subconsciously on a rival surrogate 'Mother' – Russia.

In I962 Martin Waugh wrote an influential article on the psycho-analytical genesis of prejudice and Nazism. He argued that the experience of young children during the First World War was the key to an understanding of Nazism. With fathers were away in the war, their mothers became deeply anxious. The pressures on these individuals in 1920s Germany triggered a regression to a stage of early childhood. He noted that the Nazi party was largely a party of youth, with 10% of the voters in 1933 small children in 1914. Childhood fears during the war years had been projected on the inadequate mother, and therefore the typical castration fears of the Oedipal phase became exaggerated. He also claimed that dire food shortages in 1917 caused "oral regression" which resulted in ego weakness, sadism and increased latent homosexuality.

The Search for the 'Authoritarian Personality'

Another related approach was to find ways of detecting latent fascist attitudes in the wider population, so that incipient fascist tendencies could be uncovered in any society. In 1943 A.H. Maslow listed the basic components of a generic "authoritarian personality" These included a strong feeling of hierarchy, a drive for power, a hatred of some other group/s, judgement of individuals by their surface characteristics, a narrow scale of values, anti-intellectualism, a tendency to sadomasochism and latent homosexuality, hostility towards women, compulsive routinisation and rigid self-discipline, an inability to accept responsibility for one's own actions and a constant search for security. Maslow claimed that if employed properly the psychoanalyst's tools could be used as weapons to identify and therefore nip fascism in the bud . Although Maslow's taxonomy is interesting and suggestive, much of this early work when applied to the real world was extremely crude and an amazing depth of proto-fascism was suddenly and effortlessly detected in the population of the United States, where much of the work was undertaken.

Later, T. W. Adorno, Else Frankel-Brunswik, Daniel J. Levinson, and R. Nevitt Sanford published "The Authoritarian Personality," undoubtedly the classic work derived from this methodology. The book opens with the assumption that "natural authoritarians" are also natural anti-democrats and that such individuals typically exhibit a number of definable character traits, which are then used as two scales for testing. First comes the aptly named "F scale" with anti-Semitism, ethnocentrism, economic conservatism, rigid beliefs, (i.e. the use of violence to solve social and political disputes), stereotyping, sharply distinctions made between "in" - and "out"-group, and admiration for strong and pitiless leadership. By contrast the liberal democrat scale is based upon support for underdogs; suspicion of overblown patriotism; tolerance of deviancy, support for scientific rationalism, and rejection wealth as the source of power and virtue. There is an extraordinary and largely unquestioned normative element in these scales. All conservatives and right wing individuals are automatically lumped under the anti-democratic authoritarian label and all those on the left emerge as natural democrats. Both liberal and left-wing authoritarianism is automatically ruled out. When questioned by researchers employing such assumptions, it is small wonder that most of Adorno et al's subjects fell neatly into the categories prepared for them, so 'proving' the Authoritarian Personality thesis and revealing a huge pool of latent fascists lurking in the US in the 1950s.

« Reply #112 on: May 30, 2006, 07:33:29 PM »
Wilhelm Reich and Sexual Politics

In his search to uncover and analyse the still obscure relationship between "social being" and "consciousness", the German Marxist and psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Reich, published his important study Massenpsychologie des Faschismus (The Mass Psychology of Fascism) in 1933, causing his expulsion from the German communist party. Reich attempted to explain Fascism broadly in the form of a bizarre political economy of sex. Elaborating on themes drawn principally from Freud and Engels, he defined fascism as a political manifestation of the psychology of the broad masses frustrated in successive and failed attempts at collective action to attain the democratisation of society in their own interests. Reich's thesis was that sexual inhibition, rooted in the authoritarian family (repressing infant masturbation and the sexual intercourse between adolescents), was ultimately the cause of the authoritarian state's structure and fascist ideology. There was more than a whiff of Saussure-like determinism in this aspect of Reich's work. Reich argued that the Freudian unconscious, characterised as the antisocial element in the human structure, is simply a secondary result of the repression of primary biological impulses by the authoritarian family which is at root of the authoritarian state. Exactly as the patriarchal authority of the father requires sexual abstention on the part of women and children in the family, so too authoritarianism and nationalism are a continuation of these repressed family ties at the level of state structures, holding back democratisation and true freedom. Even modern imperialism is liked back to inter-family rivalry – characterised as "family imperialism".

According to Reich, World War I provided the crucial external stimulus to move this family repression into a new and fascist phase, as it put paid to many of the already decaying authoritarian institutions in Europe and underlay a subsequent attempt on the part of European democracies to lead humanity toward genuine freedom. Instead this process unleashed a "psychic plague" in which forces long repressed by the superficial layer of good manners and the domination of an artificial Ego, which were carried by the same multitudes that searched for freedom, cleared a path toward [fascist] action. Fascism is seen as differing from other reactionary parties in that it is championed by the masses. As a consequence it betrays all the characteristics and contradictions present in the character structure of the modern mass individual. Consequently fascism is not, as is commonly believed, a purely reactionary movement - it represents an amalgam of rebellious emotions and reactionary social ideas. Thus, for Reich fascist mentality is the mentality of the "little man," who is enslaved and craves authority and is at the same time rebellious.

Erich Fromm

Erich Fromm's "Escape from Freedom," published in 1941, and his "The Sane Society," written in 1955 represent the most important studies of fascism conducted by a libertarian leftist social-psychologist. His work mixed the psychology of his one-time collaborator Karen Horney and the philosophy of the "young Marx," in order to discover the individual basis of fascism. His other intellectual touch-stone was Marx's concept of alienation. He denied the neo-Freudian analyses that modern feelings of alienation are the result of a whole society becoming "neurotic." Rather alienation is depicted as highly class-specific, since while the basis of fascism is indeed found in the individual sadomasochistic authoritarian personality, this is largely due to the aggressiveness of an alienated and threatened petit bourgeois class, rather than any collective neurosis effecting all social strata. For Fromm fascism results from a distinctly modern form of alienation, representing an expression of the fears and anxieties of those individuals and groups who had lost their bearings in modern society, which was then extended through populist politics and economic collapse to much wider spectrum of society.

Fromm believed that the events after the First World War had intensified the traits to which the Nazi ideology had its strongest appeal amongst these strata – namely a craving for submission and a lust for power. He also notes that it was not only the economic position of this strata class that declined more rapidly after the war, but its social prestige as well. Finally the war ended the power of the last stronghold of middle class security - the family. For Fromm, modern alienated capitalist society has become inimical to the realisation of human happiness and self-realisation and the search for authoritarian leadership is part of the wider search for new social bonds to replace those which have largely disappeared without replacement. In short, bourgeois capitalist society had created the social-psychological and ethical preconditions for fascism.

Like Reich before him Fromm did not hesitate to assert that fascism and Stalinism also had elements in common and are seen as the culmination of alienation. Individuals are made to feel powerless and insignificant, projecting all powers into the figure of the leader, the party, the state, the fatherland, to whom submission and worship is demanded. Thus the supporter of fascism or Stalinism escapes from freedom into a new idolatry in which Mussolini, a cowardly braggart, became a symbol for maleness and courage. Hitler, a maniac of destruction, was praised as the builder of a new Germany. Stalin, a cold-blooded, ambitious schemer, was painted as the loving father of his people.

« Reply #113 on: May 31, 2006, 09:48:34 PM »
Delete this thread!

« Reply #114 on: June 01, 2006, 08:57:27 PM »
Why but?


« Reply #115 on: June 01, 2006, 09:44:40 PM »
Some amazing posts on page 8 of this thread!

« Reply #116 on: June 08, 2006, 07:59:03 PM »

I can understand the "need" for grading on a curve on the part of law schools ... I mean, it makes sense for the law school as a financial institution. Not to mention that law schools are expected by employers to rate the meat and impose a kind of slightly paranoid mindset that is very receptive to structural authority/hierarchy. But even the law schools themselves can not pretend the current system of grading represent a "fair" way of measuring the student's knowledge of their courses' content against a neutral baseline.  And I'm not particularly interested in offering arguments to justify this or in helping the law schools make more money

The curve encourages laziness in both professors and students. I hope that our professors, if faced with a brilliant class that "got" more of the material relative to other years or relative to an absolute scale would feel a deep and abiding sense of shame at handing out the exact same percentage of grades year after year. Unfortunately, I think none of them, even the self-styled radicals, will do anything about it. 

Being smart and successful in law is possible only for those armed with the "kill or be killed" mentality. Competition is inevitable, but in a cutthroat world that rewards street smarts and cunning — along with good connections and unlimited funds — conquering enemies is the necessary ingredient for true success. You want to know "everything-you-wanted-to-learn-in-law-school-but-didn't"? If you want to be a rule maker, then you must know the rules, which include be bold, don't sleep and be prepared to settle. It's not always pretty and it's certainly never fair, but the sooner one accepts the reality of this cold, hard business world, the sooner the competition will seem less threatening if not entirely inconsequential. Nice guys rarely finish first. Men and women who go to law school to learn how the system works so they can make the world a better place are fooling themselves and are likely not headed for super-success. Understanding how people, companies and laws really work — the "sophistication in litigation" — is what separates the winners from the losers.

The belief that violence is a reasonable and often necessary route to achieving our aims goes unquestioned in most societies. Violence is thought to be the nature of things. It's what works. It seems inevitable -- the last and, often, the first resort in conflicts. This Myth of Redemptive Violence is the real myth of the modern world. It, and not Judaism or Christianity or Islam, is the dominant religion in our society today.

Walter Wink, a professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in N.Y.C., in an article first published by Bible Society's Spring 1999 issue of The Bible in TransMission, further expalains that our very origin is violence. Killing is in our genes. Humanity is not the originator of evil, but merely finds evil already present and perpetuates it. Human beings are thus naturally incapable of peaceful coexistence. Order must continually be imposed upon us from on high: men over women, masters over slaves, priests over laity, aristocrats over peasants, rulers over people. Unquestioning obedience is the highest virtue, and order the highest religious value.

In short, the Myth of Redemptive Violence is the ideology of conquest. Ours is neither a perfect nor perfectible world, but a theater of perpetual conflict in which the prize goes to the strong. Peace through war, security through strength: these are the core convictions that arise from this ancient historical religion. The Babylonian myth is as universally present today as at any time in its long and bloody history. It is the dominant myth in contemporary America.

See my other post.

The McDonaldization of Society
« Reply #117 on: June 14, 2006, 08:01:50 PM »

I can understand the "need" for grading on a curve on the part of law schools ... I mean, it makes sense for the law school as a financial institution. Not to mention that law schools are expected by employers to rate the meat [...]

by Mohamed Zayani

George Ritzer's "The McDonaldization of Society" is a lucid, and, in many ways, provocative analysis of the increasing entrenchment and steady institutionalization of the logic and structure of McDonald's in almost all spheres of vital activities. For Ritzer, McDonald's is not simply in the restaurant business. Rather than an efficient, cheap, and fast meal, McDonald's offers a whole modus vivendi. This notorious chain has come to epitomize a scandalous and increasingly insistent phenomenon -- McDonaldization; that is, the ways in which the principles of the fast-food restaurant operate in an increasingly wide array of social settings (such as the work place, higher education, and health care). Contributing to the acceleration of these structural changes are several factors, the most important being: the aggressive seeking of economic interests, the pursuit of McDonaldization as an end in itself (and, in many ways, as an attachment to a traditional life style), and McDonaldization's attunement to certain changes taking place within society (namely, increased mobility, expanding needs, working parents, and technological changes).

According to Ritzer, the socioeconomic structures adumbrated by the process of McDonaldization revolve around four interconnected principles: efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control. In a McDonaldizing society, the pressure for efficiency -- that is, the search for the optimum means for a given end -- is enormous. This pressure calls for increasing calculability -- that is, the emphasis on quantity rather than quality -- which in turn leads to a predictability that is enhanced all the more by the creation of precise, programmable, non-human technologies. This pursuit of systematization, standardization, consistency, scientific management, and methodological operation is itself motivated by the desire for greater control over people.

Central to Ritzer's argument is Max Weber's theory of bureaucracy and the larger process of rationalization that underlies it. While for Weber bureaucracy is the model of rationalization, for Ritzer the fast food restaurant is the paradigm of McDonaldization. Both instances describe an organizational model that strives to eliminate inefficiency, irrationality, uncertainty, and unpredictability. It should not overhastily be concluded, however, that the two processes are the same. McDonaldization is not just an extension of rationalization, it is also an extreme version of it or, as Ritzer himself puts it, "a quantum leap" in the process of rationalization. Seen from this vantage point, Ritzer's project is not only an elaborate analysis of the McDonaldization of contemporary society, but also a pointed critique of the excesses of rationalization, in particular, and the legacy of modernity, in general.

While many proclaim the end of modernity, Ritzer argues for its continuing strong hold. His book takes issue with the common view that we live in an era that is radically different from the previous one: "a number of contemporary perspectives, especially postindustrialism, post-Fordism, and postmodernism contend that we have already moved beyond the modern world and into a new, starkly different society. These views imply that this book is retrograde because it deals with a 'modern' phenomenon that will soon disappear with the emergence of a new societal form. This book contends, however, that McDonaldization and its 'modern' characteristics not only are here for the foreseeable future, but also are influencing society at an accelerating rate." While other sociologists emphasize a shift in modern society from uniformity, predictability, and standardization to contingency, uncertainty, and deregulation, Ritzer emphasizes the increasing domination of a system -- that is, McDonaldization -- that is built on many of the ideas that have prevailed in industrial societies, namely bureaucratization, the assembly line, and scientific management.
"One death is a tragedy, but a thousand deaths is just statistic."

« Reply #118 on: June 14, 2006, 08:05:58 PM »
The most interesting and most promising aspect of the book is perhaps Ritzer's analysis of the extent to which the rationality of the system imposed by McDonaldization spawns irrational tendencies. For example, the replacement of human by nonhuman technology can be unbeneficial. The worker or the employee is often forced to learn new technologies, master new techniques, keep up with upgraded software, figure out new functions, and memorize new numbers -- all of which means that business often has to pay high prices in order to operate efficiently. In addition, the types of jobs that ensue from the McDonaldization of society are jobs that require almost no skill or thinking from the worker. Whether it be a student serving food at McDonald's or a checker scanning barcodes at a supermarket, there is an increasing dependence upon and subordination to the machine: "Perhaps the ultimate irrationality of McDonaldization is the possibility that people could come to lose control over the system--that it could some day come to control them. Already, these rational systems control many aspects of people's lives."

In the rationalized settings imposed by McDonaldization people be-have not as human beings but as functions of the system. A McDonaldized society is not just a panoptic society a la Foucault -- that is, a society that is structured around quasi-utilitarian principles and based on self-policing -- but also a dehumanizing society: "though it at least appears that people still control them, these rational systems can spin beyond the control of even those who occupy the highest positions within those systems." Because red tape can render bureaucracies increasingly inefficient and unpredictable, individuals become both confused and counterproductive. The anger and frustration generated by the inadequacies of nonhuman technologies can even lead people to undercut or sabotage the operation of such technologies.

"One death is a tragedy, but a thousand deaths is just statistic."

« Reply #119 on: June 18, 2006, 08:25:24 PM »