Institutionalized Immaturity and Modern Politics

It was while finishing up Voegelin’s From Enlightenment to Revolution last October that I jotted down his discussion of ideology and mass movements. One could call it the psychology of modern political tribalism (as Turgot famously put it: “A state of barbarism equalizes all men”).

Clearly the idea of a mass movement “can have no appeal to a mature humanist and Christian.”  On the contrary the ideal of the masse totale “can only appeal to a man who has not much substance of his own.” His personality is underdeveloped and lacking in spiritual balance. Voegelin describes the follower of the utopian creed as plagued by “insecurities, frustrations, fears,  aggressiveness, paranoic obsessions and uncontrollable hatreds.” The man who cannot resolve these problems and contradictions on a moral level seeks salvation through submersion in the “collective personality,” as happened under Nazism and Communism.

As is typical of Voegelin, the analysis is a bit dense at times, but the conclusion is pointedly brilliant: “Tribalism is the answer to immaturity because it permits man to remain immature with the sanction of his group.”

See related comments on Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn and “identitarian” politics.

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