This is the Totalitarian Procedure

Essays on technology, psycho­analysis, philosophy, design, ideology & Slavoj Žižek


March 3, 2011

This is the Totalitarian Procedure

Mary Anne Rothenberg in The Excessive Subject: A New Theory of Social Change:

The premise (not the fact) that groups are formed by way of total emulation rather than contingent identifications serves the interest of repressive social groups such as the army. Why? Because the differences in identification (different unary traits) are occulted by the fantasy that the different members of the group lose their differences. That is, the members of the group are enjoined to become identical (the unifying-one), when in fact the mechanism of identification at work serves to particularize them (the countable-one): this gap is crucial to the ongoing function of repression. Because Symbolic identification constitutes the subject as particularized, the fantasy of group homogenization can never be realized, which means that the inevitable failure of every individual to perfectly match the ego ideal gives the disciplinary apparatus abundant and constant reasons to operate. The necessary fact of difference between individuals, and their unconscious diversity of choice of unary traits, gives the repressive authority ammunition for discipline and punishment for deviations from the fantasized sameness of the group members. In fact, to the extent that the authorities desire to hold on to their position, they will be at pains to seek out the most minor of differences for punishment, ensuring that efforts to do the impossible - perfectly emulate the standard of identification - continue and necessarily continue to fail, making the “need” for their intervention apparent. This is the totalitarian procedure in all its reliance on superegoic logic.