Throughout Primo Levi’s description of his own personal experience as a concentration camp prisoner during the Nazi regime, he constantly refers to the way on which he experienced his suffering. He definitely lived under a condition of dispossession, not only concerning material goods, but mostly on a state of mind on which he sometimes felt dispossessed of his humanity, of his own identity. He also explains how people at his same situation drifted between two extremes, among pessimism and optimism. By the end of the chapter “Initiation” he mentions something very important: “We are slaves, deprived of every night, exposed to every insult … but we still posses one power, and we must defend it with all our strength for it is the last – the power to refuse our consent” (p. 36). Under this framework, what can we say about what it means for men and women to struggle for daily survival at some of the darkest moments in the history of humanity? How can the will to live, the conscience of an own identity, and more importantly; of an own intentionality at exercising our will can potentially help us preserve our dignity, identity and faith during the darkest moments? How can this consciousness relieve the psychological impact of seen ourselves been physically and mentally subjugated to the power of a bloody regime?
Throughout chapter 4 of Dark Continent, The Crisis of Capitalism we could see the disastrous consequences of what WWI meant over the economic sphere of Europe. In spite of a rapid and partial stabilization, this was quickly succeeded by the 1929 crisis that hit the world economy in many ways. Curious but still somehow afraid of the economic projects lead by both communist and fascists regimes during the 1930’s, most of the western world, lead by the thought of figures as John M. Keynes, started arguing the impossibility of continuing with an economic model based on the traditional paradigms of liberal capitalism (p. 137) . Characterized by a strong role of the state over the economy, and taking some elements from those other economic adventures previously mentioned; Keynes’ and others’ ideas lead the way to much of what during the 1930’s and strongly during the 1950’s became known as the welfare state economy. In American History, for example, this became, undeniably, one of the most successful epochs in terms of social progress.
However,the modern world has rapidly turned back to a capitalist system based on an extreme liberalization of markets (notably in America during the 1980’s and on). This phenomenon not only has caused a rapid growth of global inequality as it has never been seen before, but also, and as remarkable economists as Stiglitz, Piketty or Wolff have showed; it could also explain the world economic recession of 2008. If the traditional and modern methods of liberalism are proving once again to be problematic in many senses, how should we address these risks in economic terms trough the lens of history? What can we learn from history in terms of state-oriented economic planning under these vary same circumstances that we face today?
(Sorry I put this at a whole new post but for some reason I can’t respond at the original post for now)
I think that under this kind of historical analysis, it’s really important to keep a critical perspective centered on the way in which social macro-structures influence the whole worldview of people at a cultural, economic, politic and individual level by the forces of history itself. This processes, I believe, are the ones which ultimately allow the existence of tyrannic leaders who base their discourse on hate, for example.
This doesn’t mean that Hitler wasn’t objectively and at an individual level a psychopath (which he proves at Mein Kampf) nor that he wasn’t responsible for all he did, but my point is that we cannot understand the emergence of this kind of hate groups, even more at an explicitly institutionalized and socially popular level, as it did with Hitler, without taking into account the underlying characteristics of, not only German, but the whole European thought of the time.
This thought was characterized by a worldview based on centuries of colonialism, racial domination and barbarism hidden beneath the idea of the humanist and enlightened civilized European man. This process configured a culture at a social and symbolic level in which ridiculous ideas such as scientific racism emerged as a way of justifying consensual hate among the dominant groups of society.
Psychopaths will always exist, even more at a political level; but the way in which society assimilates him/her depends on the state of the different spheres of this society in the way history has configured them.