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The Psychopathology of the US Elections

Why Elias Canetti's Crowds and Power is Relevant Today

When it was published in 1960, Elias Canetti’s Crowds and Power did not achieve the acclaim enjoyed by his novel Die Blendung (1935), his dramas Die Hochzeit (1932), Die Komödie der Eitelkeit (1950) and Die Befriesteten (1964) and, later, the many volumes of aphorisms and the three volumes of his autobiography (1977, 1980, 1985). The most likely reason for the cold reception of Crowds and Power was its stylistic, substantive and methodological uniqueness — perhaps the same reasons Canetti regarded it as his “life’s work” [Lebenswerk]. Such a rare combination of literary style, linguistic innovation, multidisciplinary engagement did not allow for a full appreciation of the originality and significance of Canetti’s attempt to “grab the twentieth century by the throat” [2] and highlight the perverse complicity between totalitarian powers and crowds. For these reasons the importance of Crowds and Power has scarcely been recognized.

The political victory of Donald Trump should invite us to rethink this tendency to ignore Canetti’s masterpiece. Even though Trump’s victory has been made possible by a minority of electors, his political success cannot be obscured or underestimated as a temporary interval within the march of an ultimately progressive history. For many observers the morning of November 9th 2016 was a rude awakening. Apart from a smattering of “prophets of doom” like Michael Moore, few intellectuals anticipated Trump’s electoral success. Besides revealing a certain weakness of most theoretical or media predictions, such unexpected news restored some crucial issues to the core of public debate. Trump’s victory should refocus public attention on the historical relationships between so-called baiting crowds and power: as Canetti defines it, a baiting crowd “forms with reference to a quickly attainable goal,” [3] and that goal is typically to do violence to human prey, whether enacted through murder or through the systematic exclusion of an individual or a group of people from a certain political space. Further, there are different ways of hunting humans via exclusion: baiting crowds can hunt down and exclude human prey outside the boundaries of a certain community — by rejecting or expelling them — or inside the boundaries by imprisoning, stigmatizing and humiliating them. Regardless of hunting strategy,

the proclaiming of the goal, the spreading about of who it is that is to perish, is enough to make the crowd form. […] Everyone wants to participate; everyone strikes a blow […] If he cannot hit [the victim] himself, he wants to see others hit him. Every arm is thrust out as if they all belonged to one and the same creature. But the arms which actually do the hitting count for most. The goal is also the point of greatest density…where the actions of all the participants unite. One important reason for the rapid growth of the baiting crowd is that…[t]here is no risk because the crowd has immense superiority on their side. The victim can do nothing to them. […] His permitted murder stands for all the murders people have to deny themselves for fear of the penalties for their perpetration. A murder shared with many others, which is not only safe and permitted, but indeed recommended, is irresistible to the great majority of men. [4]

Even though an increasing distance separates the members of present day baiting crowds from their victims, Canetti’s words shed light on Trump’s victory and allow us to understand it as the success of a collective, aggressive catharsis that liberates individuals through their psychological — more so than physical — merging aimed at excluding any otherness, be it identified in internal or external enemies. Nevertheless, this authoritarian tendency does not represent a political interruption or, even more, a trend reversal of neoliberalism; nor can it be simply reduced to an unexpected return of fascism. Trump’s populism represents a further development of neoliberal rationality. Trump seems to combine its typical, exacerbated individualism with aggressive collectivities: before being elected, he represented himself as the only possible alternative to a pathological system thanks to his megalomaniac promises. Nevertheless, besides veiling paranoiac tendencies, his megalomania lacks any actual project of social transformation.

From individuals to power, through the crowds

While an economic analysis of the US election would explain the victory narrowly framed by the interaction between individual demands centered on private interests and the political supply, crowd psychology allows us to understand historical shifts like Trump’s victory by explaining how people who are very diverse — for their economic, cultural, ethnic, sexual and political belonging — can be transformed into a quite homogenized crowd.

Within this theoretical tradition there are different ways of looking at the relationship between crowds and power. After having been considered a criminal phenomenon by the collective psychologists of the 19th century, [5] crowds came to be seen as a sort of triumph of craziness by Gustave Le Bon. [6] In the 20th century, at last, Sigmund Freud put an end to the previous tradition of studies in collective psychology, which interpreted crowds as a result of a “collective soul”:

It is true that individual psychology is concerned with the individual man and explores the paths by which he seeks to find satisfaction for his instinctual impulses; but only rarely and under certain exceptional conditions is individual psychology in a position to disregard the relations of this individual to others. In the individual’s mental life someone else is invariably involved, as a model, as an object, as a helper, as an opponent; and so from the very first individual psychology, in this extended but entirely justifiable sense of the words, is at the same time social psychology as well. […] The contrast between social and narcissistic […] mental acts therefore falls wholly within the domain of individual psychology.[7]

In Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego Freud understood crowd formations as regressive phenomena, grounded in horizontal identification among their members and — prior even to this — on vertical idealization and infatuation with the leader. By conceiving the reciprocal identification of the members of a crowd as a result of their shared infatuation with the leader, Freud thus positioned the leader as a necessary premise for the emergence and the persistence of this social formation. It is not by chance that Freud used the term “crowds” to refer to long-term masses, such as the Church or the army, which have a clear hierarchy, rather than to short-term crowds like those investigated by Le Bon, which lack such a defined power structure. The Freudian conception of crowds suggests we cannot understand the phenomenon independently of the leader’s presence. Likewise, the Freudian reading of panic directly depends on the understanding of the relationship between crowds and power: when the leader disappears, the unity of the crowd fails and its members fall into panic. With this authoritarian reading of crowds, the current spread of individual panic would be the consequence of the disappearance of an authority able to hold together the individuals in a crowd.

For Canetti, however, the spreading of panic is not due to the disappearance of the leader. Instead panic has to do with the disappearance of the binds of solidarity. Canetti defines panic as the “disintegration of the crowd within the crowd”[8] itself, and it starts when its members are facing a common — likely mortal — danger but they cannot save themselves as a herd. To the contrary, the presence of others seems to make individual survival more difficult: far from helping individuals to escape from a danger, the crowd poses an obstacle to safety and thus triggers individual panic.

This different conception of panic reveals a correspondingly different understanding of crowds. According to Canetti there are very different kinds of crowds and, more noteworthy, some of them can maintain their original autonomy from any kind of power. Among these, what he called reversal and prohibition crowds are worth mentioning: reversal crowds may consist in “revolts of slaves against their masters, of soldiers against their officers, of colored people against the whites who settled in their midst. But, in all cases, the one group will have been subject for a long time to the commands of the other group; the rebels are always driven to act by the stings they carry within them; and it always takes a long time before they can do so.” [9] Unlike individual forms of liberation from the psychic wounds delivered by social hierarchies, the reversal crowds render possible a joint liberation of a large number of people from the long endured “stings of commands” they cannot hope to get rid of alone. The prohibition crowds represent another form of collective liberation from social hierarchies, but they are not active: these crowds are created by a self-imposed refusal of their members, who find together the courage not to obey to their superiors, as happens in a strike. Against the so called “prohibitions on transformation” that limit the physical, social and psychic mobility of the individuals, the prohibition crowds give back to their members the critical agency of jointly saying “no” and, therefore, of challenging the existing power asymmetries.

Both reversal and prohibition crowds are a clear example of the originality of Crowds and Power. Canetti departs from the classical attitude of sociology and psychology to reduce crowds — any kind of crowd — to a passive object and instrument of power. In fact, Canetti argues, the complexity of the historical attempts of ruling powers to domesticate crowds is due to the potential for autonomy that inheres within any crowd. In order to avoid the risk of a collective revolution or resistance (which would happen in the case of eruption of reversal and prohibition crowds), rulers are compelled to domesticate crowds or prevent their eruption altogether. This can be done indirectly or directly.

The first option consists in isolating individuals by means of the so-called “Prohibition on Transformation” [Verwandlungsverbote], which prevent their uniting into a crowd. A typical example is provided by the “secret discipline of command”: while the “open discipline” of commands manifests itself in actual obedience, the secret discipline operates by using what Canetti refers to as the “stored up stings of command.” [10] This happens when a subordinate is promoted: in such a case, “he has to demand of others things which were formerly demanded of him. The situation as a whole remains exactly the same; all that has changed is his place in it. His stings come into the open as commands. He now gives to others the commands his superior once gave to him. He is not left to choose how to get rid of his stings, but is put in the one position where it is inevitable: he must give orders.”[11] In this we see personal pain of internalized oppression transmuted into pleasure of social survival through oppressing others, whereby power can only consist of elevating oneself above the others one has formerly belonged to through an act of subjugation. In spite of being socialized in a reversal crowd, the reversal is privatized: the subjected individual can change his position within the social hierarchy, but his promotion cannot modify the power asymmetry itself.[12]

The second option consists in directly domesticating the crowds. In its turn, this direct strategy of domestication can work in two ways: the first — and more ancient — limits the natural tendency of crowds toward growth (open crowd), which is replaced by permanence (closed crowds), repetition (stagnating and rhythmic crowds [13]) and by the slowness of their movement (slow crowds), achieved by distancing their final goal. That is, the most important occurrence of every crowd, the moment of discharge — “when all who belong to the crowd get rid of their differences and feel equal” [14] — is postponed, if not altogether prevented: this is the most ancient strategy of domestication, which Canetti describes by looking at the slow crowds of religions (the Jews, the Catholic Church and Islam).

Another way of directly domesticating the crowds is to turn their destructiveness away from power hierarchies, directing them instead against individuals (baiting crowds) or collective enemies (double crowd of war). [15] By transforming its subjects into baiting and double crowds of war, a ruling power can avoid the risk of being overturned by its prey joined together in revolt, as in a reversal crowd. In both crowd formations individuals can free themselves from accumulated stings by killing or humiliating single or collective victims. This is exactly what Nazism did with internal persecutions of religious, ethnic, political and sexual minorities and with aggressive and power politics in foreign policy.

Even though originally intended to understand Nazism, Crowds and Power provides useful conceptual instruments to capture what recently happened in the U.S. presidential election, as well as the complex relationship between baiting crowds and its new president: let’s think about the current administration’s attacks on Muslims and Mexicans in particular and the active consent provided by his electoral crowds. What we find when we look closely is that the baiting crowd against immigrants, largely responsible for Trump’s ascendency, would have existed without Trump himself. At the same time, Trump has been able to intercept individual frustrations better than any other political candidate thanks to his self-representation as a political outsider, able to give back American citizens their lost greatness. In this regard, his megalomaniac promises have been able to transform people’s feelings of impotence into a perverse sense of omnipotence: thanks to a paranoiac process, he has projected the responsibilities of the financial and social crises on the Others, which I will elaborate below.

The pathologies of power

Crowds and Power is an original work not only for offering a plural phenomenology of crowds but also for being the first systematic attempt to root out the predatory gestures within power relations. Power can hunt humans not only through surveillance, secrets, discursive simulations, threats and the institutional incorporation of individuals (let’s think about the productive structure in capitalist societies); it can do the same also by giving rise to collective forms of surviving, as happens in the cases of baiting and double crowds of war. As you will see below, Canetti’s challenge against the fathers of collective psychology and political thought is also present in his interpretation of mental pathologies that result from the relationships between individuals and their superiors, individuals and crowds and — finally — between rulers and crowds.

Posing hysteria and melancholia as psychological reactions of human prey who cannot flee from the asymmetrical relations of power within which they are inescapably involved, Canetti then suggests schizophrenia arises from the unsatisfied desire to become part of a crowd in order to get rid of the stings of command: “no-one is more in need of the crowd than the schizophrenic, who is crammed with stings and feels suffocated by them. He cannot find the crowd outside and so he surrenders to one within him.” [16]

On the other hand, the disorders of mania, megalomania and paranoia concern the rulers: while the mania of any crowd member is defined as a “paroxysm of desire for (the single) prey,” the megalomania of rulers is due to their sympathetic dealing with obedient crowds: crowds never oppose a megalomaniac ruler, but provide “[…] the willing material for his plans, realizing for him every desire that comes into his head. He can never desire too much, for the crowd’s capacity for growth is as limitless as his own. No ruler has ever had subjects so loyal and so compliant.”[17]

The megalomaniac ruler loves his crowds, and relies upon them, and yet, the paranoiac mentality begins where this sympathetic relation ends: “with paranoiacs […] the crowd is quite different and is positively hostile. The greatness they [the rulers] imagine is always under attack and their notions also tend to become more and more rigid. When the hostile crowd gets the upper hand, these turn into delusions of persecution.” [18] Because they consciously dissimulate their harmful intentions behind benign guises, rulers cannot do without thinking that all surrounding people are doing the same: “A despot is always aware of his inner malevolence and therefore must dissimulate. But he cannot deceive everyone in this way. There are always others who also desire power and who do not acknowledge his claims, but regard themselves as his rivals. Against these he is always on his guard, for they are a potential danger to him. He waits for the right moment “to tear the mask from their faces”; behind it he finds the malevolence he knows so well in himself. Once they are unmasked, he can render them harmless.” [19] Canetti’s point is quite simple: paranoia springs from a leader’s own falseness and ill will, and the suspicion that others harbor similar ill will drives him to vilify others repetitiously because he will never feel safe. In order to prevent the transformation of prey into a reversal crowd, the paranoiac ruler will try to unmask them, be they masked or not.

Turning more explicitly to Trump, these introductory definitions allow us to begin to decode the paranoiac mediocrity of a pragmatic megalomaniac. A critical diagnosis of the US elections may begin with some discursive and behavioral symptoms that can provide a full case history; following Chiara Bottici in The Mass Psychology of Trumpism, I will begin with the slogan used by Donald Trump (“Make America Great Again”), and expand the analysis to the conduct of his supporters’ and opponents’ crowds. [20]

The power of paranoia

Canetti noticed that violence and domination are not avoided or prevented by human language; on the contrary, both of them are reproduced by language, and language of course is a main tool in the work of dissembling. Evidence for this view can be found especially in political language: nothing is neutral in language used by power.

As argued by Rahel Jaeggy, one of the main features of ideologies is the so-called process of “de-contestation” or “de-problematization,” which makes it possible to immunize the particular interests embodied in social hierarchies from any critique by representing them as if they were general. [21] The “America” of Donald Trump does not refer to the whole population of the USA, but to the main victim of the financial crisis of 2007: the middle class. And the identification of this political subject is only the surface of Trump’s linguistic masks. Besides, in order to make this appeal to the middle class credible, this multimillionaire had to show himself as if he was part of it: it is no coincidence that Trump has always refused to make his tax return public.

Together with the ideological identification of this political subject, the other side of Trump’s linguistic masks is worth mentioning: as I have anticipated above, this more or less intentional process of dissembling the self by wearing promising masks is always accompanied by a specular process of unmasking others through the identification of common enemies (in this case, enemies of the middle class). The enemy is identified as any social group that does not share the “common origins” of the America that claims a right to recover its former greatness. The strength of this notion depends on a semantic inconsistency: the gap created by the mythological concept of the “common origins” can be bridged with any content precisely because it is empty. In spite of being “deconstructed,” such an empty concept can be filled by excluding all those people who are not presumed to come from these common spiritual origins.

The main goal suggested by Trump’s words is enacted through the operations of the baiting crowd: the return to the lost, glorious origins of the US middle class through the systematic exclusion of those people who do not belong to it. We can read in this appeal to the past one of the main by-products of the acceleration processes connected with the current, so-called “global” age. That is, far from condemning the future to become a relic of the past, this process of acceleration compresses the present and circumscribes the search for a utopian alternative so as to have a retrospective rather than prospective orientation.

This pretended return to the past is not novel if we look at the recent history of nationalisms grounded in mythical narratives. Nevertheless, globalization has the special effect of multiplying the imaginary enemies of this new “democratic crusade” — with this expression I mean all those human hunts currently justified in the name of democratic values such as freedom, equality and democracy itself. These enemies are first of all external (e.g. China, ISIL) but they are internal as well. This is demonstrated by Trump’s frequent attacks on professional politicians, be they democrats or republicans. Other enemies are identified as those who threaten to put an end to the distinction itself between the “internal” and “external” (Mexican immigrants) and to the imagined spiritual cohesion of the US (Muslim immigrants).

As it should be clear from the last passages, a cultural mythopoesis is full of economic implications: the audience of Donald Trump does not include unemployed people, ethnic, sexual and religious minorities, or subjugated women. Besides not belonging to the America of Donald Trump, all these systematically oppressed people are turned into the architects of their social destiny: they cannot ask anything of him because they are cast as the ones responsible for their unemployment, poverty, marginal status, and so on.

More important, these processes show the converging point of unlimited individualism embodied in Trump’s call to the American middle class and the endogamous communitarianism of his electoral crowds [22]: through the paranoiac transformation of innocents in guilty people, Trump has succeeded in absolving the institutional actors responsible for the financial crisis. Unable to grieve, Trump’s supporters project the responsibility for their imagined loss on the “Others” in order to de-responsibilize themselves. It is no accident that Jacques Lacan defined “paranoia” as an overthrow of grief.

The issue here is a sort of distorted subjectivation of the institutional actors responsible for the economic crisis. Rather than being identified with the processes of financial markets’ de-regulamentations, sliding-door mechanisms between politics and finance, or the structural instability of financialized capitalism, the causes of the crisis are not only removed (or, dissembled), but they are also blamed on the Others, who are thereby unmasked. Thus the crowd turns on its own by disavowing them, relieving the leader of unrest and reversal. Besides this paranoiac projection of the responsibility onto innocents and besides the self-absolution of the responsible institutional actors, the latter go so far as to represent themselves as victims. Disguising himself as a member of the US middle class, Trump orchestrates an illusory victimization: foisting responsibility onto innocents — international migrants and Muslims — allows the institutional actors actually responsible for the economic crisis (some of them have even been recruited by Trump in his new government team) to pose as victims. [23]

All these ideological processes — paranoiac projection of guilt onto the innocents, victim-shaming, making victims of the responsible actors — are part of an underestimated mixture of political hypocrisy and cynicism in the current neoliberal phase of democracy. The proper novelty represented by Brexit and by the electoral victory of Trump is the ideological combination of neoliberalism and class nationalism. The electoral victory of Donald Trump cannot be reduced to an overthrow of neoliberalism, but — rather — should be understood as an aggressive variant of it. After the financial crisis, a large part of the American people preferred this new variant of neoliberalism over the previous one embodied by Barack Obama and reinforced by the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, whom it was impossible to cast as a radical alternative to the causes of the financial crisis. In a certain sense, Trump’s populism and its relationship with baiting crowds are simultaneously a by-product and an authoritarian development of neoliberal individualism: what distinguishes neoliberal populism is that individual liberation does not only depend on processes of social surviving and promotion grounded on the so called secret discipline of command, but also on the widespread participation in collective experiences of surviving and exclusion like those I have tried to describe .

The mediocrity of a megalomaniac

Still in all, all these processes are not enough to explain the victory of Donald Trump. The aforementioned political paranoia is accompanied by a more visible, edifying and encouraging feature: the megalomania. Trump’s dreams of greatness are revealed not only by his frequent uses of the adjective “great,” but — even beforehand — from the main symbol of his economic power and electoral campaign, the Trump Tower. This tridimensional representation of his phallocentric rhetoric allows us to appreciate some features of the neoliberal architecture: unlike totalitarian architecture, which is fond of the width of urban spaces, the neoliberal architecture develops his megalomaniac ambitions in a vertical direction. [24] Skyscrapers’ facades reflect the typical paranoiac tendency of any power that wants to see without being seen in turn: if height is the main vocation of megalomaniac subjects, transparency is the obsession of paranoiac ones. His other real estate holdings in NYC follow this pattern: for instance, Trump Place , residential skyscrapers spanning 10 blocks along the Hudson River waterfront in NYC, seem to have especially reflective facades, and Trump Palace, when it was built in 1991, was intentionally the tallest building on the Upper East side.

Yet far from containing a real idea of greatness, Trump’s megalomania is soaked with mediocrity. Megalomania is the main dream of people who feel themselves powerless because of social immobility. (It is no coincidence that Canetti devoted an entire paragraph of his masterpiece to the megalomaniac dreams of paralytic people.) Besides being inspired by social and economic inequalities, megalomaniac ambitions are further stimulated by the lack of cognitive and political filters able to mediate comprehension and collective action in a complex world, which cannot be domesticated by past ideologies. With respect to past ideologies, the current xenophobic, racist, sexist and classist attempts at simplifying the overwhelming complexity of our globalized world are an example of “pragmatism without ideas”: such a pragmatism divides complex problems into single issues, which can be faced by means of equally simple solutions, such as the building of a wall in order to avoid new migrations from Mexico. Such a pragmatism dispenses with old political coordinates like “left” and “right.” With such a pragmatism, to solve the problems of the world political will is enough.

In this regard, Trump brings into the political world an attitude that is widespread in the so-called “new spirit of capitalism,” [25] which I would rename “magic voluntarism.”[26] This attitude holds as its central tenet the conviction that “where there is will there is a way.” In other words, the political will is equivalent to power itself. All those who do not agree with the simple solutions advanced by Trump for facing complex problems can be identified as internal enemies, as we have seen unfold with journalists. [27] On the other side, the megalomaniac dreams of greatness can be realized by providing average men with the political will necessary to change the status quo. [28] Here we find the meeting point between megalomania, mediocrity, impotence and the feeling of omnipotence among the members of the crowds supporting Trump: within his targeting of the middle class in general, Trump chooses the average man as his primary prey. After the synchronic processes of spectacularization of politics and privatization and the disappearance of the public man, politics seems to be (in)corporated. In Canetti’s words, this means that the new spirit of capitalism is emptying democracy of meaning by turning its promise of equal freedom into its opposite.

Crowds and Power is relevant in connection with this issue as well: like any predatory power, Trump is destined to (literally) incorporate his prey after having attracted them through the aforementioned processes of self-victimization. We do not know yet whether and how he will be able to combine his domestic free trade competition with international trade protectionism. In any case we do not have to wait for another betrayal of democratic promises; rather, we should hope that Trump will not maintain his authoritarian promises. In the meantime, another hope is worthy of political and theoretical attention: Trump’s ascendancy has given rise to new forms of critical crowds, which are giving their members the chance to gather and say “no” together. The future of US politics will depend mostly on its capacity to engage and continue to build a newly mobilized citizenry and — above all — to organize durable collective dissent. The collective refusal of Trumpism is not only a reaction to neoliberal populism: it is the potential starting point of a political transformation up to the challenge of the democratic promise of equal freedom.

 

This discussion represents some of the arguments collected in my book published in Italian, The Principle of Possibility: Crowds, Power and Transformation [ Il principio possibilità. Masse, potere e metamorfosi nell’opera di Elias Canetti, Rosenber & Sellier, Torino 2017 ]. I would like to thank Chiara Bottici, who gave me the opportunity to write this paper after the discussion of The Mass Psychology of Trumpism held in Florence in March 2017. A special thanks goes also to Ali Shames-Dawson for her devoted reading and suggestions, which provided a fundamental contribution in improving the text.

Footnotes:

[2] See E. Canetti, The Human Province (New York: The Seabury Press, 1978), 185.

[3] E. Canetti, Crowds and Power (New York: Continuum, 1978), 49.

[4] Ibid., 49.

[5] See S. Sighele, The Criminal Crowd, 1891 [S. Sighele, La folla delinquente. Studio di psicologia collettiva, Marsilio, Venezia 1985].

[6] See G. Le Bon, Psychology of Crowds, 1895 [ Psychologie des foules].

[7] S. Freud, Group Psychology and Analysis of the Ego, Norton & Company, New York-London 1921 [Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analyse], pp. 3-4.

[8] Canetti, 27.

[9] Ibid., 59.

[10] Ibid., 316.

[11] Ibid., 316.

[12] This is the main reason why individual liberation and emancipation are distinctive phenomena and should be treated also as different concepts, even though power asymmetries historically tend to overlap them, more or less systematically. As it will become clear in the last part of the paper, one of he main ideological feature of neoliberalism consists in confusing systematically individual liberation with emancipation.

[13] Ibid., 30: “The stagnating crowd lives for its discharge. But it feels certain of this and puts it off. It desires a relatively long period of density to prepare for the moment of discharge. It, so to speak, warms itself at its density and delays as long as possible with the discharge. The process here starts not with equality, but with density ; and equality then becomes the main goal of the crowd, which in the end it reaches. Every shout, every utterance in common is a valid expression of this equality. In the rhythmic crowd, on the other hand (for example the crowd of the dance), density and equality coincide from the beginning. Everything here depends on movement. All the physical stimuli involved function in a predetermined manner and are passed on from one dancer to another. Density is embodied in the formal recurrence of retreat and approach; equality is manifest in the movements themselves. And thus, by the skillful enactment of density and equality, a crowd feeling is engendered. These rhythmic formations spring up very quickly and it is only physical exhaustion which bring them to an end.”

[14] Ibid., 17.

[15] The domestication of crowds by power can be illustrated starting from the most ancient crowd known by men in their history: flight crowds flee away from the threat of death as it happens in the animal world. If flight crowds represent the most ancient example of any human crowd, every form of power consists in predatory relations.

[16] Ibid., 324.

[17] Ibid., 407.

[18] Ibid., 407.

[19] Ibid., 377-378.

[20] Many of the ideas contained in this paper are an attempt to develop further the paper of Chiara Bottici, The Mass Psychology of Trumpism: Old and New Myths .

[21] R. Jaeggi, Was ist Ideologiekritik?, in R. Jaeggi, T. Wesche (Eds.), Was ist Kritik? (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2009), 266-295.

[22] . E. Pulcini, Care of the World. Fear, Responsibility and Justice in the Global Age (Springer, 2013).

[23] In this regard, Canetti’s description of power relations in terms of “human huntings” is very appropriate. Differently from animal predators, human beings who want to survive are not always strong enough to obtain their prey directly. They have recourse to one of the main features of power: the dissimulation of harmful intentions and the simulation of benevolent purposes. The self-victimization is one of the main strategies used by rulers in order to captivate the trust of the prey. Unlike animal predators like lions who directly overpower by utilizing superior physical strength and speed, human predators have to partially transform themselves in order to catch their prey: the simulation of power is a sort of midway stage between the animal capacity of external imitation and the properly human power of internal transformation.

[24] A good comparison between totalitarian architecture and neoliberal one is provided by Canetti’s essayHitler, according to Speer, in Id., The Conscience of Words, Seabury Press, London 1986, pp. 65-72 and by Marco D’Eramo book The Pig and the Skyscraper. Chicago: a History of our Future , Verso, London-New York 2002.

[25] L. Boltanski, È. Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism (London: Verso, 2007) [Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme, Gallimard, Paris 1999].

[26] See M. Fischer, Good for Nothing

[27] After the elections a new category of enemies has been brought into play: journalists who have started to criticize the promises and the early moves of the new president have become a new objective of this “witch-hunt”.

[28] See A. Deneault, La médiocratie (Montréal: Lux Éditeur, 2015).

Leonard Mazzone

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