Social Psychology of Democracy & Totalitarianism

Aug 24

Podcast of radio interview: Trauma Bonding and Cults

Listen to internet radio with Kenneth Anderson on Blog Talk Radio. Interview with Dr. Alexandra Stein

May 03

If you have come to this blog, you are entitled to download this elite certificate! Just fill in your name and date and you will have earned your Certificate of Free and Very Possibly Useful Education. Congratulations! 
And by the way, Free University is now tweeting at @free_uni_uk . So, follow us for more updates.
If you want to know more about my work you can see my blog at blog.alexandrastein.com

If you have come to this blog, you are entitled to download this elite certificate! Just fill in your name and date and you will have earned your Certificate of Free and Very Possibly Useful Education. Congratulations! 

And by the way, Free University is now tweeting at @free_uni_uk . So, follow us for more updates.

If you want to know more about my work you can see my blog at blog.alexandrastein.com

We had a great last class, documented for posterity here. 
Here’s some links to follow-up items from that class:
Kahnemann’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow which details concepts and studies relevant to much of our discussions
Video of Harry Harlow’s monkey experiment - some of the very early work on attachment 
Bowlby’s early study 44 Juvenile Thieves (1944) which formed a kind of starting point for much of his later work developing Attachment theory.
Berns et al’s study on the "pain of independence"

And here is my bibliography of cult or totalitarian memoirs and fictional accounts. All these come highly recommended:
Nazi Germany
Haffner, Sebastien. 2002. Defying Hitler: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 
Hunt, Irmgard A. 2005. On Hitler’s Mountain: Overcoming the legacy of a Nazi childhood. New York, NY: William Morrow.
Muller, Robert. 1941. The world that summer. Great Britain: Sceptre. 
Levi, Primo. 1987. Survival in Auschwitz. New York: Macmillan.
 
Mao’s China
Chang, Jung. 1991. Wild swans : Three daughters of China. New York: Simon & Schuster. 
Cheng, Nien. 1986. Life and death in Shanghai. London: Grafton Books.
Min, Anchee. 1994. Red Azalea. New York: Pantheon Books. 
Wu, Harry. 1994. Bitter Winds: A memoir of my years in China’s Gulag. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons.
 
Child Soldiers
Jal, Emmanuel. 2009. War Child: A boy soldier’s story. London: Abacus
 
Argentinian Dictatorship
Timerman, Jacobo. 1981. Prisoner without a name, cell without a number. New York: Knopf : distributed by Random House. 
 
Pol Pot’s Cambodia
Luong Ung. 2007. First they killed my father: A daughter of Cambodia remembers.      Mainstream Publishing. 
Pran, Dith. 1997. Children of Cambodia’s killing fields : memoirs by survivors. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
Oeur, U Sam. 2005. Crossing Three Wildernesses. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press.
 
North Korea
Demick, Barbara. 2009. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary lives in North Korea. Spiegel and Grau.
 
Religious/Political Cults
Layton, Deborah. 1998. Seductive poison : a Jonestown survivor’s story of life and death in the Peoples Temple. New York: Anchor Books. Jim Jones and Peoples Temple
Hong, Nansook. 1998. In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Family: Little Brown & Company. “Moonies” Unification Church
Williams, Miriam. 1998. Heaven’s harlots: My fifteen years as a sacred prostitute in the Children of God cult. New York: William Morrow. Children of God – bible-based U.S. cult
Jones, Celeste, Kristina Jones, and Juliana Buhring. 2007. Not without my sister. London: Harper Element. Children of God cult
Noble, Kerry. 1998. Tabernacle of Hate: Why They Bombed Oklahoma City: Voyageur Pub. Right-wing “Christian Identity” movement
Guest, Tim. 2005. My Life in Orange : Growing Up with the Guru: Harvest Books. Rajneesh cult
Brown, Elaine. 1992. A taste of power : a Black woman’s story. New York: Pantheon Books. Black Panther Party
Hilliard, David and Lewis Cole. 1993. This side of glory : the autobiography of David Hilliard and the story of the Black Panther Party. Boston: Little Brown. Black Panther Party
Collins, Eamon and Mick McGovern. 1997. Killing rage. London: Granta Books. IRA
Hearst, Patricia Campbell and Alvin Moscow. 1982. Patty Hearst: Her own story. New York: Avon Books. Symbionese Liberation Army
Husain, Ed. 2007. The Islamist : why I joined radical Islam in Britain, what I saw inside and why I left. London: Penguin. Islamism
Banisadr, Masoud. 2004. Masoud : memoirs of an Iranian rebel. London: Saqi. Islamism
Wall, Elissa. 2009. Stolen Innocence. Harper. Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (US polygamists)
Jessop, Carolyn. 2007. Escape. Broadway. Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (US polygamists)
 
Therapy/Self-Help Cults
Carlone, Judith L. and Elizabeth R. Burchard. 1999. Torn From The Arms of Satan: A True Story of Seduction and Escape from A Contemporary New Age Cult: Ace Academics.
McWilliams, Peter. 1994. Life 102: What to Do When Your Guru Sues You: Mary Book / Prelude Pr.
 
Fictional accounts
Golding, William. 1959. Lord of the flies; a novel. New York,: Capricorn Books. 
Koestler, Arthur. 1968. Darkness at noon. London: Longmans. Fiction based on USSR
Orwell, George. 1946. Animal Farm. New York: Signet Classic.
Orwell, George. 1949. 1984. New American Library: New York.
 

We had a great last class, documented for posterity here. 

Here’s some links to follow-up items from that class:

Kahnemann’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow which details concepts and studies relevant to much of our discussions

Video of Harry Harlow’s monkey experiment - some of the very early work on attachment 

Bowlby’s early study 44 Juvenile Thieves (1944) which formed a kind of starting point for much of his later work developing Attachment theory.

Berns et al’s study on the "pain of independence"

And here is my bibliography of cult or totalitarian memoirs and fictional accounts. All these come highly recommended:

Nazi Germany

Haffner, Sebastien. 2002. Defying Hitler: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Hunt, Irmgard A. 2005. On Hitler’s Mountain: Overcoming the legacy of a Nazi childhood. New York, NY: William Morrow.

Muller, Robert. 1941. The world that summer. Great Britain: Sceptre.

Levi, Primo. 1987. Survival in Auschwitz. New York: Macmillan.

 

Mao’s China

Chang, Jung. 1991. Wild swans : Three daughters of China. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Cheng, Nien. 1986. Life and death in Shanghai. London: Grafton Books.

Min, Anchee. 1994. Red Azalea. New York: Pantheon Books.

Wu, Harry. 1994. Bitter Winds: A memoir of my years in China’s Gulag. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons.

 

Child Soldiers

Jal, Emmanuel. 2009. War Child: A boy soldier’s story. London: Abacus

 

Argentinian Dictatorship

Timerman, Jacobo. 1981. Prisoner without a name, cell without a number. New York: Knopf : distributed by Random House.

 

Pol Pot’s Cambodia

Luong Ung. 2007. First they killed my father: A daughter of Cambodia remembers.      Mainstream Publishing.

Pran, Dith. 1997. Children of Cambodia’s killing fields : memoirs by survivors. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press

Oeur, U Sam. 2005. Crossing Three Wildernesses. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press.

 

North Korea

Demick, Barbara. 2009. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary lives in North Korea. Spiegel and Grau.

 

Religious/Political Cults

Layton, Deborah. 1998. Seductive poison : a Jonestown survivor’s story of life and death in the Peoples Temple. New York: Anchor Books. Jim Jones and Peoples Temple

Hong, Nansook. 1998. In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Family: Little Brown & Company. “Moonies” Unification Church

Williams, Miriam. 1998. Heaven’s harlots: My fifteen years as a sacred prostitute in the Children of God cult. New York: William Morrow. Children of God – bible-based U.S. cult

Jones, Celeste, Kristina Jones, and Juliana Buhring. 2007. Not without my sister. London: Harper Element. Children of God cult

Noble, Kerry. 1998. Tabernacle of Hate: Why They Bombed Oklahoma City: Voyageur Pub. Right-wing “Christian Identity” movement

Guest, Tim. 2005. My Life in Orange : Growing Up with the Guru: Harvest Books. Rajneesh cult

Brown, Elaine. 1992. A taste of power : a Black woman’s story. New York: Pantheon Books. Black Panther Party

Hilliard, David and Lewis Cole. 1993. This side of glory : the autobiography of David Hilliard and the story of the Black Panther Party. Boston: Little Brown. Black Panther Party

Collins, Eamon and Mick McGovern. 1997. Killing rage. London: Granta Books. IRA

Hearst, Patricia Campbell and Alvin Moscow. 1982. Patty Hearst: Her own story. New York: Avon Books. Symbionese Liberation Army

Husain, Ed. 2007. The Islamist : why I joined radical Islam in Britain, what I saw inside and why I left. London: Penguin. Islamism

Banisadr, Masoud. 2004. Masoud : memoirs of an Iranian rebel. London: Saqi. Islamism

Wall, Elissa. 2009. Stolen Innocence. Harper. Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (US polygamists)

Jessop, Carolyn. 2007. Escape. Broadway. Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (US polygamists)

 

Therapy/Self-Help Cults

Carlone, Judith L. and Elizabeth R. Burchard. 1999. Torn From The Arms of Satan: A True Story of Seduction and Escape from A Contemporary New Age Cult: Ace Academics.

McWilliams, Peter. 1994. Life 102: What to Do When Your Guru Sues You: Mary Book / Prelude Pr.

 

Fictional accounts

Golding, William. 1959. Lord of the flies; a novel. New York,: Capricorn Books.

Koestler, Arthur. 1968. Darkness at noon. London: Longmans. Fiction based on USSR

Orwell, George. 1946. Animal Farm. New York: Signet Classic.

Orwell, George. 1949. 1984. New American Library: New York.

 

Apr 26

Film and reading for Class Ten

The key thing for next week is to watch this brilliant film: The Flute Player . Then there is also a reading: On Resisting Social Influence, by Andersen and Zimbardo (scroll down the page to see the reading). 

Follow up from Class 9

We first discussed the Education of a Torturer article, noting that the methods to turn relatively normal people into torturers resemble brainwashing methods. This led to some discussion about Primo Levi’s idea of the “grey zone” between victim and perpetrator and how it is not always so simple to divide people between those two poles.  This led to discussing how former totalitarian nations (i.e. Germany in particular) have tried to deal with their histories - not always well, and not necessarily resolving that history in a clear way. The film for next week, The Flute Player addresses this to a certain extent in the case of Cambodia, whose trials of perpetrators are ongoing.

We discussed how to engage in prevention strategies, and how democracies can cope with the non-democratic elements within them. This led to talking about the UN Declaration of Human Rights as a kind of basic “floor” upon which democracy can rest - with the understanding that sanctions may need to be in place for those breaching such rights, while allowing maximum freedoms for others. 

Then we went on to discuss Lifton’s chapters from The Protean Self, and talked about the multiplicity and fluidity of identities in modern life, and how Lifton opposes this to the fixed, “safe” identity of the fundamentalist. We approached some differences between us re: post-modernism, and the different ways of looking at truth - are there many truths? no truths? simply varied perceptions?  

As an addendum to the class here is a link to the film, The Wave we mentioned. 

Finally - a reminder to Agnes: bring your camera! Next week we will document the last class in a historic photo!

Apr 20

Readings for Class 9

Here are two sets of readings rather opposed to one another. 

The first continues on the theme of coercion to create negative outcomes: The Education of a Torturer:

http://psychhome.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/7/7/1377191/education_of_torturer.pdf

The second set is from Lifton’s book, The Protean Self: Human Resilience in the Age of Fragmentation. Try Chapter 1 first: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/stei0301/myblog/Lifton%20chapter%201.pdf

and if you want, continue to Chapter 2: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/stei0301/myblog/Lifton%20chapter%202.pdf

While he talks about America in particular, I think the same increasingly applies to our experiences here in Europe. 

Many thanks to Paul for scanning the materials!

Apr 19

Summary of class 8

In class 8 we discussed Judith Herman’s chapter, Captivity, from her book Trauma and Recovery. We thought it would have been good to read this earlier in the course as it so clearly links a variety of forms of coercion and oppression - from domestic violence to political prisoners to totalitarianism. A key part of the chapter discusses how the totalist perpetrator seeks to make the victim a willing victim who is not controlled simply by violence, but is psychologically controlled and begins to cross their own moral boundaries. She looks at this as a form of chronic trauma and describes the resulting bond with the perpetrator as a trauma bond. 

This follow-up reading (Van der Kolk, Traumatic Stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body and society) goes into the neurobiology of chronic trauma and its effects on cognitive and emotional processing. It helps understand why people are often unable to think their way out of such systems: their cognitive abilities in regard to the source of trauma are disabled. http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Me5GN4LxBmQC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=van+der+kolk&ots=XbghPoRgIz&sig=5Q1rSS2iQsfSwN8nhbhWe4mmJWY#v=onepage&q=van%20der%20kolk&f=false

We started talking about forms of resistance that Herman touches on: building trusting friendships within these systems (what I call “islands of resistance”); or fighting dissociation by holding on to internalized memories and images of trusted and loved others. She also writes about how knowledge of totalist methods and structures help people resist the effects.  

Summary of class 7

In class 7 we discussed the functions of totalitarian ideology:

— to replicate the power structure: the single point of power in the system is represented by the single truth of a total ideology that allows no alternate views.

— to maintain the fictitious internal world of the system. This fiction is important in that it is part of preventing followers seeing the reality of their situation and thus being able to overcome the cognitive and emotional dissociation created by the isolation and coercion of totalism. 

— to justify isolation of followers - i.e. to justify removal of close attachments in the service of whatever the system’s ideology is. As with the fictitious world mentioned above, this isolation is absolutely key in maintaining control of followers.

Total ideologies are communicated through “loaded language” (of which Orwell’s Newspeak is a brilliant exposition) and through peripheral routes of persuasion - that is, persuasion that is based, not on careful, critical thinking, but on surface attributes and appeals to emotion and knee-jerk responses.

Then we talked about how Arendt’s view of friendship (see end of Men in Dark Times essay link below) is opposite to a total ideology. In this essay she describes how in friendship each person speaks about the truth of their experience and how, in this “in-between” that forms among people, we can therefore understand, see and be in the world. In other words we understand reality by sharing with each other the truth of our experience. We thought this sounded like a very Occupy view of the world. It is the opposite of a totalist fiction. 

Here’s how to find us at the pub!

Here’s how to find us at the pub!

Apr 16

Reading for Class 8

I will try to post a summary of last week’s discussion soon. But in the meantime, this is the next reading. This is from Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery. Herman Captivity.pdf


Apr 05

Readings for Class 7

There was an involuntary easter break last night. So on to Class 7 with these readings (I think the last set were a bit dry! These are less so, I hope.)

First is the fabulous Newspeak appendix to Orwell’s 1984. You can read it here: http://orwell.ru/library/novels/1984/english/en_app

If you want to read more, then also try this piece from Arendt (a short essay on German writer Lessing). It’s the first essay in this book which you can read online here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/50453618/Hannah-Arendt-Men-in-Dark-Times  

Perhaps people would email me next week whether they are planning to come or not for that class? Contact me at alexst at msn.com 

Mar 29

Readings for class 6

For this class it would be best to first read Ben Zablocki’s piece on Brainwashing:  http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~zablocki/Articles/Zablocki—Scientific%20Theory%20of%20Brainwashing.pdf  (You can start at the bottom of page 181 if you don’t want to read the whole thing).

Then, if time, read the paper I presented at an International Journal of Conflict and Violence conference last year that takes his work further: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/stei0301/protea/SocialStructuretotheMindIJCV.pdf

(If you want a really short intro instead of the long piece above you can read this brief summary of the ideas: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/stei0301/protea/a-primer-on-cults-and-ideologically-extremist-groups.html )

Summary of class 5

The pub was quiet last night with the exception of occasional shouts from the  football fans watching the Milan/Barcelona game.

Meanwhile we talked about the psychopathology of totalitarian leaders, delving into attachment theory as a way of thinking about that (the hypothesis being that these leaders have a disorganized attachment status). And we suggested that open, flexible and responsive persons are best suited to a) positive leadership positions and b) open organizational systems where leadership can be shared in various ways. Quite a bit of discussion on how in contemporary society people need to be able to tolerate ambiguity and fluidity and that dangers occur when people try to retreat to feudal-style rigid, absolutist thinking as a kind of protection against uncertainty.

We considered our current consumerist and capitalist society and how all relationships are tending to get pushed into money-exchange relationships and how this atomizes and isolates people. This, we thought, can create the conditions of atomization that Arendt discusses which lead to a vulnerablity to totalitarinism on a population level. 

We talked about the structure of totalitarian organizations and the dense networks they encompass where persons within the system are barred from contact with those outside. The Arendt reading was interesting in discussing the “layers of the onion” structure of these closed systems. And we ended by looking at what healthy social networks (and organizations) look like: a variety of strengths of relationships (some very close, others looser); overlapping circles of relationships; open networks rather than closed; and enough social contacts so people aren’t isolated. 

Finally we saw that the Occupy movement has many positive aspects related to these issues such as: building open social networks, creating non-cash-based relationships; challenging hierarchical leadership. 

Here are some follow up resources that came up in the course of the discussion:

There is an enormous literature on attachment theory. Here is a piece on the origins of the theory: http://www.psychology.sunysb.edu/attachment/online/inge_origins.pdf

And on Disorganized attachment: http://www.open-source-cranio.com/resources/articles/Attachmenttheory.pdf

Good overview book on attachment and the mind is Dan Seigel’s The Developing Mind. 

Twemlow, Fonagy, et al on Mentalization and the Peaceful Schools project. Two articles: http://intaaps.org/uploads/pdfs/DevelopmentalApproach.pdf and the companion article is here: http://www.childreninthespotlight.com/php/index.php/downloads/25-twemlow-s—w—fonagy-p—a-sacco-f-c-2005

A classic article from 1970 (therefore a bit dated! but still has some relevance): The Tyranny of Structurelessness, by Jo Freeman: http://struggle.ws/pdfs/tyranny.pdf

A great, short video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnNSe5XYp6E

And finally, The Education of a Torturer: http://psychhome.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/7/7/1377191/education_of_torturer.pdf

Mar 23

Readings for class 5 - Updated

Ok. Here is the entire volume of Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism. http://archive.org/stream/originsoftotalit00aren#page/n11/mode/2up  Once there you can search for Page 364. It’s the section called Totalitarian Organization. We’ll read that section up to page 388. Or at least as much of it as you can manage.  (If you prefer a pdf file it’s here: http://ia700509.us.archive.org/7/items/originsoftotalit00aren/originsoftotalit00aren.pdf )

And there is also the Lalich reading I posted below (here it is again:  http://blog.lib.umn.edu/stei0301/myblog/FinalChap41%20%281%29.doc )  It should download as a Word doc. 

THE CLASS IS MOVING TO WEDNESDAYS

This class will now be held on Wednesdays. This is because Free University meetings are on Thursdays. You are welcome to come to those too. See the wiki here for more information:  https://occupywiki.org.uk/wiki/Free_University