Democracy and Dictatorship, Their Psychology and Patterns of Life

Democracy and Dictatorship, Their Psychology and Patterns of Life

Democracy and Dictatorship, Their Psychology and Patterns of Life

Democracy and Dictatorship, Their Psychology and Patterns of Life

Excerpt

History is a picture gallery containing few originals and a great many copies.

ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE

SOCIOLOGY AND PSYCHOLOGY

ONE of my first concerns, in the present study, was to find or to build up a common ground between sociology and psychology, and thus to look at the problem of democracy and totalitarianism from two points of view at once. From the very outset I felt the need to escape a purely political approach and to speak about democracy and totalitarianism as ways of life. Needless to say I have been aware of the difficulty anyone has to face when working with such a general and vague concept as that of a way of life. But, on the other hand, it was obvious to me that a common ground between two disciplines so different and opposed in their approach could not be found without resorting to a less specialized and less precise vocabulary. The concept of 'way of life' included both a specific social and political structure, and a specific type of behaviour and personality.

It seems to me that many difficulties involved in the study of the democratic and totalitarian ways of life can be considerably diminished by acquiring the technique of thinking on two planes, sociological and psychological. Consequently, my next concern was to establish a series of correspondences between the sociological and psychological aspects of the democratic and totalitarian ways of life. Thus, starting with the analysis of a series of phenomena characteristic of various periods of democratization both in the ancient and modern worlds, I was led to the idea that democratization is closely associated with a series of processes by which the common pattern of life of a group of individuals becomes flexible. The transitions from the medieval to the modern economic system, from the rigidly organized medieval community to the dynamic society, gradually created in the Western world since the Renaissance, from a stable spiritual world dominated by religion to a world permanently open to changes and revisions, as science progresses, are in fact aspects in the process towards flexibility of the culture-patterns of Western societies. Democracy is consequently defined as a flexible . . .

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