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Fascism and Democracy in the Human Mind

A Bridge between Mind and Society

Israel W. Charny

Publication Year: 2006

What might you have done if you had been caught up in the Holocaust? In My Lai? In Rwanda? Confronted with acts of violence and evil on scales grand and small, we ask ourselves, baffled, how such horrors can happen—how human beings seemingly like ourselves can commit such atrocities. The answer, I. W. Charny suggests in this important new work, may be found in each one of us, in the different and distinct ways in which we organize our minds.

An internationally recognized scholar of the psychology of violence, Charny defines two paradigms of mental organization, the democratic and the fascist, and shows how these systems can determine behavior in intimate relationships, social situations, and events of global significance. With its novel conception of mental health and illness, this book develops new directions for diagnosis and treatment of emotional disorders that are played out in everyday acts of violence against ourselves and others. Fascism and Democracy in the Human Mind also offers much-needed insight into the sources and workings of terrorism and genocide. A sane, radical statement about the guiding principles underlying acts of violence and evil, this book sounds a passionate call for the democratic way of thinking, which recognizes complexity, embraces responsibility, and affirms life.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiii

This book is a statement of hope for a democratic way of life, beginning in our minds and extending to our relationships and to our societies. It is also a sane radical statement about how people get crazy and upset and lose relationships in everyday life, and how people destroy life in societies, in both cases deriving from similar faulty fascist-type ...

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pp. xv-xvii

I want to thank very much the following colleagues for their warm support, encouragement, and various assistance: Douglas Sprenkle, my colleague psychologist—family therapist and friend of many years, whose clinical and spiritual thinking about human beings and their intimate relationships has always spoken to me of a thoughtful, deep, and kind person and practitioner. I recognize Doug ...

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Introduction: A New Bridge between Mind and Society

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pp. 1-10

Many years ago I decided in my role as a psychologist and psychotherapist that I would try to contribute my understanding of how our human mind works to the vital study of the Holocaust and genocide; that is, to see what psychology can contribute to our understanding of how everyday, ostensibly ordinary human beings turn into the rotten destroyers that ...

Part One: The Choice between Fascism and Democracy in Everyday Life in the Individual Mind, the Family, and Society

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1. What Is the Original "Mind Software" We Humans Receive at the "Factory"?

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pp. 13-52

By fascism, I mean a philosophy of totalities and perfection and a way of thinking in certainties and absolutes, powerful intolerance for any differences of ideas, demands for conformity to the certainties and often a cultivation of mindlessness or no thinking or questioning; taking a position of superiority over others who do not believe or cannot qualify ...

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2. The Choice between fascist mind and democratic mind:What Chance Do We Have of Changing Our "Fascist Minds" to "Democratic Minds"?

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pp. 53-78

Human minds are wired in certain ways at the "factory," where we are all so to speak manufactured, so that all human beings have the same basic mind software program. However, although we all received the same basic computers at the "factory," it does not mean that all of us end up using our minds in the same ways in the course of our lives. ...

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3. The Fascist Believer: Totality, Overcertainty, and Suppression of Information

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pp. 79-98

The concepts of fascist mind versus democratic mind refer to the mindsets, or "software," a person adopts as the prevailing organizing programs for the use of his or her mind in various aspects of life. These are the ways in which we frame, define, interpret, and organize our life experiences. These mindsets are programs that contain definitions of our ...

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4. The Fascist Slave: Obedience, Conformity, and Intolerance of Dissent

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pp. 97-112

Abandoning or submerging one's identity to another identity, whether to one's family or a group such as a religious order or nation is an important and almost frightening issue that has been sidestepped in much professional psychological writing. I suggest that we would do well to add the following to our concepts ...

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5. The Fascist Fist: Superiority, Excessive Power, and Violence against Self and Others

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pp. 113-139

Fascist mind "knows" it is superior to everyone else. It is intolerant of alternative ideas and intolerant of the possibilities of leadership and power being vested in anyone other than adherents to its certain and perfect conception of truth and reality. Unfortunately, the belief in one's superiority, and the generally heroic pageantry and choreography of ...

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6. The Fascist Denier: "I Never Did Any Harm" — Denials of Doing Harm to Oneself or to Others

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pp. 141-154

Fascist mind is inherently a liar. It has to be a liar, beginning with the fact that it sets totalistic goals so adamantly and extremely that it has to fool itself into believing it is as good and completely successful as it insists it must be from the outset. But the issue goes deeper. fascist mind believes it has the right to impose its seemingly true map of reality on reality itself, that whatever it believes ...

Part Two: Overcoming and Growing beyond the Seductions of Fascism in Mind and Society

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7. Democratic Mind as the Healthy Alternative to Fascist Mind: The Joy of Life Process and Opportunity

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pp. 157-188

In political terms, the alternative to fascism (totalitarianism) is democracy, and I propose that the same alternative awaits us in the management of our minds. democratic mind is characterized by acceptance of complexity, diversity, process, contradiction, and paradox. democratic mind is open to reevaluation and change based on information from reality; it is based ...

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8. Psychotherapy as Antifascism and Training for Democracy

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pp. 189-253

I love the psychotherapy room. As a practitioner these many years, and earlier as a long-term patient in psychoanalysis and subsequent psychotherapy, the psychotherapy room is a marvelous space where I am free to be myself, to think everything I want to, and to encounter the unwelcome thoughts that insist on existing in me seemingly against my ...

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9. Discovering Applications of democratic mind in Everyday Life

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pp. 254-303

How much knowledge is there regarding how a person can best use his or her mind in everyday life? Are there implications for everyday life in the methodology of good psychotherapy? In psychotherapy, patients enjoy an amazing degree of freedom of thought, feeling, and speech in the therapist's presence. But how much ...

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10. A Unified Theory of democratic mind in the Self, Family, and Society: A Vision of More Decent Human BeingsWho Do Less Harm to Themselves and Others

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pp. 304-329

The guiding value of this work is a concept of the sacredness of life, both for oneself and for all other human beings. This is what I mean by a proposal of a "unified theory" that applies to individuals, to the interactions of people in their marriages, to interactions with their children and families at large, and to the big pictures of collective interactions in ...

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Conclusion: The Care and Maintenance of the Bridge between Mind and Society

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pp. 330-370

I wish that in the fell swoop of a closing chapter I could make an inspired statement about the care and maintenance of our minds that would really bring us closer to a beautiful new peaceful world. This kind of idealistic dreaming makes me happy. In fact, I will try to make a real-life statement about everyday uses of mind, first to be more sane, resilient, and ...

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Epilogue: My Background Both as a Psychotherapist and as a Peace Researcher Studying Genocide

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pp. 372-378

As a practicing psychotherapist for many years, and for almost as many years also a devoted theorist and researcher of destructiveness and the terrifying phenomena of genocide and mass destruction of human life, my lifework and thinking have been marked by continuous interplays of searching to understand human behavior on both the levels of mind and ...


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pp. 379-430


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pp. 431-456


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pp. 457-471

E-ISBN-13: 9780803253926
E-ISBN-10: 0803253923

Publication Year: 2006