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Georges Bataille

The Psychological Structure of Fascism

1933

CHAPTER II: THE STATE

In the contemporary period, social homogeneity is linked to the bourgeois class by essential ties: thus the Marxist conception is justified whenever the State is shown to be at the service of a threatened homogeneity.

As a rule, social homogeneity is a precarious form, at the mercy of violence and even of internal dissent. It forms spontaneously in the play of productive organization, but must constantly be protected from the various unruly elements that do not benefit from production, or not enough to suit them, or simply, that cannot tolerate the checks that homogeneity imposes on unrest. In such conditions, the protection of homogeneity lies in its recourse to imperative elements that are capable of obliterating the various unruly forces or bringing them under the control of order.

The State is not itself one of these imperative elements; it is distinct from kings, heads of the army, or of nations, but it is the results of the modifications undergone by a part of homogeneous society as it comes into contact with such elements. This part is an intermediary formation between the homogeneous classes and the sovereign agencies from which it must borrow its obligatory character, but whose exercise of sovereignty must rely upon it as an intermediary. It is only with reference to these sovereign agencies that it will be possible to envision the way in which this obligatory character is transferred to a formation that nevertheless does not constitute an existence valid in itself (heterogeneous), but simply an activity whose usefulness with regard to another part is manifest.

In practical terms, the function of the State consists of an interplay of authority and adaption. The reduction of differences through compromise in parliamentary practice indicates all the possible complexity of the internal activity of adaption required by homogeneity. But against forces that cannot be assimilated, the State cuts matters short with strict authority.

Depending on whether the State is democratic or despotic, the prevailing tendency will be either adaptation or authority. In a democracy, the State derives most of it strength from spontaneous homogeneity, which it fixes and constitutes as the rule. The principle of its sovereignty – the nation – providing both its end and its strength, is this diminished by the fact that isolated individuals increasingly consider themselves as ends with regard to the State, which would thus exist for them before existing for the nation. And, in this case, personal life distinguishes itself from homogeneous existence as a value that presents itself as incomparable.


Posted: January 2019
Category: Essays

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