The Power of the Powerless - Part 1: Havel, Marx, and Lenin

This post is a placeholder in which to post my first video commentary on Havel’s “The Power of the Powerless”. One errata: I said he was critiquing the Russian government. This isn’t entirely correct. He’s critiquing the Russian soviet, the Czechoslovakian government, and all other governments he labels as “post-totalitarian”. We’ll get into that, as the commentaries continue. UPDATE: You can find a playlist with all my commentary on this book, here.

Two Forms of Totalitarianism

Fascism is a form of tribalist totalitarianism. A traditional particularist tyranny, which privileges a core ethnic identity, and views the individual as an ‘organ’ in the ‘body politic’, which must conform in order for the organism to succeed. Where the individual rejects “the body”, he will, after the fashion of Rousseau, “be forced to be free”. History tends toward the ascendance of the most righteous organism, in this view. Communism is a form of universalist totalitarianism.

What Problem Is Rousseau Trying to Solve?

A core problem in political philosophy is the relation between the individual and the society in which he is a member. How does the political order, in the form of the state, legitimize itself and how are its impositions upon the individual, in apparent opposition to his freedom, justified? Jean-Jacques Rousseau attempted to solve this problem in his famous essay The Social Contract. To quote Rousseau from The Social Contract, his project is “…to find a form of association that will defend and protect the person and goods of each associate with the full and common force, and by means of which each uniting with all, nevertheless obeys only himself and remains as free as he was [in the state of nature]…”.