Towards the end of his life, Carl Jung became interested in trying to use the concept of archetypes to bridge the gap between the psyche and the physical world. This included a collaboration with physicist, Wolfgang Pauli, and also the qualitative study of number. Jung came to think of number as a primitive form of spirit. He also gave emphasis to the number 4 and in his book, Aion, made the argument that the task of the modern world was to integrate matter, the feminine and the devil into the trinity thus forming a quaternity. (If this sounds like a strange grouping, consider that the linguist George Lakoff has provided some cross-cultural evidence for this categorisation in his book Women, Fire and Dangerous Things).
In my recent series of posts on Spengler, I covered the theory of the cycle of civilisation as described by both Spengler and Toynbee and earlier by the French historian Charles Rollin. This raises the question: is the cycle of civilisation an archetype? It seems to me that it could be since, as Toynbee pointed out, it’s not a logical necessity that the cycle should be followed and nevertheless it seems the cycle does get followed as if determined by something like an archetype.
One of the core processes that Spengler and Toynbee identified in the latter stages of a civilisation was proletarianisation. This is the homogenisation of the population; the switch from quality to quantity. It recently occurred to me that we are still in the grip of this proletarianisation but it is manifesting now in a different form than previously. The underlying archetype – late stage civilisation – is the same but its temporal expression has changed.
To explain this, we can use one of Nassim Taleb’s most insightful ideas: the Minority Rule. I’m not sure whether Taleb has read either Spengler or Toynbee. From the way he described his discovery of the Minority Rule, it seems to have been an independent insight on his part. Nevertheless, it fits into the proletarianisation of late civilisation and it does so in a mathematical kind of way that Jung would have found compelling.
The Minority Rule states that an Intolerant Minority can determine the behaviour of the Majority if the minority reaches a certain proportion of the overall population. The example Taleb uses to explain the Minority Rule is kosher food since it was while drinking a can of kosher soft drink that he stumbled across the idea.
Let’s say you have a neighbourhood in a city in the USA where the Jewish community increases to about 5% (this is the threshold where Taleb believes the Minority Rule kicks in). Local supermarkets will have been stocking both kosher and non-kosher food up until this point. This comes at a cost since it takes extra shelf space to stock two types of the same food.
If the Jewish community in the area continues to grow, at some point the cost of stocking both kosher and non-kosher food will be noticeable to supermarket management and they will look for ways around this cost. One thing management can do is to sell only kosher food. This can work if the rest of the population in the area, the Majority, does not care if food is kosher or not.
There are three core elements to the Minority Rule’s structure: the indifferent Majority, the intolerant Minority and a leadership group (management) that seeks power (profits). When these three conditions hold, the Minority can be said to determine the behaviour of the Majority through the leadership group and everybody in the neighbourhood will end up eating kosher food.
Taleb’s use of the kosher food example to describe the Minority Rule is useful because it opens up historical parallels that allow us to see the historical paradigm shift that activates the Minority Rule. The Minority Rule works in modern America but it could not have worked in old Europe because the Jews at that time lived in ghettos. The Jewish population was physically and culturally distinguished from the general population. This created parallel economies for Jews and gentiles.
What changed between old Europe and modern America? The Enlightenment. The specific Enlightenment ideal that is relevant here is the idea of equality under the law where the law represents the general will of the people expressed through parliament. We take this idea completely for granted these days but it did not exist in old Europe.
It’s no coincidence that it was Napoleon who “liberated” the Jews. His Code Napoleon also put the final nail in the coffin of feudalism. There were now centralised laws that were applicable to everybody in the nation. These replaced the local customs, which were informal and often unspoken. We see a similar homogenisation process in spoken and written language as often mutually unintelligible local dialects were replaced with “standard” national languages.
Hannah Arendt and other thinkers later analysed the “liberation” of European Jewry as the cause of a crisis in European Jewish identity. Herein lies the problem with the concepts of general will and equality before the law. Equality requires the sacrifice of ancient, immutable and non-transferrable identities. The doctrine of equality aims to stop the injustice of equal people being treated unequally. But it creates the opposite injustice where people who are not equal are treated the same.
Equality also turned out to be a byword for conformity. The general will became tied up with increasingly shrill demands for such conformity and the Jews became central to this dynamic because, even though their identity was arguably more under threat than anybody else’s, they still retained the last vestiges of the old world where identity was more important than equality.
In psychological terms, the Germans, French, Russians and most other European populations projected onto the Jews their own psychological trauma; the feeling of loss of identity that came with proletarianisation. The Nazis would eventually represent the final collapse into proletarianisation. They actively persecuted all minority groups, not just the Jews.
When we analyse this final collapse into proletarianisation, we find the same archetypal elements that Taleb identified in his Minority Rule. There is a homogenous Majority implied by the Nation concept, one or more Minorities and a Leadership group i.e. the State. Put it all together and you get the Nation State which struggled with the concept of minorities right from the start.
Utilising Taleb’s language, we can call the dynamic that arose in the Nation States following the French Revolution – Majority Rule. The Majority Rule archetype is invoked when an Intolerant Majority determines the behaviour of the Minority. In the days of old Europe prior to the Nation State, the Majority Rule did not apply because the homogenisation process had not yet taken place. The Jews were confined to ghettos. But for the most part they had some protection to practice their religion and live as they saw fit. The Majority did not seek to determine their behaviour.
That the Majority Rule should follow the Enlightenment fits with certain historical analyses which saw the Enlightenment concepts of the general will and equality before the law as giving rise to the Tyranny of the Majority. Although the Nazis are the most famous historical example, many European countries of that time were running a Tyranny of the Majority featuring a tyrannical leader claiming to represent a homogenous Majority in the persecution of Minorities.
Naturally, in the post-war years there has been a concerted effort not to allow a repetition of the Tyranny of the Majority and this is where we come to the current state of our politics. The Trump and Brexit votes threatened a return of the Tyranny of the Majority. At least, that’s what we were told. One thing they certainly threatened to do was to upend the political status quo that has been built after the wars.
The post-war years saw the disempowerment of the Nation State in favour of internationalisation. This went hand-in-hand with the rise of multi-national corporations and the consumer society. As long as the economy was growing, everybody was happy to go along with this state of affairs. Everything has been done to ensure its continuation through the various crises that have threatened it. The incorporation of China into the WTO may have been the last hurrah for the consumer economy. We stretched it out for another two decades on the back of cheap Chinese labour. But it’s now threatened on multiple fronts, not the least of which is the Chinese government.
In response to these threats and specifically the domestic threat posed by the Trump and Brexit votes, our “elites”, who govern more now through the Deep State than the State, have ramped up a dynamic that I’m going to call the Tyranny of the Minority. The Tyranny of the Minority is the invocation of Taleb’s Minority Rule in the political sphere.
Recall once again the three components of the archetype: the Majority, one or more Minorities and the Leaders. In the Tyranny of the Majority, you have an Intolerant Majority determining the behaviour of Minorities through the State. In the Tyranny of the Minority, you have an Intolerant Minority determining the behaviour of the Majority through the Deep State.
Examples of this from recent politics include the climate debate, although “success” there has been limited. Corona was a prime example as the Branch Covidian Intolerant Minority and the Deep State determined the behaviour of the Majority. The transgender issue is the latest and perhaps most obvious example since it has the least basis in reason and logic. Here in Australia, and I believe also in NZ and Canada, the indigenous debate is also increasingly taking the form of a Tyranny of the Minority. Australia will even vote later this year to enshrine it into the Constitution.
The Tyranny of the Minority is now actively encouraged by the highest political offices in western nations. Just as the politicians of early 20th century Europe leveraged nationalism and socialism to create a Tyranny of the Majority, our politicians leverage the various ideologies listed above to create a Tyranny of the Minority. It is the mechanism by which political power is wielded.
Recall that Taleb’s Minority Rule holds when an indifferent Majority comes up against an Intolerant Minority. It might be argued that the Majority is not indifferent on the topics I listed above. Again, the trans issue is very illuminating here since there are now many women who are speaking out on the subject and hence are not indifferent. Those women have simply been smeared as Nazis, fascists or “hard right” extremists. It’s the same smear used against the Canadian truckers, the Querdenker in Germany and pretty much any group now who speaks out against the current thing.
Logically speaking, such accusations are irrational and contrary to historical fact. But that’s precisely why we must turn to an archetypal explanation. Jung was quite clear about this. It’s when the rational mind breaks down that the archetypes become active. It’s quite clear the collective rational mind of the West has now broken down and the archetypes are coming out to play.
To understand what is going on archetypally, we must interpret these matters symbolically, not logically. When we do so, we can see that the Nazi/fascist smear is archetypally related to the historical Tyranny of the Majority. Since our current “elites” are facilitating a Tyranny of the Minority and since this is actually an inversion of the Tyranny of the Majority, there is some archetypal logic to what is going on. You can have a Tyranny of the Minority or a Tyranny of the Majority. You can’t have both.
The more cogent of the modern “elites” fully believe that the Trump/Brexit votes were the foreshadowing of a return to the Tyranny of the Majority. That is, at least, their excuse. The problem is that they have a vested interest in the status quo and the status quo is built on a Tyranny of the Minority.
In any case, the objection works from a propaganda point of view. A Tyranny of the Minority requires a compliant Majority in order to work and the Nazi/Hitler smears are there to ensure that the Majority stays compliant. Of course, at the rate we are going, everybody will have been called a Nazi before too long. When even feminists are getting called Nazis, you know you’re reaching the end game.
In summary, western “elites” have weaponised the Minority Rule and turned it into a Tyranny of the Minority. That is the mechanism of domestic political power.
The Tyranny of the Majority found expression through an actual tyrant (Napoleon, Hitler) while the Tyranny of the Minority fits the pattern I have previously identified as Benevolent Totalitarianism. It works in a decentralised fashion based around ideology. The Tyranny of the Majority requires the Tyrannical Father archetype. The Tyranny of the Minority requires The Devouring Mother.