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Money, Power and the Human Psyche

by Gerhard Danzer Tuesday, Dec. 06, 2005 at 6:10 PM

Slavery still exists as money slavery all over the world where more than a third of humanity must survive at the subsistence level..Our relation to money has characteristics of madness. . When value blindness occurs in a person, his sense of reality becomes dead.


By Gerhard Danzer

[This article is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, Gerhard Danzer, b. 1956 in Passau, is director of psychosomatic medicine and psychotherapy at Humboldt University in Berlin and author and editor of numerous books on depth psychology, psychosomatics, anthropology and psychology.]

(Last week Johannes Heinrich in our lecture series emphasized that the liberation of money from interest is a necessary but not sufficient condition for healing our sick society. Beyond the material-economic plane, there are other necessary conditions on a social-interpersonal plane. The medical director for psychosomatic medicine and psychotherapy, Gerhard Danzer, shows his special fields can contribute fascinating psychological and philosophical connections to the theme “money”.)

As founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud described growth of capacity for work and love as the goal of human development and education. Education should help the person replace the lower values of having, keeping and collecting with the higher values of loving and being loved, cultural works and personality development. In their developmental psychology, Freud and his students implicitly added an ethic that Freud originally wanted to avoid (corresponding to the natural science mentality in the second half of the 19th century). Nut whoever pursues psychology can never avoid the nearness to humanities and cultural disciplines like philosophy. Human existence is not a mere fact but also an ethical desideratum (imperative as well as indicative). Therefore psychology without ethics is a half-truth. (In the 20th century, leading natural scientists like Carl Friedrich von Weizsacker distanced themselves from the claim of the 19th century that all truth of existence can be completely grasped by natural science.)

Allied with new production methods, capital concentrations and concepts of the economy and society, the “rule of money” gradually developed in Europe since the 14th and 15th centuries. The commercial spirit subjects almost everything to counting, weighing and calculating. This is also true for the development of natural science and technology whose triumphant advance was closely connected with the advance of capitalism. The European person was gradually changed. He learned to survive in competition and see his happiness in social success. Religious changes in Calvinism support this outlook. Economic success was seen as a show of divine mercy or favor. On the other hand, impoverishment and poverty were decried as punishment for sin and guilt. The capitalist saw himself confirmed in his ruthless methods of exploitation.

A revolt against this outlook first arose in the Marxism of the 19th century. Money had become the god or idol of the modern world! Karl Marx set his hope on total transformation of society corresponding to the ideals of freedom, equality and sociality. He expected this utopia from the introduction of communism. Today we know that Marx and his successors were overly simplistic. Most communist states collapsed and left behind an economic, social and cultural chaos.

We must reconsider the problem “Money, Humanity and the Human Psyche”. To that end we build on the individual psychology of Alfred Adler (1870-1937). This theory was the first competitive system to the psychoanalysis of Freud that Adler had followed from 1902 to 1911. Adler adopted from Nietzsche that human emotional life constantly strives to maintain a feeling of self-work. With positive socialization, self-worth and self-respect are possible through social security. Under bad conditions, striving for compensation degenerates to asocial needs for superiority where power and rule over others drown out the voices of their own insecurity.

In the emotionally sick culture, almost every person is inspired to orient his/her goals to self-enhancement by damaging others according to Adler. The germ of lust for power infects us all. We recognize this in collective tragedies like an egoistic economy, national, religious and racist arrogance, rearmament and war.

Leaving the powerlessness of his childhood, he seeks for superiority in the form of possessions, status and power in our present culture or non-culture. The most convenient (and seemingly harmless) instrument of power is money. Negative assets (or debts) of borrowers contrast with positive financial assets increasing rapidly through compound interest without any help of its owners. The law gives the creditor the power to take all “securities” from the “debtor” if a borrower can no longer pay. This is done with the best conscience because it is “legal”!

In an incredible way, the money- and possession fixation allows humanity everywhere “to go to the dogs.” Slavery was nominally abolished around 150 years ago but still exists as money slavery all over the world where more than a third of humanity must survive at once the subsistence level and in large part hunger and starve to death.

In the last part of his address, Gerhard Danzer considers interesting historical contributions of philosophy. An ethical clarification of the money- and power complex could encourage some contemporaries to grow beyond the present economic- and cultural situation.

Danzer starts from the fact that our relation to money has characteristics of “madness.” Psychiatrists describe a person who experiences hallucinations and insane misjudgments as “mad.” This reality-loss is connected with a breakdown of personal functions. Modern philosophy says a functioning perception presupposes an intact sense of values. According to Max Scheler (1874-1928), one only perceives what one recognizes as a value. When a value-blindness occurs in a person, his sense of reality becomes dead. He faces an empty world that he may populate with his hallucinations and crazy delusions. According to Scheler, values are only recognized by the senses. As a result, loss of value is bound with a dying off of the emotions. Therefore a mania can only be healed when emotions are reawakened and the person regains hope and courage to face life or will to live. Thus acting rightly as to values and their ranking is vital. Whoever orients his life to ignoble or base values is partly caught in psychic sickness. High wages according to Scheler are love, solidarity, compassion, reason, self-realization and freedom of the person.

People are mad or delusional on account of organic injuries and because of narrowed value horizons when they stubbornly fade out the higher values and are only fixated on base values. In his “Ethics” (1678), Spinoza (1633-1677) calls persons “mad” who are handed over to their meager passions. “When the greedy think of nothing but profit or money and the ambitious of glory and so forth, they are not regarded as mad but as repulsive. In truth avarice, ambition and so forth are forms of madness and should not be counted as sicknesses.”

False existence (Irresein) and ethical failure prove to be two sides of one coin. This was also Immanuel Kant’s perspective in defining respect of human dignity as rational conduct toward fellow persons. Kant also regarded torture and degradation of persons as mere use value as “completely abnormal.” Our economic and financial system does this! According to Kant, this remains far behind the moral norms of human existence,

Erich Fromm and his criticism of “homo consumens” as the “prototype of the capitalist age” are in the same school. This prototype no longer says like Descartes “I think, therefore I ma” but “I consume, therefore I am.”

We define “mental-emotional health” as “experience and emotional anchoring in the kingdom of values.” Value loss and value blindness is a psychopathological fact for us. A person is emotionally disturbed when he doesn’t live to realize of higher values. Values are comparable with the sun in the physical world. As an eclipse of the sun darkens the real world, world poverty becomes a darkening or eclipse of the ideal and emotional world.

One can certainly live or vegetate with this value-blindness. Emotionally blind persons can also be enormously successful and efficient in our perverted society. Since they cannot be checked by emotional problems in their activities, they use vast energy for their pitiful goals and objectives. Value-blind personalities are certainly not few in number among the great managers and economic exponents, the higher military, unscrupulous politicians and other rulers. Since their followers also suffer in value-blindness, these “leaders” can realize their monstrous projects. However all this is pathological to the worst extent, absolutely inhuman..

According to Nicolas Hartmann (1882-1950), a person (as Kant also said) is a citizen of two worlds. He lives in the real world of things that can fully exist without us people. Through his reason and emotions, he has insight in the ideal world of values and ideas. This ideal world would also have authority without people but can only be experienced by people and concretized in the rough material of reality. That is the so-called cosmic function of humanity. We know no other rational being who senses and seeks values and can enrich and supplant the real through ideas.


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