Carl Jung on the state of the world

Perhaps Jung’s writing in 1949 on the state of the post-war world can also be seen as prophetic. So much of what he says could apply to 2017; or perhaps it’s more that there are cycles of political movements and pendulums that swing through from one position to another.
Jung saw that a political situation is always a manifestation of a parallel psychological problem in millions of individuals. Whilst political commentators and analysts might agree with that, they would not necessarily appreciate that the problem is largely unconscious and it is this that in Jung’s view, makes it a particularly dangerous one. He sees it as a conflict between a conscious (ethical, religious, philosophical, social, political, and psychological) standpoint and an unconscious one which is characterised by the same aspects but as Jung puts it, is represented in a ‘lower’ or more archaic form.

Talking about Western societies Jung sees that this is a conflict present in nearly everyone: instead of Christian ethics [though one might question that phrase given increased awareness of what has passed for Christian ethics] this is about the law of the herd … by which he means populism and suppression of individual responsibility with submission to totalitarian ethics in the form of a tribal chief. A superstitious belief in an ad hoc doctrine dominates over religion, and instead of philosophy there is what he calls ‘a low-grade doctrinary system which “rationalises” the appetites of the herd.’ He sees the disruption of a differentiated social organisation by a chaotic and meaningless agglomeration of uprooted individuals … here I think Jung means a rootless sense of community – what is it that we belong to – and he sees people as kept in line blindfolded by lies. This is a political system he says which inhibits the development of consciousness and intelligence.

He calls what happened in Germany before WW 2, amongst other things, a mental catastrophe and one that leads him to realize that no society is immune because the destructive powers are right there in each person. The more unconscious they are, the more danger there is. In this sense there is a threat from within as well as from without, and so political talk about destroying enemies and so on is futile. For Jung the only response is one where the unconscious is slowly integrated without violence and without flouting ethical values. In terms of economic competition wealth only grows at the expense of another’s poverty, so the success of growth for one country is, as we can all clearly see, at the cost of another country’s misfortune.

Jung’s message was not heard in 1949 … it’s doubtful how many in power would or could hear it now either.