Echoes of the totalitarianism and the systems of values


  • Jan Srnec Univerzita Karlova, Filozofická fakulta



totality (totalitarianism), democratic despotism, values, fear in politics, normalization


Totalitarianism and its philosophical, sociological, and psychological aspects are a subject matter of a substantial first part of the article. The second part of the article is more specific, as it demonstrates the goals and the course of the so-called “normalization” on the example of the Faculty of Arts of Charles University, Prague. A great deal of attention is devoted to the phenomenon of fear, which is a fundamental prerequisite of totalitarian systems. Further, it is pointed out that even democratic regimes possess some totalitarian elements, which has been pointed out already by Alexis de Tocqueville, the French historian who personally studied the nascent democratic regime in the 19th century in the United States. Among de Tocqueville’s merits are the first attempts to define the nature of democratic despotism. Democratic despotism is defined in terms of destruction of the human psyche, resignation to the exercise of one’s free will, and such additional character traits, as the tendency to quietism (calm acceptance of things as they come). The following, relatively extensive part, is devoted to values. The explanation of values is based primarily on a publication by the Brno lawyer Vladimír Čermák. Logically, the values of freedom, equality, and justice receive the main attention. The philosophical perspective of the article is represented by the views of the philosopher Ladislav Tondl. The first part of the article is concluded by an overview of methods which psychologists and sociologists use to empirically assess value orientations.
The second part of the article deals with a thorough socio-cultural analysis of the so-called “normalization” period (1969–1989). Its analysis has been recently carried out by young historians of the Faculty of Arts of Charles University and it resulted in a book listed in the References. In this Summary, the author considers it important to share the main message resulting from the analysis: Normalization resulted in the debilitation of “the fundamental ability of the intellectuals, i.e., of the ability to form generalized views, which could act as a counterpoint to the naturally (technocratic) discourse of the majority of political elites.” Thus, normalization succeeded in one of its main goals, i.e., not only to discredit but also to undermine the public intellectuals. The political change, brought about by the revolutionary year of 1989, did not take away from normalization accomplishment. That is one of the reasons why even two decades after the democratic Velvet Revolution, the dominant thought patterns in the Czech society still manifest a significant continuity with the preceding totalitarian period.”




How to Cite

Srnec, J. (2021). Echoes of the totalitarianism and the systems of values. Československá Psychologie, 65(5), 502-516.