Part III. From failure to self-destruction — The realm of psychology
Due to the moral stance with which individuals settle into state, competition and private life, the bourgeois world is full of character masks. These are people who freely decide all the time and pride themselves quite a bit on their decisions, even though the whole time they are making themselves useful for purposes that they do not even know and that they hotly deny when someone says what they are; people who march through the landscape of imperialism with a masterful air because they emphasize their subjectivity regardless of the content they give this subjectivity through their thoughts and actions; who, apart from everything they are forced to do and let themselves in for, cultivate their subjectivity by gearing themselves explicitly for being the means for a success that does not come about through their deeds — i.e., by striving beyond their ordinary occupation for a success (“self-confidence,” “recognition,” “self-fulfillment”) that makes them satisfied.
Going-along-with-things as method
These are people who enjoy their arbitrariness in thousands of idiotic calculations of advantage and disadvantage and find nothing more reasonable than the necessity of rule; who regard a thought as something impersonal due to its generality and therefore, when thinking, insist above all on the specialness of their personal opinion — and who are so hopelessly alike in their views of themselves and the rest of the world. After all, the wild variety of different characters is of course not due to individuals having thought about which general purposes they want to achieve, and for which reasons, and what they consider to be essential or unimportant for them; but rather is due both to the resolve to assert oneself within the bounds of possibility — the intention to cut one’s coat according to one’s cloth depending on individual experience — and to lending this going-along-with-things the semblance of shrewd wisdom and savoir-vivre.
Nothing testifies to this sad working of bourgeois rule more clearly than the popular catchphrase of “self- realization,” by which people high and low in the social hierarchy affirm what a lofty ideal they have concocted for themselves with their “ego” and how independent they imagine themselves to be from what their dear “self” is forced and prepared to do. They even go so far as to deny the antagonism between their concerns and the twin powers of modern state and business management when they notice that their ideal of themselves is not being met: as true psychologists, they invent character defects, repressions, and inhibitions in themselves that leave nothing of their free will. And similarly when it comes to other people, they refuse to examine the purposes to which their consciousness and actions conform, preferring to look for “motives” such as self-assertion and recognition that they have always already identified.
The pretension of coping in an exceptional way with the world to which one is conforming passes as character, as demonstrating “Look how well I know how to master life!” — while the citation of one’s negative particularity, of “Look what I lack for mastering life!” goes under the heading of illness. In fact, this citation is something completely different, namely a sophisticated technique of the moral subject who is out to assert himself most firmly in his failure, of all things, i.e., a very self-destructive act of free will; and while this refutes the whole of psychology, it nevertheless inspires its apostles to ever new arts of interpretation. The representatives of this science know only too well that it has adopted the medical ethos of providing practical help while having settled down into its helplessness. After all, it has long since succeeded in transforming its “therapeutic problems” into a weltanschauung that is at the service of all advocates of a “healthy” moral subjectivity, whether these advocates be football coaches or sanctimonious clerics.