Robert Musil on stupidity

A recent freely available article by sociologist Bo Isenberg entitled “A modern calamity – Robert Musil on stupidity” in Journal of Classical Sociology.

This voluntary subordination might be dispassionate or fanatical and relates to not only collective ideologies, nationalism and totalitarianism but also excessive rationalism.

To Musil, nationalism and totalitarianism are manifestations of the most treacherous forms of functional stupidity – of politicised, ideologised stupidity, or, put differently, of the politicisation and ideologisation of the mind and its subordination to masses and programmes.

Totalitarianism subjugates and makes the mind instrumental. The intellect becomes an element of the terror, of a uniform mental life where every disparate thought, every counter-argument, every question is illegitimate.

More specifically, Musil writes, totalitarianism was the most menacing and murderous political form of stupidity, in the sense that individual qualities and needs, including different elements of stupidity, became socially imitated and turned into collective ‘arrogance’ by and in the ‘body politic’.