Anarchism and the Politics
of 'Ressentiment'* French word
meaning ‘jealousy of the haves by the have-nots.'
by Saul Newman
"A word in the ear of the psychologists, assuming they are inclined to study ressentiment close up for once: this plant thrives best amongst anarchists...." *word invented by Nietzsche
My favorite book
is FINLAND Station by
Edmund Wilson, Scott Fitzgerald's personal conscience, friend and editor. This
book is a personable, interesting study of the childhoods of the great radical leftists Marx, Lenin, Michelet,Bakunin, Engels, Trotsky, (mainly
martyrs,) of the last five hundred years. It goes over their bios very
carefully, showing what made them rise up against reality and royalty with a
fist and invariably end up either poor or in jail. PRIMARILY, they hated their
FATHERS! But not always. Here's a take on that theme which I FOUND online. It
tells us that THE INTERIOR OF THE RADICAL MIND is different from
our own. The FIRST HALF of article below is from Frederich NIETZSCHE, the
second half's author is very famous & now in prison,
1. Of all the nineteenth century political movements that Nietzsche decries -- from socialism to liberalism -- he reserves his most venomous words for the anarchists. He calls them the "anarchist dogs" that are roaming the streets of European culture, the epitome of the "herd-animal morality" that characterizes modern democratic politics. Nietzsche sees anarchism as poisoned at the root by the pestiferous weed of ressentiment -- the spiteful politics of the weak and pitiful, the morality of the slave. Is Nietzsche here merely venting his conservative wrath against radical politics, or is he diagnosing a real sickness that has infected our radical political imaginary? Despite the Nietzsche's obvious prejudice towards radical politics, this paper will take seriously his charge against anarchism. It will explore this cunning logic of ressentiment in relation to radical politics, particularly anarchism. It will attempt to unmask the hidden strains of ressentiment in the Manichean political thinking of classical anarchists like Bakunin, Kropotkin and Proudhon. This is not with the intention of dismissing anarchism as a political theory. On the contrary I argue that anarchism could become more relevant to contemporary political struggles, if it were made aware of the ressentiment logic of its own discourse, particularly in the essentialist identities and structures that inhabit it.
Slave Morality and Ressentiment
2. Ressentiment is diagnosed by Nietzsche as our modern condition. In order to understand ressentiment, however, it is necessary to understand the relationship between master morality and slave morality in which ressentiment is generated. Nietzsche's work On the Genealogy of Morality is a study of the origins of morality. For Nietzsche, the way we interpret and impose values on the world has a history -- its origins are often brutal and far removed from the values they produce. The value of 'good', for instance, was invented by the noble and high-placed to apply to themselves, in contrast to common, low-placed and plebeian. It was the value of the master -- 'good' -- as opposed to that of the slave -- 'bad'. Thus, according to Nietzsche, it was in this pathos of distance, between the high-born and the low-born, this absolute sense of superiority, that values were created. However, this equation of good and aristocratic began to be undermined by a slave revolt in values. This slave revolt, according to Nietzsche, began with the Jews who instigated a revaluation of values:
3. It was the Jews who, rejecting the aristocratic value equation (good = noble = powerful = beautiful = happy = blessed) ventured with awe-inspiring consistency, to bring about a reversal and held it in the teeth of their unfathomable hatred (the hatred of the powerless), saying, 'Only those who suffer are good, only the poor, the powerless, the lowly are good; the suffering, the deprived, the sick, the ugly, are the only pious people, the only ones, salvation is for them alone, whereas you rich, the noble, the powerful, you are eternally wicked, cruel, lustful, insatiate, godless, you will also be eternallywretched, cursed and damned!'....
4. In this way the slave revolt in morality inverted the noble system of values and began to equate good with the lowly, the powerless -- the slave. This inversion introduced the pernicious spirit of revenge and hatred into the creation of values. Therefore morality, as we understand it, had its roots in this vengeful will to power of the powerless over the powerful -- the revolt of the slave against the master. It was from this imperceptible, subterranean hatred that grew the values subsequently associated with the good -- pity, altruism, meekness, etc.
5. Political values also grew from this poisonous root. For Nietzsche, values of equality and democracy, which form the cornerstone of radical political theory, arose out of the slave revolt in morality. They are generated by the same spirit of revenge and hatred of the powerful. Nietzsche therefore condemns political movements like liberal democracy, socialism, and indeed anarchism. He sees the democratic movement as an expression of the herd-animalmorality derived from the Judeo-Christian revaluation of values.Anarchism is for Nietzsche the most extreme heir to democratic values -- the most rabid expression of the herd instinct. It seeks to level the differences between individuals, to abolish class distinctions, to raze hierarchies to the ground, and to equalize the powerful and the powerless, the rich and the poor, the master and the slave. To Nietzsche this is bringing everything down to level of the lowest common denominator -- to erase the pathos of distance between the master and slave, the sense of difference and superiority through which great values are created. Nietzsche sees this as the worst excess of European nihilism -- the death of values and creativity.
6. Slave morality is characterized by the attitude of ressentiment -- the resentment and hatred of the powerless for the powerful. Nietzsche sees ressentiment as an entirely negative sentiment -- the attitude of denying what is life-affirming, saying'no' to what is different, what is 'outside' or 'other'. Ressentiment is characterized by an orientation to the outside, rather than the focus of noble morality, which is on the self. While the master says 'I am good' and adds as an afterthought, 'therefore he is bad'; the slave says the opposite -- 'He (the master) is bad, therefore I am good'. Thus the invention of values comes from a comparison or opposition to that which is outside, other, different. Nietzsche says: "... in order to come about, slave morality first has to have an opposing, external world, it needs, psychologically speaking, external stimuli in order to act all, -- its action is basically a reaction." This reactive stance, this inability to define anything except in opposition to something else, is the attitude of ressentiment. It is the reactive stance of the weak who define themselves in opposition to the strong. The weak need the existence of this external enemy to identify themselves as 'good'. Thus the slave takes 'imaginary revenge' upon the master, as he cannot act without the existence of the master to oppose. The man of ressentiment hates the noble with an intense spite, a deep-seated, seething hatred and jealousy. It is this ressentiment, according to Nietzsche, that has poisoned the modern consciousness, and finds its expression in ideas of equality and democracy, and in radical political philosophies, like anarchism, that advocate it.
7. Is anarchism a political expression of ressentiment? Is it poisoned by a deep hatred of the powerful? While Nietzsche's attack on anarchism is in many respects unjustified and excessively malicious, and shows little understanding of the complexities of anarchist theory, I would nevertheless argue that Nietzsche does uncover a certain logic of ressentiment in anarchism's oppositional, Manichean thinking. It is necessary to explore this logic that inhabits anarchism -- to see where it leads and to what extent it imposes conceptual limits on radical politics.
Now, examine THE MIND OF AN ANARCHIST FRUITCAKE.
A friend of the philosopher writer R.K.MOORE sent this article to him, RKM: " In all the furor over the Unabomber and his manifesto (circa 1993) -- which was eventually published, in capitulation to his bombing threat, as a supplement to the Washington Post—I was amazed that apparently almost no one actually READ the manifesto, or if they did they had little or nothing to say about it. Below, I have excerpted two passages of special vitality.
in mind that this was NOT written by some right-wing fruitcake or ditto-head
demagogue, but rather by an ultra-radical biocentrist anarchist and enemy of
urban-industrialism and technology.
He sees the ways in which the dysfunctional psychological attributes of typical leftists act to abort or pervert their (ostensibly) noble purposes, and how those same attributes foster statism and authoritarianism, even totalitarianism. He may or may not prove to be correct about the fate of urban-industrialism and technology (i.e. that it is doomed), and his style is blunt, but he has said some insightful and riveting things in this essay—to which leftish types should pay close attention, and should use as fuel for serious introspection.
Kaczynski’s tract was, for me, the beginning of a process of awakening and eventual dis-identification with the left. Over the next decade I came to see identification with either right or left as an addiction, and worse. The original green vision of “beyond left and right” came to have real resonance (sadly, just as it was losing traction amongst the greens themselves, as they yielded to a tide of conventional leftists and “progressives”).
I owe it all to Kaczynski, whose trenchant savagery was perhaps the only thing that could have jogged me out of my self-satisfied intellectual torpor, and prejudice.Great stuff. Read it.I reproduce below the Table of Contents, followed by the relevant passages. The whole manifesto is worth reading, as well.
Next, for more scholarly/historic context, I reproduce a selection from Herbert Schlossberg’s book Idols for Destruction (given in a letter to a friend of mine). Schlossberg discusses Nietszche’s and Scheler’s “ressentiment”—the basis, more abstractly, of much of what Kaczynski is talking about. After that there is a brief clip describing Neitszche’s “underman”—also relevant.
The only problem with all of this is that ressentiment—just like the Protestant fundamentalist pathologies described in the Davis article, which precipitated this—tends to be invisible to the very people who suffer from it. I’ve found that people (including myself at one time) who consciously identify with an ideology or orientation—commonly “right” or “left”, “conservative” or “liberal”—almost invariably are in a pre-rational thrall, with areas of cognition that are “off limits” to rational or super-rational appraisal. In other words, that their orientations are rooted in prejudice. Thus they cannot see in a self-critical way. In evolutionary psychological terms they are informed by deeply-embedded “dominant” or “counter-dominant” tendencies, as described in this remarkable, must-read article: Injustice, Inequality and Evolutionary Psychology, by Bruce G Charlton -
Another way of expressing this, in neurological structure terms, is by way of MacLean’s “triune brain” thesis, and the relative dominance of the pre-rational structures (reptilian and limbic) -- fears, hungers, lusts, territorial imperatives, status/hierarchy imperatives—over the rational faculties (neocortical). The pre-rational structures tend to be dominant in everyone, “right” and “left” alike. The only problem with the triune brain thesis (as with Charlton’s thesis, above) is that it gives no account of the super-rational or spiritual. Nevertheless it does explain a great deal and is an essential element in the world-explanatory “toolkit” of anyone who is truly seeking to get to the bottom of things (not just rationalize prejudices). The best single introduction to the triune brain thesis, that I know of, is John Brand’s excellent four-part writeup “The Human Theater of the Absurd”, here:
There’s much more fun at the URLs.
SO, without further ado, here’s Kaczynski, followed by Schlossberg/Scheler/Neitszche...
[BEGIN PASSAGE FROM KACZYNSKI]
The Unabomber’s Manifesto:
Industrial Society And Its Future
The Psychology Of Modern Leftism (6-9)
Feelings Of Inferiority
The Power Process
Surrogate Activities (38-41)
Sources Of Social Problems (45-58)
Disruption Of The Power Process In Modern Society How Some People Adjust (77-86)
The Motives Of Scientists
The Nature Of Freedom (93-98)
Some Principles Of History
Industrial-Technological Society Cannot Be Reformed (111-113)
Restriction Of Freedom Is Unavoidable In Industrial Society
The ‘Bad’ Parts Of Technology Cannot Be Separated From The ‘Good’ Parts (121-124)
Problems Have Proved Intractable (136-139)
Revolution Is Easier
Control Of Human Behavior (143-160)
Human Race At A Crossroads
Human Suffering (167-170)
Two Kinds Of Technology
The Danger Of Leftism (213-230)
6. Almost everyone will agree that we live in a
deeply troubled society.
of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world is leftism,
so a discussion of the psychology of leftism can serve as an introduction to
the discussion of the problems of modern society in general.
7. But what is leftism? During the first half of the 20th century leftism could have been practically identified with socialism. Today the movement is fragmented and it is not clear who can properly be called a leftist. When we speak of leftists in this article we have in mind mainly socialists, collectivists, “politically correct” types, feminists, gay and disability activists, animal rights activists and the like. But not everyone who is associated with one of these movements is a leftist. What we are trying to get at in discussing leftism is not so much a movement or an ideology as a psychological type, or rather a collection of related types. Thus, what we mean by “leftism” will emerge more clearly in the course of our discussion of leftist psychology (Also, see paragraphs 227-230.)
8. Even so, our conception of leftism will remain a good deal less clear than we would wish, but there doesn’t seem to be any remedy for this.All we are trying to do is indicate in a rough and approximate way the two psychological tendencies that we believe are the main driving force of modern leftism. We by no means claim to be telling the WHOLE truth about leftist psychology. Also, our discussion is meant to apply to modern leftism only. We leave open the question of the extent to which our discussion could be applied to the leftists of the 19th and early 20th century.
9. The two psychological tendencies that underlie modern leftism we call
“feelings of inferiority” and “oversocialization.” Feelings of inferiority are characteristic of modern leftism as a whole, while oversocialization is characteristic only of a certain segment of modern leftism; but this segment is highly influential.
“feelings of inferiority” we mean not only inferiority feelings in the
strictest sense but a whole spectrum of related traits: low self-esteem,
feelings of powerlessness, depressive tendencies, defeatism, guilt,
self-hatred, etc. We argue that modern leftists tend to have such feelings
(possibly more or less repressed) and that these feelings are decisive in
determining the direction of modern leftism.
11. When someone interprets as derogatory almost
anything that is said about him (or about groups with whom he identifies) we
conclude that he has inferiority feelings or low self-esteem. This tendency is
pronounced among minority rights advocates, whether or not they belong to the
minority groups whose rights they defend. They are hypersensitive about the
words used to designate minorities. The terms “negro,” “oriental,”
“handicapped” or “chick” for an African, an Asian, a disabled person or a woman
originally had no derogatory connotation. “Broad” and “chick” were merely the
feminine equivalents of “guy,” “dude” or “fellow.” The negative connotations
have been attached to these terms by the activists themselves. Some animal
rights advocates have gone so far as to reject the word “pet” and insist on its
replacement by “animal companion.” Leftist anthropologists go to great lengths
to avoid saying anything about primitive peoples that could conceivably be
interpreted as negative. They want to replace the word “primitive” by
“nonliterate.” They seem almost paranoid about anything that might suggest that
any primitive culture is inferior to our own. (We do not mean to imply that
primitive cultures ARE inferior to ours. We merely point out the hypersensitivity
of leftish anthropologists.)
12. Those who are most sensitive about “politically incorrect” terminology are not the average black ghetto-dweller, Asian immigrant, abused woman or disabled person, but a minority of activists, many of whom do not even belong to any “oppressed” group but come from privileged strata of society. Political correctness has its stronghold among university professors, who have secure employment with comfortable salaries, and the majority of whom are heterosexual, white males from middle-class families.
13. Many leftists have an intense identification with the problems of groups that have an image of being weak (women), defeated (American Indians), repellent (homosexuals), or otherwise inferior. The leftists themselves feel that these groups are inferior. They would never admit it to themselves that they have such feelings, but it is precisely because they do see these groups as inferior that they identify with their problems. (We do not suggest that women, Indians, etc., ARE inferior; we are only making a point about leftist psychology).
14. Feminists are desperately anxious to prove that women are as strong and as capable as men. Clearly they are nagged by a fear that women may NOT be as strong and as capable as men.
15. Leftists tend to hate anything that has an image of being strong, good and successful. They hate America, they hate Western civilization, they hate white males, they hate rationality. The reasons that leftists give for hating the West, etc. clearly do not correspond with their real motives. They SAY they hate the West because it is warlike, imperialistic, sexist, ethnocentric and so forth, but where these same faults appear in socialist countries or in primitive cultures, the leftist finds excuses for them, or at best he GRUDGINGLY admits that they exist; whereas he ENTHUSIASTICALLY points out (and often greatly exaggerates) these faults where they appear in Western civilization.Thus it is clear that these faults are not the leftist’s real motive for hating America and the West. He hates America and the West because they are strong and successful.
16. Words like “self-confidence,” “self-reliance,” “initiative”,“enterprise,” “optimism,” etc. play little role in the liberal and leftist vocabulary. The leftist is anti-individualistic, pro-collectivist. He wants society to solve everyone’s needs for them, take care of them. He is not the sort of person who has an inner sense of confidence in his own ability to solve his own problems and satisfy his own needs. The leftist is antagonistic to the concept of competition because, deep inside, he feels like a loser.
17. Art forms that appeal to modern leftist intellectuals tend to focus on sordidness, defeat and despair, or else they take an orgiastic tone, throwing off rational control as if there were no hope of accomplishing anything through rational calculation and all that was left was to immerse oneself in the sensations of the moment.
18. Modern leftist philosophers tend to dismiss reason, science, objective reality and to insist that everything is culturally relative.It is true that one can ask serious questions about the foundations of scientific knowledge and about how, if at all, the concept of objective reality can be defined. But it is obvious that modern leftist philosophers are not simply cool-headed logicians systematically analyzing the foundations of knowledge. They are deeply involved emotionally in their attack on truth and reality. They attack these concepts because of their own psychological needs. For one thing, their attack is an outlet for hostility, and, to the extent that it is successful, it satisfies the drive for power. More importantly, the leftist hates science and rationality because they classify certain beliefs as true (i.e., successful, superior) and other beliefs as false (i.e. failed, inferior). The leftist’s feelings of inferiority run so deep that he cannot tolerate any classification of some things as successful or superior and other things as failed or inferior. This also underlies the rejection by many leftists of the concept of mental illness and of the utility of IQ tests. Leftists are antagonistic to genetic explanations of human abilities or behavior because such explanations tend to make some persons appear superior or inferior to others. Leftists prefer to give society the credit or blame for an individual’s ability or lack of it. Thus if a person is “inferior” it is not his fault, but society’s, because he has not been brought up properly.
19. The leftist is not typically the kind of person whose feelings of inferiority make him a braggart, an egotist, a bully, a self-promoter, a ruthless competitor. This kind of person has not wholly lost faith in himself. He has a deficit in his sense of power and self-worth, but he can still conceive of himself as having the capacity to be strong, and his efforts to make himself strong produce his unpleasant behavior.  But the leftist is too far gone for that. His feelings of inferiority are so ingrained that he cannot conceive of himself as individually strong and valuable. Hence the collectivism of the leftist. He can feel strong only as a member of a large organization or a mass movement with which he identifies himself.
[Note 1. (Paragraph 19) We are asserting that ALL, or even most, bullies and ruthless competitors suffer from feelings of inferiority.]
20. Notice the masochistic tendency of leftist tactics. Leftists protest by lying down in front of vehicles, they intentionally provoke police or racists to abuse them, etc. These tactics may often be effective, but many leftists use them not as a means to an end but because they PREFER masochistic tactics. Self-hatred is a leftist trait.
21. Leftists may claim that their activism is motivated by compassion or by moral principle, and moral principle does play a role for the leftist of the oversocialized type. But compassion and moral principle cannot be the main motives for leftist activism. Hostility is too prominent a component of leftist behavior; so is the drive for power. Moreover, much leftist behavior is not rationally calculated to be of benefit to the people whom the leftists claim to be trying to help. For example, if one believes that affirmative action is good for black people, does it make sense to demand affirmative action in hostile or dogmatic terms?Obviously it would be more productive to take a diplomatic and conciliatory approach that would make at least verbal and symbolic concessions to white people who think that affirmative action discriminates against them. But leftist activists do not take such an approach because it would not satisfy their emotional needs. Helping black people is not their real goal. Instead, race problems serve as an excuse for them to express their own hostility and frustrated need for power. In doing so they actually harm black people, because the activists’ hostile attitude toward the white majority tends to intensify race hatred.
22. If our society had no social problems at all, the leftists would have to INVENT problems in order to provide themselves with an excuse for making a fuss.
23. We emphasize that the foregoing does not pretend to be an accurate description of everyone who might be considered a leftist. It is only a rough indication of a general tendency of leftism.
24. Psychologists use the term “socialization” to
designate the process by which children are trained to think and act as society
demands. A person is said to be well socialized if he believes in and obeys the
moral code of his society and fits in well as a functioning part of that
society. It may seem senseless to say that many leftists are over-socialized,
since the leftist is perceived as a rebel.Nevertheless, the position can be
defended. Many leftists are not such rebels as they seem.
25. The moral code of our society is so demanding
that no one can think, feel and act in a completely moral way. For example, we
are not supposed to hate anyone, yet almost everyone hates somebody at some
time or other, whether he admits it to himself or not. Some people are so
highly socialized that the attempt to think, feel and act morally imposes a
severe burden on them. In order to avoid feelings of guilt, they continually
have to deceive themselves about their own motives and find moral explanations
for feelings and actions that in reality have a non-moral origin. We use the
term “oversocialized” to describe such people. 
[Note 2. (Paragraph 25) During the Victorian period many oversocialized people suffered from serious psychological problems as a result of repressing or trying to repress their sexual feelings. Freud apparently based his theories on people of this type. Today the focus of socialization has shifted from sex to aggression.]
26. Oversocialization can lead to low self-esteem, a sense of powerlessness, defeatism, guilt, etc. One of the most important means by which our society socializes children is by making them feel ashamed of behavior or speech that is contrary to society’s expectations. If this is overdone, or if a particular child is especially susceptible to such feelings, he ends by feeling ashamed of HIMSELF. Moreover the thought and the behavior of the oversocialized person are more restricted by society’s expectations than are those of the lightly socialized person.The majority of people engage in a significant amount of naughty behavior. They lie, they commit petty thefts, they break traffic laws, they goof off at work, they hate someone, they say spiteful things or they use some underhanded trick to get ahead of the other guy. The oversocialized person cannot do these things, or if he does do them he generates in himself a sense of shame and self-hatred. The oversocialized person cannot even experience, without guilt, thoughts or feelings that are contrary to the accepted morality; he cannot think “unclean” thoughts. And socialization is not just a matter of morality; we are socialized to confirm to many norms of behavior that do not fall under the heading of morality. Thus the oversocialized person is kept on a psychological leash and spends his life running on rails that society has laid down for him. In many oversocialized people this results in a sense of constraint and powerlessness that can be a severe hardship. We suggest that oversocialization is among the more serious cruelties that human beings inflict on one another.
27. We argue that a very important and influential segment of the modern left is oversocialized and that their oversocialization is of great importance in determining the direction of modern leftism. Leftists of the oversocialized type tend to be intellectuals or members of the upper-middle class. Notice that university intellectuals (3) constitute the most highly socialized segment of our society and also the most left-wing segment.
[Note 3. (Paragraph 27) Not necessarily including specialists in engineering “hard” sciences.]
28. The leftist of the oversocialized type tries to get off his psychological leash and assert his autonomy by rebelling. But usually he is not strong enough to rebel against the most basic values of society.Generally speaking, the goals of today’s leftists are NOT in conflict with the accepted morality. On the contrary, the left takes an accepted moral principle, adopts it as its own, and then accuses mainstream society of violating that principle. Examples: racial equality, equality of the sexes, helping poor people, peace as opposed to war, nonviolence generally, freedom of expression, kindness to animals. More fundamentally, the duty of the individual to serve society and the duty of society to take care of the individual. All these have been deeply rooted values of our society (or at least of its middle and upper classes (4)) for a long time. These values are explicitly or implicitly expressed or presupposed in most of the material presented to us by the mainstream communications media and the educational system. Leftists, especially those of the oversocialized type, usually do not rebel against these principles but justify their hostility to society by claiming (with some degree of truth) that society is not living up to these principles.
[Note 4. (Paragraph 28) There are many individuals of the middle and upper classes who resist some of these values, but usually their resistance is more or less covert. Such resistance appears in the mass media only to a very limited extent. The main thrust of propaganda in our society is in favor of the stated values. The main reasons why these values have become, so to speak, the official values of our society is that they are useful to the industrial system. Violence is discouraged because it disrupts the functioning of the system. Racism is discouraged because ethnic conflicts also disrupt the system, and discrimination wastes the talent of minority-group members who could be useful to the system. Poverty must be “cured” because the underclass causes problems for the system and contact with the underclass lowers the morale of the other classes. Women are encouraged to have careers because their talents are useful to the system and, more importantly, because by having regular jobs women become better integrated into the system and tied directly to it rather than to their families. This helps to weaken family solidarity. (The leaders of the system say they want to strengthen the family, but what they really mean is that they want the family to serve as an effective tool for socializing children in accord with the needs of the system. We argue in paragraphs 51,52 that the system cannot afford to let the family or other small-scale social groups be strong or autonomous.)]
29. Here is an illustration of the way in which the oversocialized leftist shows his real attachment to the conventional attitudes of our society while pretending to be in rebellion against it. Many leftists push for affirmative action, for moving black people into high-prestige jobs, for improved education in black schools and more money for such schools; the way of life of the black “underclass” they regard as a social disgrace. They want to integrate the black man into the system, make him a business executive, a lawyer, a scientist just like upper-middle-class white people. The leftists will reply that the last thing they want is to make the black man into a copy of the white man; instead, they want to preserve African American culture. But in what does this preservation of African American culture consist? It can hardly consist in anything more than eating black-style food, listening to black-style music, wearing black-style clothing and going to a black-style church or mosque. In other words, it can express itself only in superficial matters. In all ESSENTIAL respects more leftists of the oversocialized type want to make the black man conform to white, middle-class ideals. They want to make him study technical subjects, become an executive or a scientist, spend his life climbing the status ladder to prove that black people are as good as white. They want to make black fathers “responsible.” They want black gangs to become nonviolent, etc. But these are exactly the values of the industrial-technological system. The system couldn’t care less what kind of music a man listens to, what kind of clothes he wears or what religion he believes in as long as he studies in school, holds a respectable job, climbs the status ladder, is a “responsible” parent, is nonviolent and so forth. In effect, however much he may deny it, the oversocialized leftist wants to integrate the black man into the system and make him adopt its values.
30. We certainly do not claim that leftists, even of the oversocialized type, NEVER rebel against the fundamental values of our society. Clearly they sometimes do. Some oversocialized leftists have gone so far as to rebel against one of modern society’s most important principles by engaging in physical violence. By their own account, violence is for them a form of “liberation.” In other words, by committing violence they break through the psychological restraints that have been trained into them. Because they are oversocialized these restraints have been more confining for them than for others; hence their need to break free of them. But they usually justify their rebellion in terms of mainstream values. If they engage in violence they claim to be fighting against racism or the like.
31. We realize that many objections could be raised to the foregoing thumb-nail sketch of leftist psychology. The real situation is complex, and anything like a complete description of it would take several volumes even if the necessary data were available. We claim only to have indicated very roughly the two most important tendencies in the psychology of modern leftism.
32. The problems of the leftist are indicative of the problems of our society as a whole. Low self-esteem, depressive tendencies and defeatism are not restricted to the left. Though they are especially noticeable in the left, they are widespread in our society. And today’s society tries to socialize us to a greater extent than any previous society. We are even told by experts how to eat, how to exercise, how to make love, how to raise our kids and so forth.
..... ..... ..... (snip!)
213. Because of their need for rebellion and
for membership in a movement, leftists or persons of similar psychological type
are often unattracted to a rebellious or activist movement whose goals and
membership are not initially leftist. The resulting influx of leftish types can
easily turn a non-leftist movement into a leftist one, so that leftist goals
replace or distort the original goals of the movement.
214. To avoid this, a movement that exalts
nature and opposes technology must take a resolutely anti-leftist stance and
must avoid all collaboration with leftists. Leftism is in the long run
inconsistent with wild nature, with human freedom and with the elimination of
modern technology. Leftism is collectivist; it seeks to bind together the
entire world (both nature and the human race) into a unified whole. But this
implies management of nature and of human life by organized society, and it
requires advanced technology. You can’t have a united world without rapid
transportation and communication, you can’t make all people love one another
without sophisticated psychological techniques, you can’t have a “planned
society” without the necessary technological base. Above all, leftism is driven
by the need for power, and the leftist seeks power on a collective basis,
through identification with a mass movement or an organization. Leftism is
unlikely ever to give up technology, because technology is too valuable a source
of collective power.
215. The anarchist  too seeks power, but he seeks it on an individual or small-group basis; he wants individuals and small groups to be able to control the circumstances of their own lives. He opposes technology because it makes small groups dependent on large organizations.
[Note 34. This statement refers to our particular brand of anarchism. A wide variety of social attitudes have been called “anarchist,” and it may be that many who consider themselves anarchists would not accept our statement of paragraph 215. It should be noted, by the way, that there is a nonviolent anarchist movement whose members probably would not accept FC as anarchist and certainly would not approve of FC’s violent methods.]
216. Some leftists may seem to oppose technology, but they will oppose it only so long as they are outsiders and the technological system is controlled by non-leftists. If leftism ever becomes dominant in society, so that the technological system becomes a tool in the hands of leftists, they will enthusiastically use it and promote its growth. In doing this they will be repeating a pattern that leftism has shown again and again in the past. When the Bolsheviks in Russia were outsiders, they vigorously opposed censorship and the secret police, they advocated self-determination for ethnic minorities, and so forth; but as soon as they came into power themselves, they imposed a tighter censorship and created a more ruthless secret police than any that had existed under the tsars, and they oppressed ethnic minorities at least as much as the tsars had done. In the United States, a couple of decades ago when leftists were a minority in our universities, leftist professors were vigorous proponents of academic freedom, but today, in those universities where leftists have become dominant, they have shown themselves ready to take away from everyone else’s academic freedom.(This is “political correctness.”) The same will happen with leftists and technology: They will use it to oppress everyone else if they ever get it under their own control.
217. In earlier revolutions, leftists of the most power-hungry type, repeatedly, have first cooperated with non-leftist revolutionaries, as well as with leftists of a more libertarian inclination, and later have double-crossed them to seize power for themselves. Robespierre did this in the French Revolution, the Bolsheviks did it in the Russian Revolution, the communists did it in Spain in 1938 and Castro and his followers did it in Cuba. Given the past history of leftism, it would be utterly foolish for non-leftist revolutionaries today to collaborate with leftists.
218. Various thinkers have pointed out that leftism is a kind of religion. Leftism is not a religion in the strict sense because leftist doctrine does not postulate the existence of any supernatural being. But for the leftist, leftism plays a psychological role much like that which religion plays for some people. The leftist NEEDS to believe in leftism; it plays a vital role in his psychological economy. His beliefs are not easily modified by logic or facts. He has a deep conviction that leftism is morally Right with a capital R, and that he has not only a right but a duty to impose leftist morality on everyone. (However, many of the people we are referring to as “leftists” do not think of themselves as leftists and would not describe their system of beliefs as leftism. We use the term “leftism” because we don’t know of any better words to designate the spectrum of related creeds that includes the feminist, gay rights, political correctness, etc., movements, and because these movements have a strong affinity with the old left. See paragraphs 227-230.)
219. Leftism is totalitarian force. Wherever leftism is in a position of power it tends to invade every private corner and force every thought into a leftist mold. In part this is because of the quasi-religious character of leftism; everything contrary to leftists beliefs represents Sin. More importantly, leftism is a totalitarian force because of the leftists’ drive for power. The leftist seeks to satisfy his need for power through identification with a social movement and he tries to go through the power process by helping to pursue and attain the goals of the movement (see paragraph 83). But no matter how far the movement has gone in attaining its goals the leftist is never satisfied, because his activism is a surrogate activity (see paragraph 41). That is, the leftist’s real motive is not to attain the ostensible goals of leftism; in reality he is motivated by the sense of power he gets from struggling for and then reaching a social goal.
[Note 35. Many leftists are motivated also by hostility, but the hostility probably results in part from a frustrated need for power.]
Consequently the leftist is never satisfied with the goals he has already attained; his need for the power process leads him always to pursue some new goal. The leftist wants equal opportunities for
minorities. When that is attained he insists on statistical equality of achievement by minorities. And as long as anyone harbors in some corner of his mind a negative attitude toward some minority, the leftist has to re-educate him. And ethnic minorities are not enough; no one can be allowed to have a negative attitude toward homosexuals, disabled people, fat people, old people, ugly people, and on and on and on. It’s not enough that the public should be informed about the hazards of smoking; a warning has to be stamped on every package of cigarettes. Then cigarette advertising has to be restricted if not banned. The activists will never be satisfied until tobacco is outlawed, and after that it will be alcohol, then junk food, etc. Activists have fought gross child abuse, which is reasonable. But now they want to stop all spanking. When they have done that they will want to ban something else they consider unwholesome, then another thing and then another. They will never be satisfied until they have complete control over all child rearing practices. And then they will move on to another cause.
220. Suppose you asked leftists to make a list of ALL the things that were wrong with society, and then suppose you instituted EVERY social change that they demanded. It is safe to say that within a couple of years the majority of leftists would find something new to complain about, some new social “evil” to correct because, once again, the leftist is motivated less by distress at society’s ills than by the need to satisfy his drive for power by imposing his solutions on society.
221. Because of the restrictions placed on their thoughts and behavior by their high level of socialization, many leftists of the over-socialized type cannot pursue power in the ways that other people do. For them the drive for power has only one morally acceptable outlet, and that is in the struggle to impose their morality on everyone.
222. Leftists, especially those of the oversocialized type, are True Believers in the sense of Eric Hoffer’s book, “The True Believer.” But not all True Believers are of the same psychological type as leftists.Presumably a truebelieving nazi, for instance is very different psychologically from a truebelieving leftist. Because of their capacity for single-minded devotion to a cause, True Believers are a useful, perhaps a necessary, ingredient of any revolutionary movement. This presents a problem with which we must admit we don’t know how to deal.We aren’t sure how to harness the energies of the True Believer to a revolution against technology. At present all we can say is that no True Believer will make a safe recruit to the revolution unless his commitment is exclusively to the destruction of technology. If he is committed also to another ideal, he may want to use technology as a tool for pursuing that other ideal (see paragraphs 220, 221).
223. Some readers may say, “This stuff about leftism is a lot of crap. I know John and Jane who are leftish types and they don’t have all these totalitarian tendencies.” It’s quite true that many leftists, possibly even a numerical majority, are decent people who sincerely believe in tolerating others’ values (up to a point) and wouldn’t want to use high-handed methods to reach their social goals. Our remarks about leftism are not meant to apply to every individual leftist but to describe the general character of leftism as a movement. And the general character of a movement is not necessarily determined by the numerical proportions of the various kinds of people involved in the movement.
224. The people who rise to positions of power in leftist movements tend to be leftists of the most power-hungry type because power-hungry people are those who strive hardest to get into positions of power. Once the power-hungry types have captured control of the movement, there are many leftists of a gentler breed who inwardly disapprove of many of the actions of the leaders, but cannot bring themselves to oppose them. They NEED their faith in the movement, and because they cannot give up this faith they go along with the leaders. True, SOME leftists do have the guts to oppose the totalitarian tendencies that emerge, but they generally lose, because the power-hungry types are better organized, are more ruthless and Machiavellian and have taken care to build themselves a strong power base.
225. These phenomena appeared clearly in Russia and other countries that were taken over by leftists. Similarly, before the breakdown of communism in the USSR, leftish types in the West would seldom criticize that country. If prodded they would admit that the USSR did many wrong things, but then they would try to find excuses for the communists and begin talking about the faults of the West. They always opposed Western military resistance to communist aggression. Leftish types all over the world vigorously protested the U.S. military action in Vietnam, but when the USSR invaded Afghanistan they did nothing. Not that they approved of the Soviet actions; but because of their leftist faith, they just couldn’t bear to put themselves in opposition to communism. Today, in those of our universities where “political correctness” has become dominant, there are probably many leftish types who privately disapprove of the suppression of academic freedom, but they go along with it anyway.
226. Thus the fact that many individual leftists are personally mild and fairly tolerant people by no means prevents leftism as a whole form having a totalitarian tendency.
227. Our discussion of leftism has a serious weakness. It is still far from clear what we mean by the word “leftist.” There doesn’t seem to be much we can do about this. Today leftism is fragmented into a whole spectrum of activist movements. Yet not all activist movements are leftist, and some activist movements (e.g., radical environmentalism) seem to include both personalities of the leftist type and personalities of thoroughly un-leftist types who ought to know better than to collaborate with leftists. Varieties of leftists fade out gradually into varieties of non-leftists and we ourselves would often be hard-pressed to decide whether a given individual is or is not a leftist. To the extent that it is defined at all, our conception of leftism is defined by the discussion of it that we have given in this article, and we can only advise the reader to use his own judgment in deciding who is a leftist.
228. But it will be helpful to list some criteria for diagnosing leftism. These criteria cannot be applied in a cut and dried manner. Some individuals may meet some of the criteria without being leftists, some leftists may not meet any of the criteria. Again, you just have to use your judgment.
229. The leftist is oriented toward largescale collectivism. He emphasizes the duty of the individual to serve society and the duty of society to take care of the individual. He has a negative attitude toward individualism. He often takes a moralistic tone. He tends to be for gun control, for sex education and other psychologically “enlightened” educational methods, for planning, for affirmative action, for multiculturalism. He tends to identify with victims. He tends to be against competition and against violence, but he often finds excuses for those leftists who do commit violence. He is fond of using the common catch-phrases of the left like “racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” “capitalism,” “imperialism,” “neocolonialism” “genocide,” “social change,” “social justice,” “social responsibility.” Maybe the best diagnostic trait of the leftist is his tendency to sympathize with the following movements: feminism, gay rights, ethnic rights, disability rights, animal rights, political correctness. Anyone who strongly sympathizes with ALL of these movements is almost certainly a leftist.
[Note 36. It is important to understand that we mean someone who sympathizes with these MOVEMENTS as they exist today in our society. One who believes that women, homosexuals, etc., should have equal rights is not necessarily a leftist. The feminist, gay rights, etc., movements that exist in our society have the particular ideological tone that characterizes leftism, and if one believes, for example, that women should have equal rights it does not necessarily follow that one must sympathize with the feminist movement as it exists today.]
230. The more dangerous leftists, that is, those who are most power-hungry, are often characterized by arrogance or by a dogmatic approach to ideology. However, the most dangerous leftists of all may be certain oversocialized types who avoid irritating displays of aggressiveness and refrain from advertising their leftism, but work quietly and unobtrusively to promote collectivist values, “enlightened” psychological techniques for socializing children, dependence of the individual on the system, and so forth. These crypto-leftists (as we may call them) approximate certain bourgeois types as far as practical action is concerned, but differ from them in psychology, ideology and motivation. The ordinary bourgeois tries to bring people under control of the system in order to protect his way of life, or he does so simply because his attitudes are conventional. The crypto-leftist tries to bring people under control of the system because he is a True Believer in a collectivistic ideology. The crypto-leftist is differentiated from the average leftist of the oversocialized type by the fact that his rebellious impulse is weaker and he is more securely socialized. He is differentiated from the ordinary well-socialized bourgeois by the fact that there is some deep lack within him that makes it necessary for him to devote himself to a cause and immerse himself in a collectivity. And maybe his (well-sublimated) drive for power is stronger than that of the average bourgeois.
[END PASSAGE FROM KACZYNSKI]
You may find them offensive. I know I did, when I first read them about 10 years ago. Offensive, but also powerfully arousing in a way that I had not imagined possible. For me they were the beginning of a long thought process that has been absolutely invaluable.
Kaczynski’s insights are not new. As I’ve subsequently learned,
they hearken back to Nietzsche, and the German sociologist Max Scheler. I ran
into a great passage about this in a book titled Idols for Destruction, by
Herbert Schlossberg (a worthwhile work, generally). In the passage below (pgs
51-54), Schlossberg, a Christian, is taking aim at humanism, and finds
Nietzsche’s concept of “ressentiment” at the core of what he sees as the failed
humanist enterprise. In this passage you will find a more scholarly and
considered version of what Kaczynski was saying.
[BEGIN QUOTE FROM SCHLOSSBERG]
Ressentiment (word invented by Nietzsche
The twisted path from humanism’s soaring tributes in honor of the human divinity to the consequences of modern humanitarianism is best explained by the concept of ressentiment. When Nietzsche wrote his celebrated attack on Christianity, he transliterated this word from the French because he could find no German equivalent. Max Scheler [author of Ressentiment, 1915], a German sociologist, built on and corrected Nietzsche’s work and again used the French word. When Scheler’s book was translated into English the same practice was followed, because “ressentment” is too weak to convey the meaning he intended.Ressentiment begins with perceived injury that may have a basis in fact, but more often is occasioned by envy for the possessions or the qualities possessed by another person. If the perception is not either sublimated or assuaged by the doing of some injury to the object of the feeling, the result is a persistent mental condition, stemming from the repression of emotions that are not acceptable when openly expressed.The result is hatred and the impulse to spite and to say things that detract from the other’s worth. One of the most common secret elements to be repressed is Schadenfreude, the rejoicing at another person’s misfortune; vengeance is the principle manifestation of ressentiment.
This phenomenon differs from mere envy or resentment because it is notcontent to suffer quietly but has a festering quality that seeks outlet
in doing harm to its object. Ressentiment has its origin in thetendency to make comparisons between the attributes of another and one’s
own attributes: wealth, possessions, appearance, intelligence,personality, friends, children. Any perceived difference is enough to
set the pathology in motion. Ressentiment “whispers continuously: ‘Ican forgive everything, but not what you are -- indeed that I am not
you’”. The other’s very existence is a reproach. “There is no viceof which a man can be guilty”, said an English newspaper more than a
century ago,. no meanness, no shabbiness, no unkindness which excites so . much indignation among his contemporaries, friends and . neighbors as his success. This is the one unpardonable crime, . which reason cannot defend, nor humility mitigate. “When . heaven with such parts blest him, have I not reason to detest . him?” is a genuine and natural expression of the human mind. . The man who writes as we cannot write, who speaks as we cannot . speak, labours as we cannot labour, thrives as we cannot . thrive, has accumulated on his own person all the offenses of . which man can be guilty. Down with him! Why cumbereth he the . ground? 
Ressentiment does much to explain the existence of crimes that otherwise are thought of as “senseless”. They are senseless from a materialist perspective because the criminal does not gain anything tangible from his action. But if he is striking at the object of ressentiment, his crime is as rational as if he had made off with the crown jewels. He has gained what he desired. Ressentiment values its own welfare less than it does the debasement or harm of its object. Many crimes of vandalism, brutality, and murder might be explained that way.Even anti-intellectualism is described by Richard Hofstadter in ressentiment terms, being “a resentment and suspicion of the life of the mind and of those who are considered to represent it; and a disposition constantly to minimize the value of that life”.
In attacking the sources of its irritation, Scheler says, ressentiment uses third parties as foils. “The formal structure of ressentiment expression is always the same: A is affirmed, valued and praised not for its own intrinsic quality, but with the unverbalized intention of denying, devaluing, and denigrating B. A is ‘played off’ against B.” Therefore, what appear to be positive affirmations of the worth of others are really disguised attacks on still others. Altruism has its source in this poisonous brew. The word was invented by Auguste Comte, who thought that self-love was immoral. In common with other forms of ressentiment, altruism glories in the praise of the weak and base, even at its own expense, if that will debase the strong and good.
Thus the “altruistic” urge is really a form of hatred, of self-hatred, posing as its opposite (“Love”) in the false perspective of consciousness. In the same way, in ressentiment morality, love for the “small”, the “poor”, the “weak”, and the “oppressed” is really disguised hatred, repressed envy, and impulse to detract...directed against the opposite phenomena: “wealth”, “strength”, “power”, “*largess*”. When hatred does not dare come out into the open it can be easily expressed in the form of ostensible love—love for something which has features that are opposite of those of the hated object. This can happen in such a way that the hatred remains secret.  [ref 25 is to Scheler’s book Ressentiment.—AEL]
Altruism is thus best interpreted as a counterfeit of Christian love, informed by the ideology of humanism and powered by ressentiment. It permits demeaning the successful, or those who display any form of superiority, by pulling over that act the mask of concern for the poor and weak. Scheler believed that the counterfeit is often good enough to fool the astute, and he concluded that Nietzsche confused Christian love with its imitator. Of course, by the time Nietzsche wrote, the church was sufficiently infused with humanism to make his mistake understandable.
Christian love, says Scheler, does not help the weak, sick, and helpless because it values those attributes but because of concern for the person who lies behind them... The fake love of altruism perverts the sense of values so that sickness and poverty approach the status of virtues.Christian love seeks to help the person but refuses to elevate the problem by giving it ontological status and worth. It also avoids helping the weak as a means of causing harm to the strong. In this it heeds the apostle’s admonition that love “does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right” (1 Cor. 13:6). That is the meaning of Goethe’s statement that “against another’s great merits, there is no remedy but love”. Christian love is directed toward persons who need help and not at abstractions such as humanity or the general welfare.
The ressentiment penchant for creating wards in order to strike at enemies is illustrated in humanitarianism’s treatment of class in Western nations. So effusive has been its praise of the lower class that Jacques Ellul protests what he calls the “divinization of the poor” ... In general this phenomenon praises the worthiness of what is unsuccessful or debased while expressing contempt for the exceptional and successful. Along with the exaltation of the poor comes the abasement of the middle class; “bourgeois” has become an epithet of hatred among those who chortle at H L Mencken’s lampooning of the “booboisie”. Michael Harrington recalled that in his youth in Greenwich Village the chief moral stricture in the midst of a dissolute life was “thou shalt not be bourgeois”. Thus the poor are foils through whom ressentiment can strike at the successful while hiding its evil intentions under a mask of goodwill.
A common humanitarian complaint is that the poor are not sufficiently interested in their own welfare, making it necessary for the humanitarian gospel to be preached among them. B F Skinner’s behavioral controller explained that they would not speak out on their own behalf because the environment had implanted a system of beliefs that inclined them toward compliancy. J K Galbraith is offended by what he thinks is indifference of people toward their own economic improvement and thinks that only trauma or education will bring them to their senses. Helmut Schoeck, a German sociologist now living in the U.S., finds it ominous that equalitarians are striving with greater urgency to whip up among poor people a keener sense of resentment against their neighbors. Galbraith and others complain of their difficulty in this task; PERHAPS THAT IS BECAUSE SOME OF THE POOR CAN RECOGNIZE WHEN THEY ARE BEING USED AS TOOLS. [emphasis added].
[Note interjected, 30 Jan 05: for more along these lines see Thomas Frank’s fatuous and stunningly-blinkered book “What’s The Matter With Kansas”, or google for reviews. Frank just can’t understand why people “vote against their class interests”. There are several reasons—one just explained by Schlossberg.—AEL]
[END QUOTE FROM SCHLOSSBERG]
Nietzsche’s archetypal “underman” suffers from ressentiment and Kaczynskian “feelings of inferiority” and “oversocialization” (sorry, no URL):
“The Underman” (untermensch)
· merely human type of person who cannot face being alone in a godless universe. Refuses to be an individual; cannot even exist as an individual. Underman turns to group or herd for power, identity, purpose. He has envy and ressentiment (deep form of psychically polluting resentment) of all “higher types” and “elitist” value systems
· uses slave morality, a value system based on guilt, fear, and a distortion of the will to power, to control superiors; praises virtues of humility, passivity, dependency, and condemns love of domination, delight in one’s own talents, fearlessness (traits of superior type)
· slave morality is alien to true individuality: it is “inauthentic” (phony and uncreative).
· the healthy aesthetic perspective (N’s) finds underman repulsive, weak, evasive, hypocritical
...... anything sound familiar there? There’s much more on Nietzsche’s “underman” elsewhere, of course. Try google.
In reading Schlossberg, Nietzsche, and Kaczynski, the inner reactionary (the reptile brain) springs up, attempting to protect the ego and the emotional investments of the little self in its pet prejudices. I won’t bother setting up and knocking down a litany of specific typical reactions.You can do that for yourself, and it would be a profitable exercise.
You CAN do that, I believe. Whether you will or not is another matter, but at least I believe in the possibility, which is why I sent this to you, specifically. Most leftists don’t “get it”, and never will.
I said that “Kaczynski’s insights are not new”, but they were certainly new to me when I first read them, as was the hearkening to Nietzsche and Scheler, later. Why is this? Why isn’t such a stimulating, core-level challenge a routine part of left curricula and a broad topic of discussion? Why did the substance of Kaczynski’s essay go almost entirely unremarked and undiscussed? What could be more important? I think it has to do with a constitutional blindness that can be explained in evolutionary psychological terms; more on this to follow, later. In brief: for the left to lay its own psychotype so bare is something that the pre-rational structures will not tolerate. It is too painful.
And by the way, in my view nothing that Kaczynski and Schlossberg/Scheler has said suggests that there are not in the world gross inequities (far greater than could be accounted for by natural disparities of ability, talent, industry) and oppressions, or that these things should not be remedied, or that their remediation need necessarily involve envy or “ressentiment”. That’s not the point. Schlossberg goes on in subsequent pages to make serious errors, claiming for example that equality has increased -- when in fact it has decreased, along with a parallel growth of social democratic schemes to prevent total destitution (which he confuses with “equality”). Whatever. Everything must be read with a critical eye, ever making adjustments for the inevitable biasses and misapprehensions, while refusing to yield to one’s own prejudicial tendencies. The typical Marxist (say) would dismiss Schlossberg as a toadying bourgeois apologist—when in reality that is only a PART of what Schlossberg is, and not (for the leftist whose thinking sorely needs correction) the most important part. Ah, well.
Also by the way, Kaczynski (the fiery anti-tech anarchist), Nietszche (the fiery anti-Christian) and Schlossberg (the devout Christian) obviously make very odd bedfellows indeed! But they form a nexus about this subject which I hope has been clear, and all the more fun for being so unlikely.
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