Paper No. 4 (2019) 11-5

Submitted: Nov. 05, 2019
Posted: Nov. 05, 2019

Striving for 100%: An essay on totality and totalism

Ulrich Oberdiek, Department of Anthropology, University of Heidelberg, Germany

Abstract: This essay reflects on the possibility of a 'total' situation: various cultural tendencies, drives, intentions or processes, which aim to have 'total' control of a situation or a setting; totality being a state, with totalism an agenda or process. Striving for 100%, whether unlimited growth in capitalism, total control of something (like information) or over someone respectively 'all', is described as an imminent danger considering present-day technological possibilities, and ideological programs such as neoliberalism, or various politically totalist strivings. This has been discussed even by Max Weber's critique of rationalism, Bataille's critique of economy, or Zygmunt Bauman's critique of the superpanopticon regarding surveillance. On the other hand, religions can be understood as total systems demanding 100% belief and obedience from believers. Since they operate in 'cultures', they tend to influence or 'color' them with their tenets, and evangelical groups are a particularly aggressive contemporary phenomenon.

Keywords: Totality, neoliberalism, religio-economic nexus, political economy, surveillance, nation state, global rule, religious fundamentalism

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