Envy and the dark side of alienation

Human Studies 6 (1):225 - 238 (1983)
It may be that the process of socialization is generally thought to depend upon the development of the slave consciousness. It appears that at present the type of indoctrination a child receives when he or she is socialized by parents and teachers is the general way in which a society makes sure it transmits its values from one generation to the next. If this is so, the analysis of the slave consciousness we have been pursuing would fundamentally call into question the benefits that are to be expected from this most pervasive and fundamental social practice. The development of the heteronomous conscience does not simply guarantee that the citizen will comply with the standards of society; it also guarantees that individuals will develop (some to a greater extent than others) such socially disruptive attitudes as a revengeful sense of justice and a psychological predisposition toward envy. Furthermore, given the massive amounts of social inequality and injustice characterizing many contemporary societies, the combination of economic and psychological factors almost guarantees a tacit or explicit level of frustration which will often erupt into violence. This violence is senseless, repeated, and pervasive because it is nothing but the nourishment needed by the slave consciousness to maintain itself in power. Exploitation, murder, rape, war, the nuclear weapons contest, the polarization of groups against each other, etc., are manifestations of a consciousness that always has to outdo itself vis-à-vis the other. As Nietzsche (1966, p. 140) observed, “Thus the will, the liberator, took to hurting; and on all who can suffer, it wreaks revenge for its inability to go backward [to a condition of autonomy].” With the liberation of imagination and memory, and a combined dedication to fighting all forms of social injustice, however, one can begin to transform society in ways that will confirm rather than deny the human aspiration for harmony and freedom
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DOI 10.2307/20008877
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