The Extremist Society by Tomasz Konicz, 7/31/2012


By Tomasz Konicz

“ [This article published in the German-English cyber journal Telepolis 7/31/2012 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Only what contributes to business success has a right to exist.”

“The barbaric core of capitalist socialization is on full display in the present system crisis. The propagandists of totalitarian economism come in the mask of democrats. Economic-profitability thinking is actually pushed to the extreme from the middle and imposed on the whole society. Our society has long been viewed as a business.”

The barbaric core of capitalist socialization is on full display in the present system crisis. Crisis of Capitalism — Part 5
“I fear the return of fascists in the mask of democrats, not the return of fascists in the mask of fascists.” Adorno


Given his incessant slanders and vulgar remarks toward all possible minorities, hardly anyone suspects Thilo Sarrazin of a sensitive spiritual life. The Berlin Tageszeitung newspaper on its satire page described Sarrazin as a kind of media whore.

The man who describes Muslims as genetically inferior and denigrates “southerners” promotes a declaration of neglect. The Taz-satire crosses “the limit of so-called defamatory criticism” and has “nothing to do with an objective discussion.”

The farce or burlesque casts light on the close connection between the multipliers of published opinion and populist-new right opinion-makers like Thilo Sarrazin. Obviously the media are using the former banker as he uses them. The mutual instrumentalization between the mass media and the media phenomena Sarrazin made the latter a multi-millionaire and gives skyrocketing circulations, viewer figures and sales to the latter. Sarrazin is a roaring business for media-corporations. Sarrazin’s sales success on the markets results from the fact that he strikes a certain nerve with the middle class of Germany. A demand in the still relatively solvent “middle” of society is served, a demand that increases with the crises.

Thilo Sarrazin, the former German Central Banker, “broke a taboo” against public articulation of resentment and made it his business model. Sarrazin says in public what “everyone thinks” secretly. Other figures from Germany’s functional elite like economics professor Hans-Werner Sinn have a similar function in public discourse. This “thinking” against minorities and human groups who in crisis times are stigmatized as burdens and unnecessary cost-factors for “economic location Germany” — whether Turks, the jobless or southern Europeans — is hatched in the middle of society and turns out a great commercial success.


Breaching this taboo is like breaching a civilization that publically propagates human inequality. This postulated inferiority of certain groups of the population is legitimated with explicit economic arguments. In this ideology, the economic efficiency of a person determines his or her value. People are denied acknowledgment as soon as they fall out of the capitalist work society as Sarrazin formulated explicitly in 2010:

“I need not acknowledge anyone who lives from the state, rejects this state, doesn’t rationally provide for the education of his children and constantly produces new head-scarf little girls.”

Since the notorious Sarrazin debate in the summer of 2010, a corresponding public discourse became popular that is marked by a totalitarian economism. Here all social areas and population sectors are tested for their economic commercialization. This productivity thinking running amok goes back to racism or social Darwinism in providing explanations for crisis phenomena — for the rise of a lower class in Germany or the debt crisis in southern Europe. Day by day the nation is seen as an “achievement community” that must take action against “unproductive” elements and “cost-factors”: from the refractory Greeks and lazy jobless to Arab immigrants.

In the course of the Sarrazin debate, rightwing extremism went through a certain “rationalization process” in the sense of capitalist profitability thinking. He could establish himself in public discourse in this economic ideology since he has a neoliberal mindset… Figures like Sarrazin or the notorious professor Hans-Werner Sinn deny the right to stay and implicitly the right to exist to certain groups of the population on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis. In this ideology, the person and the whole society — existence as such — wither into mere presuppositions of the capitalist exploitation logic. Everything and everyone must prove they are “useful.” A life beyond the idolatry of crisis-prone capital accumulation hardly seems conceivable any more. That life is demonized as parasitic and unnatural or perverse. A cold calculation is carried out over which social groups have an economic use and which are mere cost-factors. These elements — that existed in classical National Socialism — dominate in this extremism of the middle while fascist aesthetics and explicit National-Socialist vocabulary are hardly found.

The propagandists of totalitarian economism actually come in the masks of democrats who anxiously issue politically-correct “thought prohibitions” and speak “uncomfortable truths.” Half-truths and one-sidedly analyzed statistical material are “proven” with a scholarly claim. The postulated economic inferiority of the jobless, southern Europeans or Turks is ideologized into a kind of natural law — by the Sarrazinian “fog factor.”


In the meantime, this thinking has long been hegemonial in public discourse. When Markus Soeder urges making “an example” of Greece, he can know the majority of Germany’s population is on his side. FDP head Roesler who wants to provoke Greece’s exclusion from the EU argued similarly. A whole country is “written off” by the German political caste, cleared for disintegration to complete Greece’s socio-economic collapse initiated by the austerity terror forced by Berlin and Brussels. This reflex of exclusion of whole economies will surely become rampant in the German public with regard to the other southern European EU states as soon as the crisis process advances in these countries.

The large majority of German citizens agree the Greeks on account of economic deficits are responsible themselves for their hopeless situation like Hartz IV recipients in Germany. A hardly noticed fact contributed to the success of this totalitarian economism triggered by the crisis dynamic. This ideology is an irrational exaggeration of the values, ideas and ideals that can be found in the constantly eroding “middle class” of capitalist society. Partly unable and partly unwilling to imagine an alternative to the permanent capitalism crisis, these middle classes can only seek a way out of crisis in the mer4cilessly intensified subordination of the whole society under the regime of sluggish capital accumulation.

Since the whole society is persistently subjected to the capitalist profitability criteria in extremist economism, the economic profitability-thinking is actually pushed to the extreme from the “middle” of society and imposed on the whole society. This crazy worldview is already proverbial in the talk of “Germany Inc.” Our society has long been viewed as a business. Only what contributes to “business success” has a right to exist. With Sarrazin, the capitalist ideology reaches its end, lets all pseudo-humanist veils fall and directly subjugates society to the terror of commodified value.

The wafer-thin varnish of all civilized achievements now scorned as “political correctness” that gives a democratic tinge to the capitalist profit-machine is unmasked again and again with every crisis-shock. The whole human community decays to an annoy8ing but necessary transitional stage of capital accumulation where a right to exist is only given every person if he or she contributes directly or indirectly to this irrational and ultimately destructive end-in-itself of capital exploitation. “You are nothing; the economic location is everything.” This ideology can be reduced to this slogan that openly articulates this barbaric core of capitalist socialization.

In his study “The Middle in Crisis” [Die Mitte in der Krise], the social psychologist Oliver Decker summarized this crisis-conditioned change of extremist rightwing ideology:

“The constant orientation in economic goals — more exactly, demanding submission under its premises — strengthens an authoritarian cycle. This leads to identification with the economy. The renunciation demands flow into authoritarian aggression against the weaker.”

This authoritarian cycle fueled by submission under “economic premises” does not need fascist aesthetic as practiced by the boot-fascists of the NPD. However the economistic extremism of the middle presents even greater danger since it makes possible a creeping authoritarian transformation of Germany carried out by a constant reactionary shift of the whole political spectrum. No re-establishment of a rightwing party occurs in Germany since the whole party-spectrum successively drifts to the right. This insidious formation of an “extremist society” where everything is sacrificed on the altar of the crisis-plagued economy has the greatest potential danger for the remnants of middle class democracy and social emancipation. In Germany, people have long been driven to death from starvation when they refuse the commands of the repressive poverty administration. We have simply accustomed ourselves to these barbaric conditions. These conditions can hardly be seen as extremist and barbaric since they were accepted in a democratic form by parliamentary resolutions.

This extremist economism must be understood as a continuous ideological process that gains dynamism in reaction to the crisis of capitalism. This merciless ideology is permanently and ideologically intensified parallel to the intensifying crisis-dynamic. The more capitalism hits its inner limits, the more intensely the extremism of the middle spreads with its rigid and merciless demand for submission under the dictates of the collapsing economy. Thus Sarrazin is only a kind of “instant water heater” in a process of continuous ideological barbarization in Germany. Sarrazin is rightly compared with an “old whore” in the Taz-satire since his “breaches of taboos” were only slowly exhausted. The stirred public needs new stronger propaganda.


This extremist economism represents a crisis-ideology that develops as a “reactionary reaction” of the frightened middle class to the crisis-dynamic. The ideological mechanism of personifying the causes of crises that hallucinates crisis-victims into causal agents of the crisis is critical. In many groups of the population threatened with descent, a kind of “bunker mentality” spreads in which one’s social position is asserted and crisis victims are made responsible for the crisis to legitimate the measures of marginalizing and punishing the crisis-losers by this personification of the causes of the crisis.

The unproductive cost-factors (like Greeks, jobless, the elderly and the sick) whose mere existence strains the national achievement-community should be cancelled. The exclusion of more and more “superfluous” parts of humanity from the work society resulting objectively from the crisis process has its ideological legitimation in the corresponding extremist discourses that ascribe a racist or culturalist inferiority to the jobless and inhabitants of the stricken countries.

In their core [“The Crisis Explained”], the present dislocations in the crisis of the capitalist work society were triggered by the third industrial revolution in micro-electronics and information technologies. In the final analysis, capitalism simply became too productive for itself. This system hits an “inner limit” (Robert Kurz) of its development. Rationalization and automation spreading faster and faster lead to more and more goods produced in every shorter time by fewer and fewer workers.

The “superfluous” people falling out of capital exploitation because of this increasing crisis-dynamic are made responsible for the resulting disintegration phenomena. The mere existence of these people dependent on social transfers is declared the problem and cause of present crisis phenomena. These crisis-losers were simply “unwilling to perform.” That is the mantra of Professor Hans-Werner Sinn, Sarrazin and others.

Thus the total subordination of all social areas under the iron dictates of the crumbling economy provides the ideological legitimation of the advancing crisis process. The crisis appears as the result of the economic failure of individuals or groups. The groups falling out of the collapsing capitalist work society are stigmatized by means of personifying the causes of crises. The impoverishment and deprivation of rights of crisis-victims stamped as causal agents of crisis is legitimated — whether through the Hartz IV labor laws in Germany or the Troika-terror in Greece.

As argued, this totalitarian economism is an ideology in permanent intensification whose extremism intensifies with every crisis-shock. The pressure on the jobless in Germany will soon increase again because of the escalating system-crisis — and in such a situation only needs a media-campaign against “social parasites” to legitimate further cuts for the remains of the German social state. The open threat of destruction resonates with the smear campaign against everyone who will not “recognize” Sarrazin because they cannot or will not work any more. Here lies the implicit genocidal potential of this ideology that is forming: the economically “superfluous” of collapsing capitalism capsizing into barbarism should disappear — at least as cost-factors — because of an ice-cold profitability calculus.

The ecological limits of capital will be described in the next text.




I think of myself as a Kierkegaardian and Bonhoefferian. Life consists of super-nova explosions of surprise, wonder, paradox and scandal.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

How Likely is the Stock Market Crash in 2021?

Residence- and Citizenship-by-Investment Move into the Mainstream

Gold Price News: Gold Down 1% in Wake of More Hawkish Federal Reserve Meeting Minutes

Real estate as a hedge against inflation

Opinion — Larry Summers is Scared of Inflation

Bear Market Rallies are the New Norm ‘For Now,’ Top Strategist Says

Fed’s Powell: Committed to Inflation Fight, Not Trying to Trigger Recession

Mortgage Businesses Seen Laying Off Thousands as Volume Drops

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Marc Batko

Marc Batko

I think of myself as a Kierkegaardian and Bonhoefferian. Life consists of super-nova explosions of surprise, wonder, paradox and scandal.

More from Medium

E.T.’s Dee Wallace Keeps Her Heart Open

On Remembering: Theorizing the Black Mother as Sylph

The Tinx cancelation is a sign of what’s wrong with the new self-righteous wave of popular culture

Would Will Smith have slapped Ricky Gervais, Jim Carrey, or Ellen DeGeneres?