Lying in Autocratic Society: A Challenge to Democracy

Karl Figlio


I will argue that the impact of the lie is different from the disorientations of post-truth.[1] Post-truth refers to a loss of bearings when any statement can be put up against any other statement, whether or not it is anchored in evidence. ‘Alternative facts’ are indeed head-spinning, in that they undermine a common base upon which judgment could be framed and consent among positions achieved. But the lie also shatters identity. It attacks one’s attachment to truthfulness as a capacity to repair and sustain the ‘good object’ with which one is identified as a good ego. In the depressive position, as defined by Klein (1935), that identification includes the recognition of reality, including the ambivalence of psychic life. Without this reinforcement between good ego and good object, splitting into fragmentation can occur (Hinshelwood 2008). Living inside the lie promises certainty and security, as long as doubt, uncertainty and insecurity can be displaced outside the community of the lie. Living outside the lie becomes existentially and epistemologically insecure. The agony of ambivalence added to the terror of dissolution outside the embrace of the lie reinforce the power of autocracy.



psychoanalysis, ambivalence, deceit, democracy

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