With the outbreak of the war, this regime clearly shifted into a different gear, with every citizen required not only to unquestioningly obey the authorities, but to fulfill their orders as their essential obligation, including being ready to die.
The state must become total, meaning that it must turn from an institution that rises above society into a “spiritual force.” This understanding of the state undergirds the endless declarations of “collectivism” as one of the main “spiritual and moral values” of Russians. The people should feel like “one family” (according to a recent talk
by Sergei Lavrov in the “Conversations about Important Things”), headed by a caring and strict leader/father. The family, as a spontaneous, organic hierarchy of relations between older and younger generations, based on love and respect, reflects the state corporation, where everyone takes his “natural” place – as an official, worker or soldier.
The corporatist state was the model for a number of fascist regimes in the mid-20th century, most notably Italy and Austria. In place of the destroyed political parties and trade unions, the fascist regimes built an alternative network of mass organizations, a kind of “fascist civil society.” However, the totalitarian mobilization that was possible a century ago is hardly conceivable in today’s extremely individualized society.
Thus, even though in recent years (and especially after the start of the war), the Putin regime has attached great importance to “volunteer” movements organized from above, the unity sought between the state and the people has so far been achieved mainly thanks to propaganda in the mass media. It is fundamental, however, that this propaganda involves not only passive consumption – its task is to penetrate into the fabric of everyday life, into relations between colleagues and neighbors, into the circle of family and everyday conversations.
By watching Solovyov’s programs alone or reproducing his arguments in a friendly conversation, citizens participate in a kind of collective practice that effectively replicates the archaic forms of mass processions. This passive practice is much safer for the authorities, while the surveillance of everyone is carried out thanks to digital surveillance tools. The regurgitation of the basic formulas of propaganda is gradually becoming necessary for admission – to kindergartens and schools (with patriotic matinees and “Conversations about Important Things”), to universities and to work in the public sector.
So the “consolidation of society” voiced by Putin is becoming a reality, and those who do not agree with the government’s line should not only shut up, but also feel like violators of the norm, like an alien element in a healthy body (of which the body can and should “cleanse itself
“).Ideology as everyday practice
The very repeating of the thesis about the need for “ideology” begins to work as a real ideology, which is recognized not by a coherent worldview, but as a ritual, everyday practice. This is how the prominent leftist theorists of the 20th century Antonio Gramsci and later Louis Althusser defined ideology.
The main object of influence for ideology, according to this approach, is not public, but private life, which is built from an infinite number of personal actions and interactions. Ideology does not, contrary to popular belief, belong to the abstract world of ideas, but has a material structure – it is not about what we think, but about how we act.
The basis of any action, of course, is a certain picture of the world, though that picture must be completely superimposed on reality (and accordingly form this reality). Only if the ideological claim is accepted as something self-evident and accompanied by an internal recognition of “of course it’s like that!” can the ideology be truly affirmed in society. Thanks to the effect of ideology, the absolute majority submits to power voluntarily, without the use of additional coercion – this is, according to Gramsci, “predominance by consent.”
For the practical effect of ideology, form and place, not content, are primary and decisive. The weekly hoisting of the state flag, collective prayer or watching television programs, the need to regularly repeat the same formulas (like the notorious “where were you/we the last 8 years?”) – all this immerses the individual in the space of ideology. Such immersion can occur contrary to a “conscious” desire – internal rejection or doubt is gradually crushed by external influence, and we really become what other participants in the ideological ritual perceive us to be.