Even in the freest society power is charged with the impulse to turn men into precise, predictable automata. When watching men of power in action it must be always kept in mind that, whether they know it or not, their main purpose is the elimination or neutralization of the independent individual – the independent voter, consumer, worker, owner, thinker – and that every device they employ aims at turning man into a manipulatable ‘animated instrument,’ which is Aristotle’s definition of a slave.
On the other hand, every device employed to bolster individual freedom must have as its chief purpose the impairment of the absoluteness of power. The indications are that such an impairment is brought about not by strengthening the individual and pitting him against the possessors of power, but by distributing and diversifying power and pitting one category or unit of power against the other. Where power is one, the defeated individual, however strong and resourceful, can have no refuge and no recourse.
There is no doubt that of all political systems the free society is the most “unnatural.” Totalitarianism, even when it goes hand in hand with a modernization of technique, constitutes a throwback to the primitive and a return to nature. It is significant that the “back to nature” movements since the days of Rousseau, though generous and noble in origin, have inevitably tended to terminate in absolutism and the worship of brute force.
Eric Hoffer, The Ordeal of Change