Arguably, what enhances the “group mind” and thus the ‘libido’ more than anything else is the combination of ‘power and prestige.’ As Henry Kissinger famously said: “Power is the greatest aphrodisiac.” And as Albert Camus said: “The entire history of mankind is, in any case, nothing but a prolonged fight to the death for the conquest of universal prestige and absolute power.” But the grandiosity and megalomania of ‘power and prestige’ is paradoxically undergirded by something as ‘infantile’ as fear of a ‘loss of love’ in addition to being undergirded by the social anxiety which comes from a perceived ‘loss of love.’
Thus, the notion of ‘power and prestige’ is based on something elusive and illusionary, and once the notion of ‘power and prestige’ eludes one’s grasp and the illusion has passed, one is left empty and miserable. Sigmund Freud described the idea of ‘prestige’ in the following manner:
“Prestige is a sort of domination exercised over us by an individual, a work or an idea. It entirely paralyses our critical faculty, and fills us with astonishment and respect. It would seem to arouse a feeling like that of fascination in hypnosis.”
Freud also differentiated between ‘acquired’ prestige and ‘personal’ prestige, with the former having been derived from wealth, reputation, intellect, or work, whereas the latter is derived from “leadership” and politics. But as Freud noted: “All prestige, however, is also dependent upon success, and is lost in the event of failure.”
There is also a “moral” element to prestige which sustains both individual and group prestige over the long run. Without the “moral” element of prestige, all prestige can be lost over the long run. As C. Wright Mills wrote: “If the prestige of elite circles contains a large element of moral reputation, they can keep it even if they lose considerable power; if they have prestige with but little reputation, their prestige can be destroyed by even a temporary and relative decline of power.”
In turn, class divisions and thus class inequality are solidified as a result of a notion of ‘prestige.’ As Mills noted: “Prestige buttresses power, turning it into authority, and protecting it from social challenge.” Also, ‘prestige’ serves a ‘unifying function’ within the elite class, to borrow from Mills, and this “unifying function” of prestige aims at “anchoring the class in the legalities of blood lines.” Nevertheless, prestige relates in some ways to the illusion of perfection, and as the political psychologist Jerrold Post wrote:
“The illusion of perfection gradually evolves: for many, it becomes a mature realistic love; for others, it precipitates the termination of the relationship. The flaws so blissfully ignored in that flowering intoxication now may loom large.”
And ultimately, the “unifying function” of ‘prestige’ which brings the elite together, to borrow from Mills, and in turn serves as the main mechanism by which the elites can shield their authority and power from a “social challenge” on the part of ordinary people may end up failing and faltering in the bigger scheme of things. It follows that “even if the intentions of the neoliberals was to ‘undo the demos,’ the demos – for better or for worse – is not undone yet.” In a Freudian sense, the elite class represents the figurative ‘ego,’ whereas the popular class represents the figurative ‘id.’ Absent of any sort of integration between the two sides, the ‘id’ will most likely win out.