Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 17:04:51 +0100
From: John S Moore <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: julie <email@example.com>
I am sending you some of my notes with very little editing. I can't say
whether they will be of any use, but I feel I could probably make them the
basis for an interesting article, if I took the time. Please feel free to
come back and ask me anything, about my views, my references, or whatever.
Also, I would like to publish them on my site, and would like to include
your first e mail request, if you have no objection. And please remember
these are rough notes, and not to judge me too harshly.
SCHADENFREUDE AS SOCIAL BOND
Failure of the political perspective. What is essentially oppressive, not
something political at all, but what one feels pressured to think. The
political is a very crude instrument when aimed at a lot of the
dissatisfaction people feel.
Ordinary ambition may be despised. But then those ordinary ambitious feel
intense hostility to those who would undermine the value set on their
What holds people down, ideas, values.
The actual sadistic pleasure taken in the exercise of power. The sadistic
pleasure attractive young women feel in the discomfiture they cause young
men. The constant battle as to what value is to be set upon some or other
Always there is war. Throughout the war there are pleasures, triumphs,
sadistic delights. Young women experience a lot of these.
To middle-aged man woman irritates and attracts, she attracts because she
What is true religion? Unravelling all these secret sources of delight.
Power, will, effectiveness.
The Mephistophelian bargain with which the young are immediately faced. The
success that is held out, that is a suppression of individual will. That is
like a participation in the sadistic joys of others. The prevalence of
homosexuality in the art world, one manifestation of this.
The sadistic pleasures that are taken in discomfiture, in frustration, and
thwarting. So many of the pains you go through are something someone else
enjoys. Like the erotic bond that keeps society going.
Schadenfreude, which is said to be so German and which Schopenhauer saw as
the infallible sign of a bad heart. Lucretius on the ship in a storm. If I
feel powerful, it is because I am aware of what I have overcome.
Real secret of the Faust legend, of soul sale.
Someone in pain reacts with hostile emotion.
What is wrong with the lust for vengeance? Every sense of class put down,
every sense of being the subject of disdain.
AH 87 (1989)
SCHADENFREUDE IN FREEDOM IDEAL
My defence of liberty is not of liberty for all. It is of my liberty.
For my view of life to be clear, it must be differentiated from what it is
not. One could envisage the corruption of a communist view of life creating
confusion, demoralisation, undermining the other principles on which one
wants to live and which one wants to communicate.
Obstructing and frustrating possible achievement. Here felt as
objectionable as much as when explicitly murderous and persecuting.
'saboteurs and wreckers'.
To object to something one must have one's own faith, and what right has
one to that?
Freedom myth, one needs to find historical allies and precedents. Make out
one's idea has appeared before.
The past has its own meaning, one says. But the past is a continuous
dialogue. Is meaning is never fixed but requires interpretation.
Painful feeling that one must lose youthful self confidence in whatever one
chooses to assert, one's implicit certainty in the rightness of the values
for which one is willing to fight.
Later, if one retains one's beliefs, one has to base them on the firmest of
Often to oppose a threat one chooses the strangest allies. The anti-Jacobin
allies himself with the church. The oppressiveness of the church may be
hardly noticed. As ally against threat of greater oppression, it seems a
champion of freedom. The concept of English freedom has generally been
supported, even by most reputable Tory writers.
Thus in one's anti communist fervour, one's endeavour to escape from the
mind forged manacles of communism, America may seem a positive force of
liberty. In contrast to the narrowness and dogma of revolution, counter
revolution seems rich and subtle.
Any concept of freedom requires some strong solid power as its basis and
One might choose democratic America, or old England. Basically it is the
power that one endeavours to make in ones image.
Instead of England or America one might choose Christianity, Islam the
Catholic Church, the Aryan race.
Upon these one endeavours to impose one's own myth by historical
Freedom is for most people an important value, it is not the same as power,
but it is the field in which power is to operate.
What makes any war worth fighting? One's concept of freedom is relative to
the power with which one identifies.
Do we wish freedom for the people's of Eastern Europe? What freedom?
The sadistic traveller. Concept of someone who likes travelling among
oppressed peoples, as it heightens the contrast, and makes him feel good
In the USA note that it is the democratic party that is historically
militaristic. It is the party that abhors foreign communism out of a passion
for human rights. Vietnam.
Inegalitarianism. Modes of imperialism. Acceptance that some people are in
AE 174 (1986)
SCHADENFREUDE IN ALL GOOD TASTE
Historical writers who never fail to remind us of the poverty of the
majority of the people.
Consider the modern abundance of food and goods, One could almost say that
it is too great in certain countries, including this one. Such abundance is
not necessary for happiness. In a sense it is irrelevant superfluity. Should
all modern English enjoyment be blighted by a constant awareness of the
poverty stricken Chinese? As we contemplate and try to understand the past,
it is a mistake to project our own standards into the minds of our
ancestors. All poverty is relative deprivation.
The middle classes in the past were no more oppressors than are modern
travellers in poor countries. Nor would the poor, except the extreme poor,
be necessarily unhappy I comparing themselves against them. Emerson's view
of the English was of Cockneydom, a healthy vigorous and energetic people.
Moderns project an irrelevant class envy into the past.
To be deprived of something one has causes painful discontent. But if one
never has it will not matter. Unless one is titillated and tempted with it
to the point of intense frustration.
Projecting this onto the past we make the poor seem horribly unhappy and
oppressed. But it is doubtful if they generally were so. Someone I know who
has lived in Russia and Saudi Arabia reports that the inhabitants are no
happier or unhappier than we are.
Is it a sin to enjoy the poverty of others? Schadenfreude. Anyway, what its
pleasure, what is abundance? What is the good taste that makes pleasure
satisfying? It is the expression of humanity in its wholeness, in its will
to power. Mere abundance means little, it is limited in its power to
satisfy. Abundance without taste. But taste is elitist, it includes
Schadenfreude and the will to power.
A late civilisation is one in which democracy of taste has come to prevail.
Late Egyptian society was in one sense elitist and aristocratic, and in
another democratised and therefore decadent.
AE 321 (1987)
SCHADENFREUDE IN AESTHETIC ENJOYMENT
Pevsner perambulation around Rotherhithe, Bermondsey etc.
Around the warehouses today. The beauty of this. Yet how are we to see it?
Imagine back to the days of the thriving docks. The poetry in all this. Yet
there is also something depressing. Think of George Gissing. Two kinds of
distastefulness. Work itself is distasteful. The London working class was
What makes this aesthetically acceptable? Schadenfreude. Human compassion
destroys the aesthetic effect.
Science Museum the aesthetic delight in scientific discovery. Sympathy with
a condition of triumph. The beauty of churches, that they are not concerned
with drudgery. A church is for contemplation, contemplation is not some
Gustav Dore, artist of the London docks. With art we enter into the
emotional state of the artist. Like the church, art is directly for
contemplation. But contemplating the docks, one is enjoying a form that was
not designed for contemplation.,
One achieves a form of mental triumph. Contemplation is itself a triumph
Free from the pressure of work, free from too close a human sympathy, free
to contemplate people for their picturesque qualities, disregarding the
aspects of them they would prefer to be judged by, yet aware of this
Aesthetic enjoyment of human beings involves a measure of dehumanisation.
Too much sympathy, too much inclination to take people at their own value,
as in the case of Gissing, even perhaps Schopenhauer himself.
Here again, morality is opposed to art. England at the moment is prone to
To abstract, that is essentially sadistic, and the essence of art. Vide
Picasso. His abstractions and distortions of the human form are profoundly
artistic. They reveal clearly and explicitly something that is involved in
all aesthetic enjoyment.
All aesthetic pleasure involves a deliberate forgetting of certain aspects
One perceives a form and delights in it, but form is abstracted from matter,
which is to say that in its absoluteness the form is not the whole of the
The opposite of the aesthetic. The smelliness of the people.
ZZ 348 (1985)
Orwell versus Frank Richards.
Orwell at St Cyprian's experienced harshness of the class system He
experienced it at one of its most oppressive points. His socialism was the
same as his support for the French Revolution, a vengeance against the class
system. The oppression that is an intrinsic part of the levelling idea is by
no means incidental in the minds of its supporters.
Anger and resentment breed aggression. The desire to hit out and hurt. The
revolution hurt the privileged, the aristos. Even a humane egalitarian order
will be painful and oppressive to those who experienced themselves as
De Sade, as well as doing a Carneades on the enlightenment, emphasised
clearly how deeply rooted in oppression is human society.
If Orwell approves the Revolution, despite the September Massacres, despite
the Terror, then this is because he approves of its idea, which many find
repulsive. But it is this repulsiveness which is half the point. There is
schadenfreude in coercing those people who find it most uncongenial. One may
imagine these, with the rage of the excluded, as one's erstwhile oppressors.
The idea of equality thrust down everyone's throats can be most offensive.
The joy of victory presupposes the agony of the defeated.
Points of oppression in any system people deny and ignore. Everyone likes to
assert the sole validity of his own perspective. This involves essential
oppression. For there are those who if they had to accept that perspective
would certainly suffer, in one way or another, given situation and
So in insisting on the universal validity of one's own perspective one is
promoting suffering, oppressing.
It takes De Sade to bring this all out as if it were a conscious awareness,
and insist how all pervasive it is.
People deny it because they want to be thought good and just.
SCHADENFREUDE IN SOCIAL SCIENCE
Social scientist as power freak. Neutralisation of moral disputes and
criticisms by reducing everything to statistical phenomena.
Pythagoras. All things are numbers.
Attempt to take social reality and reduce it to numbers. The triumph of
discovering these numbers affords what feels like a satisfying explanation.
To understand social reality one is prepared to be satisfied with this. A
certain coarseness of temperament. One will not personally feel the need to
participate tin the sort of frustration that can create statistical
anomalies. One has a satisfying sense of power and can afford a blasé
Take frustration as a key. Frustration is the source for dissatisfaction
with our institutions. But how is it possible to feel satisfied with our
institutions? Is it when they offer personal power? Or does that not quite
get to the heart of it?
Is not satisfaction connected with idea of a satisfying explanation? And is
there not special satisfaction in the idea that other people do not have
that satisfaction? Is not reductionism intrinsically satisfying because of
its offensiveness? Schadenfreude Lucretian style. Amused contempt for the
frustration, for all the sound and fury. Yet such contempt is not all
The main merit of your position is that it enables you to feel superior.
Your values have no merit in themselves, apart form the contempt they enable
you to feel for others.
You replace all frustration and dissatisfaction with the joy you take in
Often one adopts values because they are offensive to others and through
them one is enabled to feel superior.
The tough minded ones.
The social scientist. His message. He aims to dissolve all the sound and
fury through his peculiar deterministic schemes. Why take account of ideas?
Ideas are not measurable.
In a way you feel superior, you are not involved. You are inimical to
creative achievement and you solve nothing. But I am not trying to argue for
existentialist style involvement. My sympathies are more with Winch's attack
on sociology (Idea of a Social Science).
Philosophies of life reduced to statistics. All discontent reduced to
statistics. The great difference that is made to life by ideas. The idea,
satisfaction with these numbers.
I see life in terms of the different ways in which it is valued. The ways
in which people look at it.
The other way is to look at in terms of numbers. To feel contempt for the
ideas people use to interpret it. Arrogant dogmatism. Treating ideas as not
mattering. If ideas do not matter then any ideas will presumably do, any
values are good enough and the more vulgar and philistine the better if you
want to be really offensive.
Making statistics rather than philosophy the basis for social action.
But you do have a perspective, that is your schadenfreude, your power, your
By despising ideas you render it impossible to solve the problems those
ideas came into being to solve.
The result of this is that the only solution on offer is a power hierarchy
based on yourself. You neutralise ideas, neutralise them as weapons.
To what extent is any problem capable of solution? Whatever your social
order, there are the strong and the weak. By making it more difficult for
certain groups of people to resolve their frustrations and their
dissatisfactions you make sure that those groups will remain weak divided
and unhappy, rendering it possible for other groups to rise to positions of
power, happiness and success. If you destroy the happiness of one group of
people that of others is thereby increased. This will not show up in a
statistical survey as a
“Despite some influential social theories, it may be that Man experiences his membership of a group not as fulfilment but as diminution. . Thus membership of the group would be for man a compromise with his true being, not the culmination of his existence but its curtailment. This is a necessary experience for nearly everyone if hi is to acquire certain values such as economic security, the acceptance of his children into society etc. But even in the most ‘socially minded’ men there is a residue of stubborn , proud individualism, the core of his existence as a human being which fills him with Schadenfreude when he is able to help impose upon others the same loss of individuality that he himself has painfully experienced”. (Schoeck ‘Envy’ p88-9)
SCHOECK, Helmut. [Der Neid.] Envy. A theory of social behaviour ... Translated ... by Michael Glenny and Betty Ross. London: Secker & Warburg, 1969.
> i was wondering if there was any way you could send me or email me your
> writings on schadenfreude... it would be a big help in the research i am
> currently doing... any assistance on this topic would be wonderful...
> thank you
go to My Writing