The Absolute Power Complex from Constantine to Stalin: The Collective Unconscious of Catholic and Orthodox Countries, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Absolute Power Complex from Constantine to Stalin

The Collective Unconscious of Catholic and Orthodox Countries, 1st Edition

By Mino Vianello


128 pages

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InThe Absolute Power Complex from Constantine to Stalin, Mino Vianello combines the history of Europe and of the ancient and modern Christian churches to argue that the social, political and cultural mentality of Catholic and Orthodox countries can be explored in terms of Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious.

Vianello advances a new hermeneutical paradigm in the analysis of political differences between Western countries. He begins by maintaining that the traumatic theological-political events of the fourth century, in the context of the decadence of the Roman Empire, are essential in the formation of the collective unconscious of Catholic and Orthodox countries in Europe. He demonstrates the inception and effects of the Absolute Power Complex by linking the theological-political construction of the Church after Constantine to modern traits and later dictatorships, which distinguishes these countries from those Christianised by Arius’ followers. Vianello also tracesthe succession of philosophical and theological doctrines which have shaken Christianity, leading to a combination of politics and theology based upon Greek and Roman thought and unknown to early Christians and the evangelical message, that has decisively structured the instinctive attitude towards power in Europe. This is the first time that Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious has been historically explored in terms of social consequences in such an innovative and interdisciplinary way.

Although Vianello explores historical themes, this book will be a fascinating resource for analytical psychologists, Jungian analysts and other professionals informed by Jung’s ideas. It will also appeal to academics and students of Jungian and post-Jungian studies, history, the history of ideas, the history of leadership, authoritarianism and dictatorships, the history of Catholicism, hermeneutics, cultural studies and other professionals interested in contemporary events.


"From Constantine to Stalin is one of those concentrated essays which can really open our eyes more than entiere treaties. It points to profound, ‘hard’ archetypes which can penetrate cultures and determine history. Why, for instance, during the Cold-War Europe the Italian left was monopolized by the communist party and not a Western-style socialist one? Mino Vianello explains how unconscious, ‘monopolistic’ patterns of thought, inherited during millennia from the Church, might have played a role deeper than the existence of the Soviet Union." - Luigi Zoja, former President of the International Association of Analytical Psychology and author

"Mino Vianello in his new book explains cultural and political differences among European countries. His basic assumption is that the differences are rooted in religion. But not like Weber in a case of birth of Protestantism in Western Europe, he considers that the sources of differences among European countries are in a deep past, in the fourth century. As he writes looking for roots of political systems in non-protestant parts of Europe : ‘Constantine promoted a theological-political conception imbued with neo-platonic concepts and Roman Law categories that led to the construction of a dogmatic, state-imposed doctrine totally alien to the Gospels and ignored in the Christian world up to the end of the second century, a doctrine that in the course of time shaped psychologically the peoples’ mind to submission and lack of responsibility. The heritage of the fourth century is the main hub of the Collective Unconscious that characterizes both the Catholic and the Orthodox worlds.’

In the book Vianello is analyzing political and cultural traits of the systems over time in the part of Europe where Catholic and Ortodox religions are still dominating. He is arguing tracing the developments over centuries that Jung’s theory helps to explain the propensity of mentality of societies living in the countries. The Collective Unconscious born there was a good ground for creation of ideologies which justified later commonly accepted authoritarian political systems and control over life of people in private and public spheres, defining it as an acceptance of Complex of Absolute Power. The close relations between religious institutions and state institutions over centuries gave way in twentieth century to birth of fascism and communism, systems in which religious institutions were replaced by non-religious ones but expecting support of people, attitudes and beliefs of people because they represent "Truth". In this way they are resembling religious ones. Author describes in details deconstruction of Marx’s theory. The theory created in Western ideological, social, political context with its different economies (capitalism) was deconstructed by Lenin, Stalin and others to adapt its ideas to Russian cultural, social, political and economic context, making its far from its original version.

I believe that readers find the book interesting and as a good starting point for the discussion and further studies of the historical trajectories." - Renata Siemienska, University of Warsaw, Poland; M. Grzegorzewska University, Poland

"The new book by Professor Mino Vianello, from the University of Rome, on the historical legacy and the political culture tradition inherited from the transformation of Catholicism into State Religion in 325 of the Christian era under the Roman Emperor Constantine, has the meaning of a monumental revision of the roots of the concept of the absolute power complex, whose influence on the countries between the Iberian Peninsula and the Urals left authoritarian marks deep in the practices of their political elites and also their populations; in reality, left undemocratic marks because of the requirement of complete subordination of individuals to the powers derived from the tradition, in spite of the fact that these countries proclaimed o be liberal democracies.

But they also left extraordinary sequels on the practical effects within countries of Orthodox tradition, such as Russia, of the distortions of Karl Marx's original thinking under the supposedly revolutionary influence of Lenin and Stalin. Such distortions - as had already happened with the countries which have developed far from the alternative represented by Arius's position on the decision of the Council of Nicea on the unity of Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit - have liquidated with the promise of freedom and the advent of a New Man under the URSS. In fact, under the Soviet empire, the oppression of citizens was justified by a supposedly priority of social interests over the individuals, something defined by the power holders, i.e., the Communist Party and its general secretary.

However perhaps the most revolutionary theoretical contribution of this book is the author´s hypothesis around the psychological roots of the concept of absolute power. Vianello recurs to Jung's theory of "Collective Unconscious" to explain the existing difference in the Western World between, on one side, societies where the value of freedom has become a central component of the political tradition as demonstrated by the nature of their democratic institutions, the Rule of Law and the proclamation of human rights; and on the other side, societies where this simply did not happened due to the imposition - as a mere political motivated decision - of Catholicism as the State Religion. After this, for a long period of time the Church and the State operated together according to a conception of the subordination of the members of the political community to the absolute power. Vianello links this conception to central features of Jung's notion of the collective unconscious, which in the final analysis would explain why it is so difficult for some societies to evolve in a radical democratic term.

My impression is that this book opens a completely new theoretical avenue for the understanding of some contemporary’s political tendencies, which are related to the undemocratic features of emerging neo-populist and right-wing governments. In this sense, the book is an enormous contribution to new areas of interests for political science and political sociology." - José Álvaro Moisés, Professor at the Department of Political Science and Senior Professor of the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of São Paulo, Brazil

Table of Contents

Preface; Hermeneutic Premise: from Marx to Jung; Introduction: Arius and the Enclave from the Iberian Peninsula to the Urals; Chapter 1: Constantine: the context; Chapter 2: The birth of the 'Absolute Power Complex'; Chapter 3: Corollaries of the 'Absolute Power Complex'; Chapter 4: Consequences on Intellectual and Political Life; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index

About the Author

Mino Vianello, University of Rome "La Sapienza", was the winner of the Descartes Prize for Social Sciences in 2000 and is former editor of the Revue Internationale de Sociologie (1987-2005). He has concentrated his research over the last forty years on the issue of gender and power and has authored several books that have been translated into many languages.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Jungian