Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism

Robert Jay Lifton’s “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism” is an important study of political cultism. Ideological conditioning often involves academic-sounding words and phrases that can lead even intelligent, well-meaning people to despise entire groups of people and to stereotype individuals who belong to those groups. It is often caused by the excessive repetition of narratives about these groups - even historical narratives that are verifiably accurate.

We are seeing these patterns emerge in both the Trump movement and the Social Justice Ideology (SJI) movement, particularly on elite college campuses that focus on social justice. This is why it’s becoming increasingly vital for people to understand and recognize the patterns of what Lifton has called ideological totalism.

These helpful tips by political cult expert Robert Jay Lifton can help us to recognize how this hatred gains its staying power. For a useful introduction to how political cultism (or ideological totalism) manifests on college campuses, the #ExposeEvergreen video series is highly recommended.

In Chapter 22 of his book, Lifton discusses "Ideological Totalism", a full PDF version of which can be found here.