The Mass Psychology of Fascism

Posted: February 8, 2017 in Attacks on Civil Liberties, Attacks on the Working Class

mass-psychology-of-fascism

The Mass Psychology of Fascism

By Wilhelm Reich (1933)

Free PDF:  Mass Psychology of Fascism

Book Review

In the the recent US election, Donald Trump successfully used false right wing populism to lure working people to vote against their own economic interests – as did Adolf Hitler during the 1930s. Writing in 1933, Reich foreshadows the present failure of the left to engage the working class. He also predicts the steady creep of western democracy towards greater authoritarianism and the recent rise of the populist New Right (via the Tea Party, Patriot and Alt-Right movement).

Why the Working Class Votes Against Their Own Economic Interest

Reich is the first major sociologist to offer a convincing analysis of the allure of fascism and reactionary politics for low income workers. Ever since the Reagan era, progressives have struggled to understand why blue collar workers are so easily persuaded to vote for politicians who go on to worsen the basic conditions of their lives. Reich pins the blame on authoritarian family structures most working people grow up in.

According to Reich, the strong allure of reactionary politics – and overt fascism – is based in mankind’s 6,000 year history of rigid patriarchal, authoritarian and hierarchical social organization.

He devotes a large portion of his book to the concept of sexual repression and the political, religious and economic institutions that deny women and adolescents full expression of their sexuality. These institutions support authoritarian family structures that enforce sexual repression. For millennia, this authoritarian control was exerted through political and religious mandates under which women literally became the property of men.

He contrasts modern society with early matriarchal societies in which children were free to “play doctor” with each other and both men and women were free to have sex with any other willing adults. These societies dealt with the potential for sexual excess or exploitation via self-regulation and group pressure. As Reich and many anthropologists have noted, murder, war, rape, prostitution and slavery were extremely rare in these societies.

Although women are no longer regarded as property in industrialized society, both women and adolescents continue to be denied full enjoyment of their sexuality under male-controlled political, economic and religious institutions.

Why the Working Class Craves Authority

As Reich convincingly argues, it’s not just women who suffer the adverse psychological effects of these structures. Being raised in excessively authoritarian family, educational and religious structures denies both men and women any experience of the natural capacity of self-regulation. Deeply fearful, anxious, guilty and confused about their perplexing inner drives, they have no confidence in their ability to conduct their lives without an external authority to guide and compel them.

The reactionary right knows exactly how to appeal to these unconscious fears and anxieties. First by creating even more rigid and authoritarian structures (eg outright bans on sex education, premarital sex, abortion, birth control and gay rights). These provide immediate (though temporary) relief by limiting choice. Secondly by promoting racist ideology that projects unhappiness and perceived loss of freedom away from ourselves onto an external “enemy) – Jews, Muslims, socialists, immigrants, terrorists, Hispanics, blacks, feminists, liberals, intellectuals and, increasingly, baby boomers.

Why Americans Don’t Vote

In the US only half of eligible adults register and a little over fifty percent of registered voters actually vote. Reich argues that it’s typical in highly authoritarian “democracies” for the passive, non-voting population to constitute the majority. He’s highly critical of the left for attempting to engage this demographic by addressing their appalling economic conditions – a strategy he insists is doomed to failure.

What the left needs to grasp, in his view, is that this politically inactive majority are too caught up in their own internal struggles to think in terms of their economic needs. To put it crudely, status-related needs, such as getting laid, fast cars and flat screen TVs will always be a much higher priority than wages or working conditions.

Instead of educating low income workers about economic and political injustice, Reich argues that leftists should directly address the emotional baggage the working poor carry from authoritarian family and school experiences. He proposes the best way to do this is through politically enlightened social reform activities, particularly directed towards youth and women.

Comments
  1. futuret says:

    I HAVE READ AND STUDIED THE CONTROVERSIAL BOOK, WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE. I COULD NOT FINISH, DUE TO MY LATE MOTHER BEING TERMINALLY ILL, BUT NOW CONSIDERING OTHER ENDEAVORS, IT IS A VERY LONG STORY. THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST EXCELLENT BOOKS WRITTEN. I WOULD HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE READING, AND ONE FACT TO NOTE, THIS BOOK IS HIGHLY DIFFICULT TO OBTAIN, AT LEAST YEARS AGO. THERE WAS A STORM ON MY CAMPUS, WHEN MY PROFESSION DECIDED TO USE THAT PARTICULAR BOOK TO TEACH, BUT HE DID PREVAIL, AND WE DID READ. I WAS THANKFUL FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO DWELL IN MORE OF THE TRUTH.

  2. Let’s like a “must-read” for every political student. Thanks for the tip and PDF link.

    • futuret says:

      SOCIETIES AS A WHOLE NEEDS TO TAKE NOTICE OF THIS PIECE OF LITERATURE. MANY OF US ARE USED AS TOOLS AND INSTRUMENTS AND NOTHING MORE. THIS PIECE OF LITERATURE IS A TRUE PICTURE OF NIMROD. IT IS TRAGIC THAT MOST REALLY DO NOT CARE TO READ THE HOLY BIBLE, AND TRAGIC THAT THEY DO NOT REALLY WANT TO SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH; INSTEAD STAY IN THEIR COMFORT ZONE, WHICH IS NO COMFORT AT ALL.

    • Character Analysis is another great book by Reich. It totally turns Freud on his head. Freud was totally focused on analyzing the origin of so-called neurotic symptoms – whereas Reich was seriously interested in understanding how character formed in childhood and the different character styles.

  3. toritto says:

    One of my favorites; it always made sense to me. Regards

  4. amaezed says:

    I don’t need a book to tell me how to think and live. I do it freely from my own perspective. Is there a name for folk who base their lives entirely on a book! There are so many variables its neigh impossible to ascertain what is what. See, feel and hear your truths. HATE TRUMP…YOUR SWAMP.

    • It’s an interesting question, amaezed, how people decide how they’re going to live and think. My thoughts and ideas are mainly shaped by interacting with people with whom I have relationships, especially the people I work with fighting for change in my community. Some of us are also influenced by historical figures who have fought for change – Reich was definitely one of them before the FBI put him in prison (where he died). If anything, we can copy the stuff they did that worked and avoid repeating their mistakes.

  5. PeaceFrog says:

    The irony here is that the only grass roots, violence and fascist activity is that being directed against Trump and his Administration. Obama was a war monger who legalized the killings of Americans abroad without due process, expanded the civilian murders of non-combatants, i.e., the drone strikes, condoned CIA torture and illegal rendition to black sites, and, created the travel ban against the 7 Muslim countries that Trump merely re-authorized. Trump is disliked by leaders in business, media and academia, in part, because of his paternal German roots “Drumpf”, Trump’s political mobbing is being led by elite Jews, multi-millionaires and billionaires who have effectively controlled much of the political, academic, media, entertainment and social norms in this country in the last Century. Steve Bannon is less reactionary than Cass Sunstein. Obama’s former Jewish information Czar proposed banning internet “conspiracy theories” critical of the government- that is dangerous-state a proposition by Bannon that is that reactionary and facially unconstitutional!

  6. Alan Scott says:

    Yes, but unfortunately, the “Left” has long since been hijacked by the forces of reaction. How many self-styled leftists in the US think they were furthering the cause by supporting Mrs Clinton?

  7. Reblogged this on OUR GREATER DESTINY and commented:
    Social engineering towards greater authoritarianism. Thanks to futuret for this link …

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