This new group will meet monthly to read and research the history of theorisations of Mass Psychology. In the first half of the twentieth century this branch of psycho-analytic and psycho-social thought undergirded many of the fiercest and most brilliant modernist anti-fascist philosophies and writings (ranging from Freud, to Reich’s ‘The Mass Psychology of Fascism’, Simmel’s ‘Anti-semitism as Mass Psychopathology’ and Adorno’s ‘The Authoritarian Personality’). Meanwhile early interventions into the psychology of the mass and the crowd and the character types formed within them (by writers such as by Le Bon, Weininger, Jung and Klages, to Hitler’s own writings) prepared the ground for some of the most elaborate fascist elements of fascist thinking, leading to widescale rationalisations of anti-Semitism and misogyny.
Today the far left has very much fallen out of love with psychoanalysis, not least these psycho-social critiques of fascism. Many of these texts have lain barely read for half a century (there remain questions about whether theories that turns on ideas like “repressed homosexuality” are even today sustainable, and what they mean for the critique of contemporary masculinity and its expressions violent or otherwise). Similarly the left has often given up on understanding fascist thought in order to explode it. While it may turn out as useless to resuscitate this branch of thought, it would be useful to map out its charges and fractures, especially at a time of rising fascism, while its critique from the left is intellectually weak. Perhaps this thinking will offer new critical ways of understanding and engaging with the far right, from the Trump Phenomenon to the misogynistic personality theories of Jordan Peterson, to the new character structures of the mass in online media.
To launch the group, we will be screening Brecht and Weill’s The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, and have a conversation during the interval about how we can structure this group, how much we are willing to read, and what exactly we want to do. Absolutely no expertise needed, other than a will to be sensitive and reflective. Please come along.