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Nationalism and the Body Politic

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This volume aims to question the recent revival of neo-nationalist policies in the light of what unconscious fantasies are involved in these developments. It examines both recent movements of right-wing extremism and the way in which rearticulated neo-ethnic ideas have been adopted by mainstream politicians and in mainstream public discourse. Politicians from other than the right-wing populist parties have tended to resist specific ways of talking that are considered too extremist, rather than their underlying frame of interpretation.Governments across Europe have adopted anti-immigrant and anti-Roma policies. Xenophobia and hostility towards 'others' is on the rise, along with appeals to "Tradition and Security". 'Cultures of fear' are linked with fantasies of fusion or 'imagined sameness'. Alongside the image of the nation as a mother and/or father, Reich (1933) called attention to the fantasy of the nation as a body, echoed in Money-Kyrle's (1939) characterization of 'group hypochondria' in connection with the burning of witches and heretics; "The Church, and State united to it, could tolerate no foreign body within itself, and turned ferociously upon any that it found." To address the current political developments, the volume stresses the urgency of understanding the fantasies and affects which underpin them.

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Editor's Introduction to Chapter One

ePub

The chapter addresses the imaginary malady, or malady of the imagination, called hypochondria through its relation to questions of safety. Its title refers to one of Ferenczi's patients, an artist who attempted to construct a total system to serve as his own invulnerable world, a familial “fortress hypochondria”. In hypochondria, as in paranoia, there is an understanding that the self is under threat, though this is not a case of being persecuted by hostile others, but of a hostile something. The authors argue that hypochondria is not only an individual phenomenon, but also one in which something like a socially maintained superego seeks to supervise not so much the realm of ethics as the realm of the ontological. Ours is a culture of contempt for the body, where a desire for perfection is linked with demands to eliminate physical diversity and signs of lived life. It effects a pressure to sustain an invulnerable body, requiring an ever-ready obligation of vigilant defence in a world emptied of trust. The hypochondriac takes the body to be potentially his or her worst enemy, being neither quite self nor as sufficiently other, wishing to protect the body out of self-love while also feeling it is the body that has turned against him or her. The authors raise the notion of “the foreign body, the body as foreign” to question the formation of racism, how a paranoid form of collective hypochondria might be mobilised. Our fears around disease can be made to serve a politics of separatism; while we take our own bodily habits for granted and cease to notice them, the presence of the bodily manifests itself to us through the body of the other as a disturbance. They argue in favour of de-pathologising the pathological through a deconstruction of the dichotomy of health and illness. We all inhabit degrees of un-health, and no one is free or immune from physical suffering; “We are all vermin”. One cure for hypochondria, the authors suggest, might be forms of activism on behalf of suffering others, helping each other to bear the unbearable.

 

Chapter One - Fortress Hypochondria: Health and Safety

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Julia Borossa and Caroline Rooney

As our title indicates, we wish to address the question of nationalism somewhat obliquely, invoking the imaginary malady, or malady of the imagination, that is called hypochondria and exploring its relation to security. We will begin this enquiry through attending to the personal dimensions of anxieties around health and safety and then extend our considerations to what may be termed a biopolitics of hypochondria, which is a question of whether or not hypochondria has the potential to manifest itself as a group psychology. In researching this collaborative paper, we have found that any attempt to make definitive statements about hypochondria tends quite frequently to give rise to counter-assertions. We have made use of this perplexity to structure our paper dialectically, as a dialogue of sorts, bouncing back and forth in the manner of “on the one hand…and on the other hand”. It is as if not only the condition of hypochondria but the very concept of it serves to resist diagnosis.

 

Editor's Introduction to Chapter Two

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The chapter is concerned with the rhetoric and symbols of the Hungarian extreme right movements, inspired by two posters from a municipal election campaign in Budapest in the autumn of 2010 by the most influential extreme right wing party, Jobbik. The inscription on the first picture says, “Budapest is the capital of the Hungarians”. By means of a simple rhetorical trick, the sentence implies the exclusion of others, the non-ethnic Hungarian citizens, such as Romani and Jews, who are, by the force of this definition, “foreign occupants”. According to the ethno-nationalist, populist, right-wing views, Budapest is a town ruled by “strangers”, the city is a “foreign body in the heart of the nation”. The text on the second poster reads, “Do you really want to stop parasitism? If yes, you are a Jobbik voter!” The slogan, accompanied by a picture of a mosquito, opens a vast space of imagery; the iconography of anti-Semitic propaganda is full of bloodsucking insects, vermin, lice, spiders, rats, and other repelling animals. Our “skin ego” (Anzieu, 1989) is, a psychological shield that defends against penetrations that endanger our integrity or self-identity. The main function of the biological skin is abjection: eliminating impure, toxic, undesirable substances and bodily products. A similar function, it is argued, can be attributed to the psychological and social “skin”. The author discusses Imre Hermann's arguments from The Psychology of Anti-Semitism, where Hermann applies his concepts of “clinging”, “going-in-search”, and “separation” to understanding the roots of anti-Semitism. He evaluates these interpretations in the light of present psychoanalytic and social psychological approaches and recent political developments, especially the rapid success of the Jobbik party that culminated at the European election in 2009.

 

Chapter Two - “Budapest, the Capital of Hungarians”: Rhetoric, Images, and Symbols of the Hungarian Extreme Right Movements

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Ferenc Erős

This chapter is a revised version of the paper I presented at the “Nationalism and the body politic” winter symposium in Oslo, March 25–27, 2011,* four months before the Breivik massacre. This tragic event has justified again the urgent need to examine right wing extremism from psychoanalytic and social psychological viewpoints (see Auestad, 2012 for inspirational ideas on this topic). My contribution deals with the rhetoric and symbols of the Hungarian extreme right movements, and was originally inspired by two posters from a municipal election campaign in Budapest in the autumn of 2010. These posters had been made visible for a couple of weeks all over in the streets of Budapest, advertised by the most influential extreme right wing party “Jobbik – The Movement for a Better Hungary”. (In Hungarian the word Jobbik literally means both “the Right” and “the better”.)

The inscription on the first picture reads Budapest is the capital of the Hungarians(Image 1). At first sight it seems to be a completely harmless declaration. Who would deny that, for example, Oslo is the capital of the Norwegians? However, there is a simple rhetoric trick in it: instead of saying that “Budapest is the capital of Hungary”, which is an obvious geographical and administrative fact, the statement on the poster presupposes that if Budapest is the capital of the Hungarians, it cannot be the capital of other peoples. The sentence implies the exclusion of others, the non-ethnic Hungarian citizens, such as Romani and Jews, who are, by the force of this definition, “foreign occupants”.

 

Editor's Introduction to Chapter Three

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The chapter examines the anthropologist Marianne Gullestad's (1946–2008) concept of “imagined sameness”, describing how the majority of Norwegians “must consider themselves as more or less the same in order to feel of equal value”, thus tracing the connections between egalitarian cultural themes and a racially coded majority nationalism. Sameness is created, rather than simply found, via a style of interaction that focuses on what is similar between the parties in the conversation. The imaginary construal of the other as essentially similar to oneself consists both in seeking out harmony and agreement and in avoiding others who are seen as being “too different” to maintain the illusion. “Imagined sameness” and collective narcissism is exemplified using a famous photograph of the late King Olav taking the tram (1973), and the philosopher Gunnar Skirbekk's book on Norwegian national identity (2010). It goes on to examine a more extreme form of narcissism, self-construction, and identity confusion in the case of the Norwegian terrorist and self-appointed crusader Anders Behring Breivik. The author argues that the perpetrator's propaganda material is characterised by a high degree of continuity with earlier anti-Semitic and racist propaganda and by very explicit sexualisation. Sexism and racism are intertwined in the material, and the hated, feared, and denigrated other is simultaneously of great sexual interest. The final section of the chapter points to the contiguity between the more extreme statements of xenophobia and Islamophobia and recent statements made in the mainstream media. The voices of those who defend a revived nationalism and xenophobic attacks against “others”, Muslims, Roma, refugees, and immigrants in particular, have become the more dominant ones. Thus, the chapter ends by emphasising the responsibility of the general population for undertaking renewed reflection on how “we” see ourselves, and on whom “we” may include, a willingness to listen to and sustain such a painful enquiry.

 

Chapter Three - Idealised Sameness and Orchestrated Hatred: Extreme and Mainstream Nationalism in Norway

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Lene Auestad

The first part of this chapter was presented to the “Nationalism and the body politic” winter symposium in Oslo, 25–27 March 2011, four months before the Breivik massacre. It aims to explore how an analysis of narcissism and the logic of idealisation can help us understand neo-nationalist articulations by members of the social mainstream. The later events necessitated a focus on the more extreme varieties; thus, the second part interprets some of the fantasies of the perpetrator. The third part focuses on the reactions of the general population, emphasising the responsibility of the bystander.

Likeness and idealisation

In his Introductory Lectures, Freud proposes studying some very common, familiar phenomena which “since they can be observed in any healthy person, have nothing to do with illnesses” (1916–1917, p. 25). These are what we know as parapraxes, slips of the tongue, saying something other than what was intended, or doing the same thing in writing, or hearing something different from what was said to one. His mention of how people speak of a “demon of misprints” (p. 31) indicates how there is a general unwillingness to understand or identify with such errors, which are normal actions, only not the ones one had planned to perform. The ability of psychoanalysis to wonder about, and be struck by, features pertaining to the seemingly trivial and ordinary and Marianne Gullestad's (1946–2008) chosen method of pinpointing and presenting for debate details of a culture with which she was intimately familiar. Her decision to do “anthropology at home”, to devote her work to studies of the ordinary, that is, the majority of, Norwegians, was unusual when she started out (Lien & Melhuus, 2008). The portrayal of people in relative positions of power, rather than of marginalised people used to being misunderstood and misrepresented, caused discomfort as well as anger from parts of her audience.

 

Editor's Introduction to Chapter Four

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The chapter analyses what the author calls “mourning populism” based on Ernesto Laclau's theory of populist reason, Carl Schmitt's idea of the political, and Freud's thoughts on group psychology and mourning. The author follows Laclau in his observation that populism has its own logic, a transcultural approach that can, in principle, be applied to any content. Laclau's concept of populism is strictly formal; its definition relates exclusively to a specific mode of articulation, independent of the actual contents. If we ask to what extent any given movement could be populist, it is argued, we come up with two ideal extremes of the continuum of political practices: (1) an institutionalist discourse dominated by a pure logic of difference, and (2) a populist discourse, in which the logic of equivalence operates unchallenged. Where the former would lead to a society so dominated by administration and by the individualisation of social demands that no politics would be possible, the latter would involve such a dissolution of social links that the notion of “social demand” would lose any meaning, and the image of society would be that of a “crowd” or “mass”. The author follows Laclau in his observation that populism has its own logic, a transcultural approach that may, in principle, be applied to any content, while arguing for the need to also analyse the cultural context specific to a given country to understand its specific embodiment of populism. “If the English are preoccupied with the weather”, he states, “the Poles are with suffering.” Polish populism, it is argued, performs best when exploiting a trauma—the partitions of Poland in the eighteenth century, the uneven war in the twentieth century, the genocide of the Polish intelligentsia in Katyń 1940, the Warsaw Uprising, or the Smoleńsk tragedy of 10 April 2010.

 

Chapter Four - Funeral Policy: The Case of Mourning Populism in Poland

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Szymon Wróbel

Populism in question

The concept of populism has seemingly become an indispensable part of any democratic political culture. The fact that it is so widely acknowledged in the analyses of social, political and institutional phenomena by historians, social scientists, journalists and politicians alike indicates that populism tends to emerge at different times and in various places. It also seems that, today, populist slogans are not only used by radical parties, as is often said in the literature. Populist rhetoric has been exercised by vast political platforms, not only on the right but also on the left of the political scene (Betz, 1994, p. 33; Kazin, 1995, p. 78; Mudde, 2000, p. 67; Taggart, 1996, p. 14; Zakaria, 2003, p. 56). Populism today is not restricted to populist parties as such, but it is increasingly associated with European leaders and social movements.

Mudde defines populism as “an ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ versus ‘the corrupt elite’, and which argues that politics should be an expression of the general will of the people” (Mudde, 2007, p. 41). Leaving aside the question of whether the above definition considers populism an ideology or not, it undoubtedly provides a collection of the features of populism of which the first and foremost is negativism. Populism reacts against elites and institutions and, thus, it is perceived as anti-capitalism, anti-Semitism, anti-urbanism, anti-modernism, anti-etc. Populism derives its expressiveness from negativism. Negativism and expressiveness are presented by a discourse. Here, the discourse plays an important role and is based on the rhetoric that expresses not who the populists are for, but who the populists are against. The second feature of populist thinking is the sense of betrayal and treachery. Populists usually claim that the people have been betrayed by an establishment. Usually, all political elites are accused of abusing their position of power instead of acting in conformity with the interests of the people as a whole (Mény & Surel, 2002. p. 13). To go further, populists argue that there is a conspiracy of elites against the people (Szacki, 2004, p. 33). This is also based on simple rules derived from the common wisdom of the people and is deeply rooted in local tradition and culture.

 

Editor's Introduction to Chapter Five

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The chapter presents the theory of the fourth basic assumption, which provides a bridge between the Bionian study of group relations and Foulkesian group analysis, and between psychoanalysis and sociology. Bion (1961) conceptualised three basic assumptions associated with specific kinds of anxieties, processes and roles: dependency, fight/flight, and pairing. The author suggests that the unconscious life of traumatised groups is dominated by a fourth basic assumption, which he terms “Incohesion: Aggregation/Massification” or (ba) “I:A/M”. When social systems regress following traumatic experiences of failed dependency, they become like, or actually become groups. “Aggregation” and “Massification” refer to processes through and by which the group becomes either an aggregate or a mass; two bi-polar forms of incohesion which are equally incohesive. The members of an aggregate hardly relate to one another. They remain silent for long periods of time, and engage in various forms of non-communication such as gaze-avoidance. Where an aggregate is characterised by too much individuality, a mass is characterised by too little. The term may refer to a highly charged political demonstration or a rally in a confined location. People are so physically close that in any other situation they would be experienced as violating one another's sense of personal space, they are mesmerised through staring into one another's eyes or focusing on a common object. The mass' silence differs in quality from that of the aggregate; people feel they do not need words or gestures to communicate, as they are rooted in a shared sense of awe and wonder. These bi-polar intra-psychic constellations are associated with two types of personal organisation:, the “contact shunning” or “crustacean” type as a schizoid reaction against the fear of engulfment; and two, the “merger-hungry” or “amoeboid” as a clinging reaction against the fear of abandonment. The massification of traumatised societies, it is argued, is dominated by processes of fatal purification; massification breeds nationalism and fascism.

 

Chapter Five - The Theory of Incohesion: Aggregation/Massification as the Fourth Basic Assumption in the Unconscious Life of Groups and Group-Like Social Systems

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Earl Hopper

In this chapter, I will summarise my theory of the basic assumption of Incohesion: Aggregation/Massification or (ba) I:A/M, which I (Hopper, 2003) have developed at length in Traumatic Experience in the Unconscious Life of Groups. Although I have clarified and refined this theory in more recent publications (for example, Hopper, 2005a, 2009, 2010), I believe that this summary is the most lucid statement of it. Of course, it is impossible to discuss here the general theory of both the “work group” and the “basic assumption group”. The key text is Experiences in Groups (Bion, 1961), and further discussion and applications of Bion's ideas about groups can be found in, for example, “Bion's contribution to thinking about groups” (Menzies-Lyth, 1981) and Tongued with Fire: Groups in Experience (Lawrence, 2000), which include extensive bibliography.

The term “group” indicates a social system that is a group, and not some other kind of social system. Although all groups are social systems, not all social systems are groups. A group is not, for example, a committee, but a committee is a group. Similarly, a group is not a family, but a family is a group, and is sometimes called a “family group”. Neither is a group an organisation, a society, or a village, etc. It is sometimes useful to refer to an “actual group” in order to indicate that a particular social system is, in fact, a group and not some other kind of social system.

 

Editor's Introduction to Chapter Six

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The author interprets Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's concepts of the schizophrenic and paranoid poles using the example of the Lithuanian political scene, where the revolutionary drives of 1990 were quickly replaced by reactionary nationalist forces. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia provides an analysis of the processes of desire production. Deleuze and Guattari do not differentiate between libidinal economy and political economy: libidinal and political flows form the processes of desire produce what we call the real. In this sense, schizophrenia designates not the clinical state of mental illness, but the deepest tendency of capitalism. It is associated with the creative tendency of capitalism, its potential for change and permanent revolution. The counter-tendency of capitalism is seen as paranoia. In this context, paranoia does not mean the clinical state, but the libidinal tendency to stick to stable and fixed meanings, beliefs, and authorities. A good example, it is argued, is the comparison between the two events related to the Lithuanian parliament: in 1991 the unarmed population defended the parliament from external forces, while in 2009 the same population attacked its own parliament as a reaction against the first shock of the financial crisis and social cuts. The author argues that the unconscious paranoiac investments manifested themselves shortly after the Re-establishment of Independence in 1991. The independent state started functioning as an apparatus of repression, defending in a paranoiac way a pre-war system of codes and beliefs and excluding ethnic and sexual minorities. The increasing outbursts against minorities, it is argued, reveal the deep connections between the paranoid form of the psyche and the nation state.

 

Chapter Six - The Schizoanalysis of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, or the Political between Schizophrenia and Paranoia

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Audronė Žukauskaiė

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia provides an inspiring analysis of the processes of desire production. Deleuze and Guattari do not differentiate between libidinal economy and political economy: libidinal and political flows form the processes of desire which, in their turn, produce that which we call the real. In this sense, schizophrenia designates not the clinical state of mental illness, but the deepest tendency of capitalism, its potential for change and permanent revolution. The counter-tendency of the same capitalism is seen as paranoia. Paranoia here means the libidinal tendency to stick to stable and fixed meanings, beliefs, and authorities. Thus, schizophrenia and paranoia designate two poles of social libidinal investment which are analysed in terms of deterritorialization and reterritorialization, the molecular and the molar, and the revolutionary and fascist drives in the political. In this chapter, the schizophrenic and paranoid poles are examined using the concrete example of the Lithuanian political scene: the revolutionary drives of 1990 were quickly replaced after twenty years of independence by reactionary nationalist forces which reveal the deep connections between the paranoid form of the psyche and the nation-state.

 

Editor's Introduction to Chapter Seven

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The chapter recounts how fundamentalism as a term was born in America in the early twentieth century, derived from a series of pamphlets on “The fundamentals” of the Christian faith, published in the 1910s. These publications formulated a strict commitment to the belief that the Bible was infallible and historically accurate. When the debates sparked by fundamentalism reached Norway, the psychologist and philosopher Ingjald Nissen responded by providing an account of fundamentalism, both Christian and scientific, as characterised by the tendency to render concepts absolute and an unusual confidence in logical inference. In the early 1930s, he came to believe that National Socialism, which was on the rise, was related to a similar mentality. Nissen resorted to Adler's theory of the inferiority complex; feelings of inferiority, he argued, would drive the individual to accept compensatory ideas, logical and conclusive reasoning being the most compelling. The compensatory superstructure protects the individual against feelings of inferiority, and its construction and flaws are more or less hidden from consciousness. This was also a psycho-social mechanism; the creation of feelings of inferiority in the masses that were fed with compensatory ideology could explain the large scale growth of National Socialism. This view guided Nissen's analysis not only of Nazism, but also of dogmatic, scientifically inspired movements, such as the “orthodox” psychoanalytic movement. The author argues that Ingjald Nissen's work exposes an important kinship between Alfred Adler and Hans Vaihinger's ideas, and points to a possible reading of Nissen's books as a warning against contempt for weakness and against holding strength and superiority as ideals. An obsession with masculine strength and a fear of weakness and the feminine can be observed in today's fundamentalists and fascists, which could be seen as a frustrated and exaggerated version of tendencies found deep in mainstream culture.

 

Chapter Seven - Fundamentalism, Nazism, and Inferiority

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Haakon Flemmen

Introduction

What is fundamentalism? In which different forms does it appear? What are the forces behind it? Such questions have been asked frequently, especially during the past decade or so, usually with Islamists in mind. We often forget, though, that the concept is far from a new one: fundamentalism as a term was born in the early twentieth century, originally referring to the Christian faith and, interestingly, even in the first part of the last century, there were scholars who aimed to explore the psychology of the fundamentalist.

In this chapter, I intend to show how an Adlerian analysis of fundamentalism and National Socialism took form in the writings of the Norwegian philosopher and psychologist Ingjald Nissen, an important inspiration being the debate on Christian fundamentalism in the 1920s and the work of Norwegian psychiatrist Ragnar Vogt.

In other words, I do not intend to carve out any supra-historical definition of fundamentalism—this is a historical account, an exploration of how the concept was treated in Nissen's own context; the natural starting point, therefore, is the mid-1920s and the religious groups that first were named “fundamentalists”.

 

Editor's Introduction to Chapter Eight

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The chapter provides a psychoanalytic account of Mexican national identity. It explores the Mexican essayist and Nobel Prize winner for literature, Octavio Paz's The Labyrinth of Solitude (1960), where Paz describes “the Mexican” and gives an account of this character's customs, passions, angst, fantasies, and history. Moscovici's concept of “social representation” is used to clarify what Paz means by “the Mexican”: systems of representations conceived as the body of a nation, an agreement about what the “real” of the social group is about. Paz asserts that Mexican solitude is expressed in a feeling of orphanhood that results from the loss of that which contained his reality after the Spanish conquest of Mexico. The author argues that the phantasy of the primal scene is at the basis of the repetition compulsion of Mexican history and the destructive cycle in which Mexican historicity is caught up. This phantasy is both pleasurable and over-exciting and horrific and destructive. Perhaps, it is argued, this phantasy is also at the heart of the Mexican's notoriously pleasurable readiness to contemplate horror and death, that of the self and of the other. To identify with the male object means to become a Macho, and, thus, acquire the status of social powerfulness. However, it also means identifying with the Spanish conquistador, he who damages when he rapes, a highly hated image. Thus, the social representations of “what it means to be a Mexican man” are full of contradiction and ambivalence. The author ends by discussing whether a real loss took place in the Conquest, or whether the image of a rape on which Mexican history-telling is centred is a subjective invention, and chooses to leave open the question of whether, or to what extent, historical events are the causes of the Mexican's psychic conflicts and phantasies.

 

Chapter Eight - The Mexican: Phantasy, Trauma, and History

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Jonathan Davidoff

This chapter is motivated by a desire to reflect upon Mexican national identity, as depicted by Mexican essayist and Nobel Prize winner for literature, Octavio Paz, in his prominent work The Labyrinth of Solitude (1960). In this set of essays, Paz outlines “the Mexican” and gives an account of this character's customs, passions, angst, fantasies, and history. Moscovici's concept of “social representation” (2008) is helpful to describe the type of knowledge that Paz pins down when using the notion of “the Mexican”: a set of images, information, and attitudes about Mexican national identity socially constructed and perpetuated. Paz's work proves to be quite psychoanalytically informed, and I will outline my interpretation of his claims and contribute some of my own. The psychoanalytic reading of the national identity of Mexicans, however, presents problematic paradoxes when it comes to attributing history with the causes of the Mexican's psychic conflicts and phantasies. I shall explore some of these problems and, with a paradoxical note, will set forth the conclusions.

 

Editor's Introduction to Chapter Nine

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The chapter discusses Eric Fromm's ideas on politics and the nation. His works relate to Freud and Marx as part of the European humanist tradition. Although he valued Freud's appreciation of the unconscious, Fromm doubted that a destructive instinct is intrinsic to Man, and argued that Freudian analysis overemphasised the importance of the family while paying too little attention to the person's wider social ties. He valued Marx's thoughts on “positive freedom” and applauded Marx's recognition that, in each historical period, people shaped themselves through the act of living, particularly through economic engagement. Fromm believed he could fill a gap in Marx by explaining how society's economic “base” influenced its political and ideological “superstructure”. There were two keys: social character and social unconscious. Escape from Freedom provided a path-breaking examination of the socially widespread foundations of National Socialism, while Anatomy of Human Destructiveness applied clinical insights to the Third Reich's leadership. In relation to nationalism, Fromm identified a complex of necrophilia, narcissism, and incestuous ties that formed a “syndrome of decay” related to poor mental health and national hatred. He believed modern society was institutionalising elements supportive of the “syndrome of decay”; an environment restricting individuality and spontaneity shapes a new kind of being: organisation man or homo mechanicus—a person who has been reduced to a mere item. Although there are some problems associated with Fromm's analysis, the author argues, his body of work provides many sensitive insights into the human condition and society's impact upon it.

 

Chapter Nine - Psychoanalysis and Peace: Erich Fromm on History, Politics, and the Nation

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Martyn Housden

Introduction

In the 1950s and 1960s, Erich Fromm supported the American Socialist Party and criticised the nuclear threat to peace; yet, despite his contemporary interests, Fromm's work was permeated by history. This reflected a life spanning a remarkable period. Born to an orthodox Jewish family in Frankfurt in 1900, his life took in the Kaiserreich as well as the First World War. He experienced the German revolution followed by Weimar's democracy. He remained in Germany to witness the origins of the Third Reich, but observed the Second World War from a distance. There followed the occupation and division of Germany, the rise of the Cold War, and, more optimistically, the founding of the United Nations. From his vantage point in the Americas (first the USA, later Mexico), Fromm saw McCarthyism, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Vietnam, and the civil rights movement (see Inter-nationale-Eric-Fromm-Gesellschaft, e.g., Fromm, 1996a).

 

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