Group Psychology summarises the existing research, and offers the rudiments of a unifying theoretical framework: based on the ego-related processes of suggestibility and object cathexis. In the twin human drives of libido, and of identification with an external object, Freud locates the building-blocks for group psychology. A century on, Freud’s monograph remains a useful tool to understand phenomena of mob behaviour: the preponderance of primitive emotions, the suspension of self-interest, and the moral lows and highs between which mob behaviour often swings.
A Psychological Analysis of Adolf Hitler is of historic value to students of personality and of psychoanalysis. Historians have questioned the validity of its sources; the contemporary reader will be amused by the explicit focus on psychosexual development; several of the report’s conclusions are dubious at best; its terminology varies widely from those of contemporary psychopathology. Nonetheless, the Analysis offers plausible reconstructions of Hitler’s history and self-image, and constitutes an imaginative reconstruction of Hitler’s psychological economy.
Political Correctness solves nothing, and sidesteps the hard work of institutional reform. Language reflects material circumstances – and it is material, economic injustice that must remain our focus. Banning words is high-profile, low-impact virtue-signalling that polarises groups and forbids honest dialogue.
In this long essay, Freud examines the puzzling phenomenon of individuals in civilised societies pointing to civilisation as the root of all evil. If you want to discover the meticulous, erudite, prescient scientist behind the caricature that Freud has become in contemporary culture – this succinct, clearly-reasoned analysis marrying history and psychology is a good starting-point.
I’ve featured Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth here before. I’ll keep featuring it. It changed my life. BM analyses how the pursuit of a standardised, impossible, high-maintenance physical beauty claims women’s time, money, health, sanity, & humanity. It’s a book every man & woman should read: it’s incisive about the ways in which advertising, industry, commerce, popular culture (inc. films & women’s magazines & porn), & even the healthcare industry collude to create a reality where health & happiness become almost impossible for millions of educated, sane citizens. (This is also why I repeatedly feature works on the Third Reich, inc. on & by Nazi leaders.)
The Stranger manages to disorient us, and dislocate our own comfortable ideas about what it means to live a human life. It’s not a comfortable book – but, like the best existentialist literature, it’s a book that may enable us to search our own souls, and see in ourselves a brother or a sister to criminals and to saints. It’s a book that may empower us to face the essential meaninglessness of life: in order to create meaning for ourselves.
Terry Eagleton’s Very Short Introduction to the Meaning of Life is a delectable, digestible introduction to landmark schools of thought whose debates on big questions have shaped European cultural history; and, via that route, global political history.