In Mass Psychology and Analysis of the “I” (1921), Sigmund Freud opens a new chapter in the history of crowd psychology by arguing that masses are produced through processes of identification with authoritarian leadership. This essay asks how it is that Freud's mass theory has been interpreted both as a theory of the psyche and as a theory of society and, as for the latter alternative, as a theory of fascism and of social cohesion in general. Freud's definition of the mass seemingly serves as a definition of not only totalitarian rule, the protofascist order of the primal father, but also society, held together by libidinal ties that Freud associated with eros. Dissolving this apparent paradox, the essay shows that, for Freud, the mass occupies the same position as the unconscious. Beyond representation and language, the mass is for Freud society in its “zero-degree” or “raw” state, before it is socially divided and politically organized. No wonder such a theory emerged in a historical situation like the Weimar period, when social divisions were contested and political institutions weak or defunct.

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