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The Mass Psychology of Fascism

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  961 ratings  ·  59 reviews
In this classic study, Reich provides insight into the phenomenon of fascism, which continues to ravage the international community in ways great and small.

Drawing on his medical experiences with men and women of various classes, races, nations, and religious beliefs, Reich refutes the still generally held notion that fascism is a specific characteristic of certain nationa
Paperback, Third Edition, 432 pages
Published November 1st 1980 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1933)
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Vikas Lather
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book. Through his Freudian-Marxist anlaysis, Reich shows how the sadistic character of race ideology is an extreme expression of patriarchal and opressive family structure. As he puts it, 'fascist mentality is the mentality of the subjugated "little man" who craves authority and rebels against it at the same time'.
Oct 26, 2007 rated it liked it
I often wonder if I am a fascist, and I know people who for sure hate Fascism to their very bone, yet I believe that they are fascists in their heart. In fact I wonder if Fascism is somewhat in our DNA. I often think the family trait, the love of animals, and a sense of order is somehow tied in to Fascism. And especially with the family we feel with other living beings. The need to belong to some social group. Isn't it better to join than be apart? Isn't our very sexual need is to be with someon ...more
Stuart Bramhall
Aug 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
With the recent rise of the New Right (viz the Tea Bag and Patriot movement), Wilhelm Reich proves himself as much of a prophet of Marx. Writing in 1933, during the rise of Hitler, he predicts the failure of the Left to engage the working class - without a total transformation in their organizing strategy. He also predicts the steady creep of western democracy towards greater and greater authoritarianism - accompanied by a steady increase in the passive, non-voting majority of the population.

Arthur Maurer
Apr 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly important, but seemingly forgotten book--and one that is of pressing importance to a world in which what Reich would term "political irrationalism" is again getting out of hand, particularly with the rise of Trump in the U.S. and the far-right in Europe. To begin with, Reich starts with the premise that Fascism is not limited to one specific place or time in history, i.e. to Italy or Germany in the 20th century's first half; rather it is a natural though hideous outgrowth of the ir ...more
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best, and likely most important books I have ever read. I took my time, because it felt important to really sit with Reich's words and understand the importance of the message.

Writing near the end of WWII and having Hitler and Mussolini as case studies served as the catalyst for this work, but was not the only focus of analysis. In addition to European fascism, he took a close look at Russia post-revolution and how the best intentions led to the same old collapse into an autocratic me
Jul 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Very interesting read, especially bearing in mind that it was written in the middle of WW2 when Fascism was not just still a strong political force across Europe but a real threat. While I'm not sure I buy (or even fully understand) his theories of sex economics (the orgasmotrom and orgone theories - and its related accumulator don't appear in this book particularly), his analysis of not only the rise of fascism, but authoritarian regimes in general are fascinating: he pays particular attention ...more
Jul 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I wanted to read some Reich since I first read about him in Kerouac and Burroughs and Robert Anton Wilson. He was as weird as I expected. He made me think about some things in totally new ways which was fun. Sometimes it felt outdated and dry or just too nutty (cosmic orgone, etc). So I alternated between 5 stars and 2 stars. I liked the idea of fascism being made possible because of the psychological sickness of the masses. Irrationality, sexual repression, a patriarchal society, and mysticism ...more
Dec 07, 2019 rated it liked it
When speaking on "Fascism" Reich seems to mean traditional authoritarian structures. He critiques this form of authoritarianism through the Marxist/Freudian lens. Reich believes mankind has been turned into mindless machines suppressing sexual urges through thousands of years of authoritarian rule (priests, kings, dictators, politicians..etc) According to Reich, the only way to undo this authoritarian cycle is to sexualize women & children/destroy the nuclear family/ kill all forms 'mysticism' ...more
Eric Phetteplace
good for the synthesis of Marx and Freud, a simpler predecessor to Deleuze & Guattari. bad for the rampant assumptions: 1) sexual repression during childhood is the root of all evils 2) people are innately good 3) there is an objective rationality which is evident to all once their illusions are stripped away. None of these are sufficiently defended, and Reich makes the typical mistake of overestimating the importance of his own discoveries. ...more
Dec 17, 2010 rated it really liked it

Some reasons why you should read this:

-Reich is one of the most radical figures in the history of psychiatry
-many of the ideas here were reprised by current humanities champions Foucault and Deleuze.
-banned by the Nazis and the US
-but mainly to to try to understand why many (including myself) think that Reich was right when he said: It is the mechanistic-mystical character of modern man that produces fascist parties, and not vice versa.

There are some negatives though. It has a complete ignorance
Paula Kirman
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
A very deep analysis of what leads the average person to fascism. He links a lot of his theory to his "sex-economy" beliefs so it helped that I have already read a couple of this books on that topic. This was first written in 1932 just as Nazism was rising, and much of it still holds up well.
Esteban del Mal
Fascism through a Freudian and Marxist lens.
Apr 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
First written in Germany in 1932 as Hitler was coming to power, then revised in the US in 1944, this is a classic study of the characteristics of fascist movement. Reich, a former Marxist from the Frankfurt School, emphasizes that fascism is not unique to Germany or Japan or Italy, but is instead "the basic emotional attitude of the suppressed man of our authoritarian machine civilization and its mechanistic-mystical conception of life."

In other words it's not enough to blame Hitler or the Nazis
Estelle McInnis
Dec 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
A very ambitious and far-reaching read. Reich does a great job of presenting very hard hitting criticisms of Fascist ideology and culture as well as Leninist Vanguardism. He synthesizes Freudian Psychology and Marxism in a very refreshing and honest way.

Some of his analyses unfortunately can be repetitive to the point exhaustion and at other times he presents his conclusions as complete and holistic when they actually focus too narrowly on a particular dimension of social life.

Much of the work i
Dec 07, 2012 rated it liked it
I'm basically in agreement with his ideas about the individual allure of fascism, though his linking of sexual repression with fascism is a little too Oedipal (i.e. "the mother land" speaking directly to little boys love for their actual mothers). Reich's writing is also very long-winded and seems to go on and on just to make the same point over again (and he's unfortunately short with parts I found interesting, such as the proposition that a swastika is a sexual symbol (actually, it's a frustra ...more
Jan 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Impressive and important.

However, I fully agree with Martin Kitchen's assessment in "Fascism"(1976):
'an extraordinary book which combines brilliant insight with passages of pure nonsense".

Reich raises a few important questions, ("why did the Social Revolution of 1917 fail?""why is the worker not conscious of his condition?""is freedom for the mass really impossible?" etc.) but sometimes his answers are too deterministic and way too narrow.

Also, it would be extremely interesting to read an analy
Adrian Colesberry
Apr 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
There's a great scene in this book where he describes how the parents of a teenage girl who had been raised agnostic one day found their child praying fervently. After some investigation, they discovered that she'd started masturbating, had felt super-guilty and so fell to praying despite the fact that she hadn't been brought up in any faith. This reminded me of my own hyper-religious period that started after puberty and continued until I was 20 or so.
There are many terrific insights in this p
The 17 page preface to the third edition, written in 1942, is all you really need to read. It says it all in a succinct manner. The rest of the book is unnecessarily detailed and diffuse.

At this time in our history, I definitely recommend reading that preface because the mass psychology of fascism is all around us right now....
Nov 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
great look at what it takes to make a fascist state, how the people behave individually as well as as a whole, what pieces need to be in place and how a government or society can cultivate certain elements to insure that the populace goes along with whatever the plan might be, it also eerily familiar.
Gerad Ryan
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Remains one of the best works on fascism ever written. Read this in my late teens and it permanently changed my sociopolitical outlook from that point forward
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
An essential read for understanding the rise of fascism in our own times. Chilling and accurate. Uncomfortable and important.
Jan 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Reich confronts the thorny problem of why so many people working people in the turbulent opening decades of the 20th century sided with the elite interests that were oppressing them against people from their own social and economic background in the intense class struggles of that epoch. In Germany at that time the mass of the working class was supporting either the Communist or the Social Democratic party, but a significant and growing segment chose to back the reactionary tide which eventually ...more
Sep 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Written in Germany in 1933 after Hitler’s rise to power, this book is still very relevant today, so much so that many passages could easily describe our current political climate in the US. That said, this book was written in 1933 Germany for people living in 1933 Germany, and there were many passages where I did not feel as though I had the historical background to fully understand Dr. Reich’s ideas. The translation I had was completed in 1970, yet only had a few footnotes. This book could real ...more
Eli Bishop
Nov 24, 2019 rated it liked it
(This is an old review that I wrote in 2002 and thought that I had copied here, but hadn't. I haven't read Reich since then so I'm not sure what I would think now.)

As you may know, Reich was a student of Freud who's now known as a colorful crackpot (or, in California, a genius) who believed sexual life-energy could cure cancer, change the weather, etc. He was also a crusading anti-fascist and anti-Stalinist, and he thought dangerous politics were a side effect of unconscious contradictions in so
Leigh Anne
Dec 27, 2017 rated it liked it
A classic work of political philosophy, for those with hardcore interest in the subject.

I really wish we could give half stars, because this is a bit better than a three, but not quite a four, if only because Freudian theories of anything are woefully oversimplified. Then again, we humans ARE awfully fucked up about sex (pun intended), and there's a lot of merit here to Reich's main argument: if we weren't so gorram uptight about our drives and desires, manipulative leaders wouldn't be able to u
A warning: if you are reading this book in English, then chances are that you are reading the third edition, published in 1946. To the best of my knowledge, the third edition was the first version translated into English.

The first edition of the Mass Psychology was published in 1933, and its contents are profoundly revolutionary and remain relevant today. However, in the years after its publication - especially after he moved to the US in 1939 - Reich "discovered" and then became obsessed with
Adam Clough
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book gave great insight into the current events in the culture wars. I now have a clear understanding of The social engineering of the Liberal regime hiding behind "Love". Because as a true hippie I choose not too judge others personally for their ideas, but I do believe those Ideas should have a rational grounding. But in turn I do not feel I should be condemned for not agreeing. After a recent Fallout with someone I thought was my Best-friend I read this to realize he was socially enginee ...more
Matthew Taylor
Sep 15, 2019 rated it liked it
2.5 really.

Fun if zany book for the first half, with quite a few compelling arguments and well-articulated positions. Takes itself and Marxism seriously, and I'm glad I read it.

In the second half, it completely goes off the rails. Reich loses all sense of precision in developing his categories and constructing incisive arguments. Honestly not even worth reading past Chapter 8, except maybe to gawk at the absurdity of what follows.
Apr 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Tedious read. it is pschyologist jargon. But! It was fscinating read on 1932 Germany and the rise of socialism.
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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Jewish Austrian-American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.

Reich was a respected analyst for much of his life, focusing on character structure, rather than on individual neurotic symptoms. He promoted adolescent sexuality, the availability of contraceptives and abortion, and the importance for women of economic independence. Synthesizing material from psychoanalysis, cultural anthropology, economics,

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