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The Mass Psychology of Fascism

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,062 ratings  ·  74 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, 395 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'. ...more
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
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
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
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.
Brian Coltin
Feb 04, 2021 rated it it was ok
There is a thin line between genius and madness. This book has one foot set firmly on each side of that line.
Jan 15, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: epistēmē
Some interesting initial insights give way to repetitive tedium and psychoanalytic schizobabble in the second half. I take issue with Reich's underlying assumption of the "inherent goodness" of sexually-satisfied man. Reich's identification of fascism as arising from patriarchal fears of feminine sexuality, which culminate in sadistic institutional terror, is more or less spot on. Interesting mention of Weininger as a proponent of a proto-Freudian madonna-whore mentality towards women. The sexua ...more

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. ...more
Esteban del Mal
Fascism through a Freudian and Marxist lens.
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
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
Varapanyo Bhikkhu
Jan 27, 2021 rated it did not like it
The following is a succinct expression of Reich’s doctrine:

Suppression of the natural sexuality in the child, particularly of its genital sexuality, makes the child apprehensive, shy, obedient, afraid of authority, good and adjusted in the authoritarian sense; it paralyzes the rebellious forces because any rebellion is laden with anxiety; it produces, by inhibiting sexual curiosity and sexual thinking in the child, a general inhibition of thinking and of critical faculties. In brief, the goal of
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
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.
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....
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.
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
Christopher Timmerman
Nov 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: hippies or children of hippies

These are mostly notes on the first chapter, with Reich's project in this book bolded. If you can get past the psychoanalytic babble and weird sex talk (those almost always coincide), it's a great work that Deleuze eventually took over, with both considering a disturbing question: Is fascism a product of ignorance, or something the unconscious can manufacture desire for?

Here it is. The last paragraph descends into absurdity, which I believe is appropriate when reviewing an old pro-psychoanalysis

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
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
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a book that belonged to my father, and I remember him and my mother discussing it when I was a child. It was among the books he had on his shelves when he lived with us in his final years, and after he passed I decided to pick it up and give it a read. I was immediately drawn in by the fascinating description of traditional German parenting (including toilet training - yikes) and was intrigued by Reich's hypothesis that this punitive and repressive conditioning contributed to the virule ...more
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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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