62 of 71 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
If you want to read an outstanding analysis of why conservative "family values" politics are essential to capitalist society and how they can be defeated by a struggle for women's rights, sexual freedom, and true liberation, read The Mass Pyschology of Fascism.
This work is a product of the marriage of the revolutionary political spirit that erupted in Central Europe with the Bolshevik revolution and the series of near revolutions in the countries Reich lived in until the Hitler Victory in 1933--Hungary, Austria, and Germany--with the great discovery by the Freudians that pathology was a product of patriarchial society and its sexual repression.
In the 1920s and 1930s Reich took Freudianism a step further by pointing out that all the non-materialist, drives, complexes, and factors Freud invented to reconcile his discovery of sexual repression and family produced insanity with conservative views about "family values" were invalid ideologically driven pseudoscience. Reich pointed to the fact that Marxists and anthropologists from Morgan in the 19th Century to Malinowski in Reich's time had discovered a pre Patriarchal stage of development predating patriarchy and had also discovered in these socieities or remnants of them, little of the sexual repression Freud postulated was required to maintain society.
So Reich set out in his study of pyschology and in his intervention in the working class political movement of Central Europe to fight for sexual freedom, for women's rights, and for the ending of imperialist and capitalist society. As his struggle brushed up against the growing adoption of bourgeois antisexual morality in the Soviet Union under Stalin and against the ultraleft and opportunist policies of the Comintern infected with Stalinism, Reich's critique turned on the Stalintern and the degenerated Soviet Union as well. Though he built a Sexpol movement of thousands of youth, women, and workers fighting against Hitler in Germany, Reich was expelled from the German Communist party as a "Trotskyist" in 1933.
Sadly, with the victory of Hitler followed by the Moscow Trials, Reich withdrew from active working class politics, then despaired of revolution, and became obessed to the point of his insanity in the 1950s with the idea of "orgone energy" a basic natural universal energy released among other places in good sex. This bogus theory, observed by no other scientist, grew together with a raging paranoia. In the end it aided the witchhunting govenrment of the US put him in jail as a medical quack, and had all of his books including this great work burned and banned in the USA.
In this book, a product of Reich's active struggle against Hitler, Reich traces the links between sexual repression, patriarchal society, and conservative and right wing ideology. He explains how patriarchy attempts to create the neurotic mental health that dominates modern capitalist society to use it to reign over working people. He shows the etiology of religion as a pathological outgrowth of patriarchy, and how conservative "family values" are decisive to conservatism.
Reich, who built a real movement in Germany for sexual freedom and women's rights, is adamant about how fighters for human freedom and socialism cannot simply dismiss issues of women's rights and sexual freedom, but must embrace them if they are to have a chance to defeat fascists among women and youth. He explains that attempts to compete with fascists about who is the best defender of "family values" only strengthens conservatism among working men, working women, and farmers who could be won for the struggle. He cites the sad tactics of the German Communist and Social Democratic parties who tried to outdo Hitler in the fight for "family values' while shrinking away from campaigns for abortion rights, equal pay for equal work, and sexual freedom of the youth, that Reich used to win them away from the Nazis.
There is so much rich thought here about the nature of ideology, family life, and psychology in modern society, and how that can be defeated.
As Reich's orgone theory progressed in the 1940s and 1950s, this book was reedited to include allusions to organe theory and other ideas that were a sad fall from Reich's brilliant vision of the 1930s. I remember reading a bootleg edition of this book in the late 1960s--Reich's books were actually banned and burned by the US government after they framed him up for quackery in the 1950s!--without any of the orgone mumbo jumbo.
However, evenwith the addition of orgone theory, Reich's political and psychological vision is clear here.
No doubt, a prescient reader will dectect a kind of theoretical loop in even the original Reich who overplays the power of social pathology to build politically and social compliant mentalities in working people, but underplays the ability of great events in history, social struggles, and the efforts of vanguard fighters like the Reich of the early 1930s, to help millions to come to the kind of realizations that Reich had reached.
Yet, with this weakness, this a book matched by few others in its disection of capitalist ideology, social pathology, and the potential to struggle for a better world. You must read this book!
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
It's quite worrying how much of this book is still urgently relevant today. Whatever your views on Reich's conception of a universal 'orgone energy' (of which you need no understanding to comprehend the most pertinent points of the book, anyway) it's difficult to deny the main focus points here: that thousands of years of authoritarian, patriarchal society has left man 'muscularly armoured' against natural sexuality; that the masses are incapable of true freedom and need a father figure to guide them; and that the core reason that revolutions ultimately fail to bring true freedom is because they fail to address the fact that man has largely become *incapable* of freedom, and so fail to seek a remedy for this situation.
A key point is that when natural, self-regulated sexuality is oppressed by society -- and so suppressed by the individual -- this gratification must be found elsewhere, and so is largely funneled into mystical experiences, causing masses of people to have an irrational structure (in short, leaving them ill-equipped to think for themselves). Thus, as highlighted powerfully by the rise of National Socialism in early Twentieth Century Germany, the masses -- incapable of thinking in a truly rational way -- can be stirred by purely emotional and mystical propaganda, even when it contradicts their own best interests. Reich illustrates how the patriarchal household mirrors wider society, and engenders and supports religious mysticism and irrational nationalism; with the father figure representing both God and Homeland/Fatherland, for example. Reich presents empirical data highlighting the fact that when sexuality is allowed to be expressed without ideology or mystical moralism checking it, then individuals invariably begin to think and act in a rational way, free of the inner contradictions that would impede them.
While it can be stated that in many modern societies sexual morals are losing their control over individuals' sex lives, the legacy of patriarchy means that the sex act is still brutalized to an extent, and is still quite often wrapped up in feelings of guilt, or the sense of doing something 'naughty' (think how many young men, for example, have to make the sex act sound like it is something sordid, or that they are 'conquering their prey', instead of feeling like they are doing something biologically normal). Much of this can be traced to the negative feedback given to infants (as noted by Freud) and adolescents, in terms of masturbation and natural sexual urges, which are, usually always to some extent, suppressed.
Reich goes on to offer an insight into the Soviet Union's failure to deliver actual democracy to the people. You'll get a much more detailed conception of this by reading the book, of course but, in summary: The original idea of socialism -- especially as developed in Lenin's writing -- was to give freedom to the masses firstly by giving them a dictatorial power in a formal sense, as a *temporary* measure -- i.e. preventing the existing dominating forces from keeping them enslaved -- and then to gradually let them 'take over the reins', so to speak. When it became clear, however, that the masses were incapable of accepting real freedom (that is, taking control of social processes, as opposed to merely being conferred token democratic privileges, such as electing a representative) the Party failed to search for the underlying factors behind this seeming unwillingness of the people to take responsibility, and instead 're-introduced' 'democracy'; i.e. reverted straight back to an authoritarian system while presenting the illusion that real freedom had been accomplished. It's hardly possible to exaggerate the importance of such facts.
Anyway, I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone interested in personal freedom (and, for that matter, probably more so to anyone who *isn't* interested in personal freedom). Maybe after you've read it you'll even decide that the FDA's decision, in 1956, to *burn* all of Reich's books (decades of sociological research) might have been a tad. . . presumptuous.