Psychoanalysis in the Age of Totalitarianism provides rich new insights into the history of political thought and clinical knowledge. In these chapters, internationally renowned historians and cultural theorists discuss landmark debates about the uses and abuses of ‘the talking cure’ and map the diverse psychologies and therapeutic practices that have featured in and against tyrannical, modern regimes.

These essays show both how the Freudian movement responded to and was transformed by the rise of fascism and communism, the Second World War, and the Cold War, and how powerful new ideas about aggression, destructiveness, control, obedience and psychological freedom were taken up in the investigation of politics. They identify important intersections between clinical debate, political analysis, and theories of minds and groups, and trace influential ideas about totalitarianism that took root in modern culture after 1918, and still resonate in the twenty-first century. At the same time, they suggest how the emergent discourses of ‘totalitarian’ society were permeated by visions of the unconscious.

Topics include: the psychoanalytic theorizations of anti-Semitism; the psychological origins and impact of Nazism; the post-war struggle to rebuild liberal democracy; state-funded experiments in mind control in Cold War America; coercive ‘re-education’ programmes in Eastern Europe, and the role of psychoanalysis in the politics of decolonization. A concluding trio of chapters argues, in various ways, for the continuing relevance of psychoanalysis, and of these mid-century debates over the psychology of power, submission and freedom in modern mass society.

Psychoanalysis in the Age of Totalitarianism will prove compelling for both specialists and readers with a general interest in modern psychology, politics, culture and society, and in psychoanalysis. The material is relevant for academics and post-graduate students in the human, social and political sciences, the clinical professions, the historical profession and the humanities more widely.

part I|26 pages


chapter 1|18 pages


chapter 2|7 pages


A sketch

part II|44 pages

Reckonings with fascism

chapter 3|14 pages

Studies in prejudice

29Theorizing anti-Semitism in the wake of the Nazi Holocaust

chapter 4|13 pages

Inner emigration

On the run with Hannah Arendt and Anna Freud

chapter 5|16 pages

The superego as social critique

Frankfurt School psychoanalysis and the fall of the bourgeois order

part III|60 pages

Precarious democracies

chapter 7|15 pages

‘The aggression problems of our time'

Psychoanalysis as moral politics in post-Nazi Germany

chapter 8|12 pages

Totalitarianism and cultural relativism

The dilemma of the neo-Freudians

part IV|14 pages

Writing the history of psychoanalysis

chapter 10|13 pages

Totalitarianism and the talking cure

133A conversation

part V|34 pages

Mind control, communism and the Cold War

chapter 11|17 pages

Psychoanalysis and American intelligence since 1940

147Unexpected liaisons

chapter 12|16 pages

Therapeutic violence

Psychoanalysis and the ‘re-education' of political prisoners in Cold War Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe

part VI|26 pages

Colonial subjects

chapter 13|13 pages

Spectres of dependency

181Psychoanalysis in the age of decolonization

chapter 14|12 pages

The vicissitudes of anger

Psychoanalysis in the time of apartheid

part VII|47 pages

Why psychoanalysis?

chapter 15|15 pages

Total belief

207Delirium in the West

chapter 16|18 pages

The totalitarian unconscious