Reich: Ideology and Psychology


Tempo der Strasse by George Grosz, 1918

“The ideology of every social formation has the function not only of reflecting the economic process of this society, but also and more significantly of embedding this economic process in the psychic structure of the people who make up the society. Man is subject to the conditions of his existence in a twofold way: directly through the immediate influence of his economic and social position, and indirectly by the ideological structure of the society. His psychic structure, in other words, is forced to develop a contradiction corresponding to the contradiction between the influence exercised by his material position and the influence exercised by the ideological structure of society. The worker, for instance, is subject to the influence of his work situation as well as to that of the general ideology of society. Since man, however, regardless of class, is not only the object of these influences, but also reproduces them in his activities, his thinking and acting must be just as contradictory as the society from which they derive. But, inasmuch as a social ideology changes man’s psychic structure, it has not only reproduced itself in man but, what is more significant, has become an active force, a material power in man, who in turn has become concretely changed, and, as a consequence thereof, acts in a different and contradictory fashion. It is in this way and only in this way that the repercussions of a society’s ideology on the economic basis from which it derives is possible. The “repercussion” loses its apparent metaphysical and psychologistic character when it can be comprehended as the functioning of the character structure of socially active man. As such, it is the object of natural scientific investigations of the character. Thus, the statement that the “ideology” changes at a slower pace than the economic basis is invested with a definite cogency. The  basic traits of the character structures corresponding to a definite historical situation are formed in early childhood, and are far more conservative than the forces of technical production. It results from this that, as time goes on, the psychic structures lag behind the rapid changes of the social conditions from which they derived, and later come into conflict with new forms of life. This is the basic trait of so-called tradition, i.e., of the contradiction between the old and the new social situation. ”

Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s