How Would Freud Explain Populism?

The limits of rationality and our need to find release for repression might explain where we are

One of the explanations for the rise of populist nationalist myths today goes back to the complicated dynamics between the individual and society, and between reason and fantasy. The thinker who might help us understand our current political storms is no other than Sigmund Freud.

Freud is best known for his more controversial theories on sexuality. But we need not buy Freudian mechanics or his clinical theories. Enough of value remains without Oedipus.

Freudian theory explores the tension between unconscious desires and the controlling ego, whose rational faculties, while fallible, may be marshalled to scrutinise our emotional drives. On this account, the freedom that humans possess rests solely in recognising and controlling fantasies and the passions that accompany them. With such awareness we are, at least, in a better position to judge and direct our actions – mitigating those that are destructive and strengthening the beneficial. This isn’t a new idea for wester

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