Contesting the Far Right: A Psychoanalytic and Feminist Critical Theory Approach

Columbia University Press (2024)
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Abstract

Why have so many people responded to the insecurity, exploitation, alienation, and isolation of precarity capitalism by supporting the far right? In this timely book, Claudia Leeb argues that psychoanalytic and feminist critical theory illuminates how economic and psychological factors interact to produce this extreme political shift. Contesting the Far Right examines right-wing recruitment tactics in the United States and Austria, where people discontented with the status quo have turned to far-right parties and movements that further cement capitalism’s adverse effects. Leeb contends that Freudian psychoanalytic theory and early Frankfurt School Critical Theory provide analytical tools to explain this apparent contradiction in psychological terms. Living under precarity capitalism generates feelings of failure and anxiety, which people experience as non-wholeness, because it has become difficult if not impossible to live up to the fetish of economic, interpersonal, and bodily success, and the far right preys on such feelings. Its psychologically oriented propaganda tactics produce the illusion of wholeness and a positive sense of self while leaving the socioeconomic conditions that cause people’s suffering intact. At the same time, they remove the inhibitions that keep people’s repressed aggression and racist and sexist attitudes in check. To demonstrate the workings of this process, Leeb compares cases including Trump and the alt-right in the United States and the Freedom Party and the identitarian movement in Austria. At once theoretically rich and politically engaged, this book also offers ways to resist the far right and counter the psychological appeal of its propaganda techniques.

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Author's Profile

Claudia Leeb
Washington State University

Citations of this work

Psychoanalytic feminism.Emily Zakin - forthcoming - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Civic Laughter: Aristotle and the Political Virtue of Humor.John Lombardini - 2013 - Political Theory 41 (2):0090591712470624.
Mourning Denied: The Tabooed Subject.Claudia Leeb - 2019 - In Alexander Keller Hirsch & David W. McIvor (eds.), The Democratic Arts of Mourning: Political Theory and Loss. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 65-82.

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