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Ryce-Menuhin, J. (1990). Male Fantasies, by Klaus Theweleit, Cambridge: Polity, 1987, xxii + 517 pages, pb £8.95. Free Associations, 1U(20):220-223.

(1990). Free Associations, 1U(20):220-223

Male Fantasies, by Klaus Theweleit, Cambridge: Polity, 1987, xxii + 517 pages, pb £8.95

Review by:
Joel Ryce-Menuhin

In a helpful Foreword to Volume One of Male Fantasies by Klaus Theweleit, Barbara Ehrenreich reminds us that the volunteer German armies, the Freikorps about whom Theweleit writes, fought the revolutionary German working class in the year just after the First World War. Most of the Freikorps came from a semi-feudal, rural ‘petty bourgeoisie’ and became the archetypal German or central European fascist later associated with the Nazis. However, it was from 1918 to 1923, revenging the German regular army's lack of order, that the roaming and partly autonomous Freikorps were hired by socialist Chancellor Ebert (who did not trust the working-class soldiers of the regular army) to fight Polish communists and the Russian Red Army, and to serve the cause of domestic repression. Some of those who survived to 1933 are considered to be among the progenitors of the Nazis.

The basic argument of Theweleit's very long and imaginative book is that these men are not repressing any form of sexuality nor displacing it into a symbolic act or gesture as they grow into Nazi murderers. Rather the fascist murderer is doing exactly what he wants to do and therefore never feels guilty after doing it.

When he penetrates a female adversery with a bullet or a bayonet, he is not dreaming of rape. What he wants is what he gets, and that is what the Freikorps men describe over and over as a ‘bloody mass’: heads with their faces blown off, bodies soaked red in their own blood, rivers clogged with bodies. (from the Foreword by Ehrenreich)

Theweleit prevents us interpreting murder as ‘something else’, as the classical Freudian continues to think we should. His expansion of this argument takes place through letters and books written by seven specifically selected Freikorps men as well as other major political and sociological writers of the period up through the 1970s.

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