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Castoriadis, C. (1999). The psychical and social roots of hate. Free Associations, 7(3):402-415.

(1999). Free Associations, 7(3):402-415

The psychical and social roots of hate1

Cornelius Castoriadis

There may perhaps have been wars which solely mobilized ‘limited’ aggressive drives, including for instance the minimum of aggression involved in self-defence. But what we have been witnessing for years now in Europe and Africa, as well as what happened in Europe and East Asia during the last world war, is an explosion of unlimited aggression, expressed through racism, indiscriminate murder of civilians, rape, destruction of monuments and homes, killing or torture of prisoners, etc. And what we know of human history compels us to think that twentieth-century innovations in this field mostly pertain to the quantitative dimensions and the technical instrumentations of the phenomena, or their articulations with the imaginary of the concerned groups rather than with their nature. Whatever the importance of other concomitant factors or conditions may be, it is impossible to understand the behaviour of the people involved in these events unless we see it in the materialization of extremely strong affects of hate.

I will try to show here that there are two sources of hate, reinforcing each other:

ο    the fundamental drive of the psyche to reject (thus, to hate) that which is not itself;

ο    the quasi-necessity of the closure of the social institution and the imaginary significations it bears.

1. The Psychical Root

‘Hate is older than love’, wrote Freud, and this is true if one takes love in the usual sense, as object-love. But hate is not older than archaic, primordial love of ‘self’, what is inadequately called ‘primary narcissism’ — the representational, affective, and desiring closure upon itself of the original psychic nucleus, which I term the psychical monad.

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