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Wangh, M. (1968). A Psychogenetic Factor in the Recurrence of War. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 49:319-323.

(1968). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 49:319-323

A Psychogenetic Factor in the Recurrence of War

Martin Wangh

This paper proposes that war occurs not only because of economic, religious, or ideological conflicts between nations, but because of psychodynamic and psycho-genetic factors at work within a large number of the individuals in national populations (Freud, 1915), (1932); (Glover, 1947); (G.A.P., 1964); (Lorenz, 1964), (1966); (Strachey, 1957). It holds that the members of the generation who promote war and those of the generation who eagerly respond to its call have a particular psychological predisposition to choose this means of "conflict solution". It hypothesizes that this predisposition is the result of the experience of the stresses of a previous war which has traumatized these people so that they unconsciously seek a revival of the traumatic situation, in consonance with the "repetition compulsion" (Freud, 1919), (1920). This unconscious compulsion to repeat is likely to be set in motion by some present stress. If, for instance, a whole generation of young men who suffered the traumatic stresses of war-time in their childhood, is faced on the threshold of manhood—a time of heightened anxiety under any circumstances—with economic crisis and the threat of social displacement, they will be inclined, in defence against the resulting anxiety, to resort to the regressive patterns laid down in the war-time years of their childhood.

These, I recently postulated (1964), were the psychological pathways that had led to the excesses of Nazi anti-semitism. Specifically, I suggested that the individuals of a generation whose tension tolerance was lowered in their infancy by the failure of their war-stressed mothers to function as adequate protective shields (Khan, 1963), (1964) and who, as well, incorporated the reality of war into their oedipal fantasy, had sought reification of this experience in their adult lives.

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