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Mitscherlich, A. (1971). Psychoanalysis and the Aggression of Large Groups. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 52:161-167.

(1971). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 52:161-167

Psychoanalysis and the Aggression of Large Groups

Alexander Mitscherlich

The source of aggressive behaviour is again being hotly debated both in student circles and even among young analysts. The question at issue is whether the underlying source of such behaviour is a genetically transmitted part of man's constitution, that is, an instinct. No one is entirely satisfied with the instinct theory as regards the aggressive instinct. The difference is indeed conspicuous: unlike the theory of the death instinct and of aggression, from the outset the libido theory was never seriously questioned. Freud made no secret of the difficulties he had encountered in formulating a theory of aggressive behaviour. Only later, when he was revising the theory of ego instincts, did he ascribe to aggressive behaviour the quality of an independent instinctual drive. As far as one can tell from the literature, aggressivity conceived of as a death instinct was not accepted by the great majority of analysts, while aggressivity as a behavioural manifestation having its own instinctual source is seldom questioned. Nevertheless, a number of working and supplementary hypotheses still remain in dispute: for instance, whether one can speak of aggression in the sense of destructive intent in an infant that has not yet acquired motor control; or whether the relation of aggressivity and activity is one of sublimation, of neutralization, or whether the connections are of a different sort.

The following reflections, however, do not take issue with the gaps and obscurities in the concept of aggression, but are rather concerned with a situation that has received little and only superficial attention in the psychoanalytic literature.

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