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Slipp, S. (2006). Blind Trust: Large Groups and Their Leaders in Times of Crisis by Vamik Volkan, M.D., Pitchstone Publishing, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2004, 368 pp., $29.95, paperback $19.95.. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 34(3):539-541.
(2006). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 34(3):539-541
Book Reviews - Edited by Cesar A. Alfonso, M.D.
Blind Trust: Large Groups and Their Leaders in Times of Crisis by Vamik Volkan, M.D., Pitchstone Publishing, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2004, 368 pp., $29.95, paperback $19.95.
Review by: Samuel Slipp, M.D.
The words “Never Again” were resounded after witnessing the horrors of the Holocaust in World War II. Yet the word “never” was lost and genocide has recurred again and again, as in Bosnia, Cambodia, Darfur, Rwanda, Indonesia and elsewhere. Americans have been traumatized by the 9/11 attack, and many are fearful of being assaulted by terrorists using weapons of mass destruction. Volkan has not only made a seminal theoretical contribution to the understanding of mass group psychology and its leaders, but has used psychoanalytic understanding to help prevent genocide. He has met with opposing sides to resolve conflict in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. His work was under the sponsorship of President Carter's Center for International Negotiation Network, the United Nations, United States Government, the American Psychiatric Association, and his own Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction. As he states, “I rubbed elbows with Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter, Yassir Arafat, and Desmond Tutu”. This book takes into account historical events, such as the importance of chosen past traumas and glories that influence group identity. Past traumas reactivate a time collapse, so that current people are blamed for past events and punished. But Volkan goes beyond George Santayana's advice that those who do not recall history are bound to repeat it. He uses psychoanalytic understanding concerning mass psychology as well providing psychobiographies of its leaders. This depth of understanding is often lacking in historical efforts to understand genocide. In response to stress, conflict, or trauma that results in helplessness, anger, threats to personal identity and group belonging, large groupregression and identity can occur. This phenomenon is similar to what Wilfred Bion describes in his basic assumption groups, especially fight/flight.
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