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De Saussure, R. (1949). Dictators and Disciples. From Caesar to Stalin: By Gustav Bychowski. New York: International Universities Press, 1948. 264 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 18:94-95.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:94-95

Dictators and Disciples. From Caesar to Stalin: By Gustav Bychowski. New York: International Universities Press, 1948. 264 pp.

Review by:
Raymond De Saussure

The dictators include Caesar, Cromwell, Robespierre, Hitler and Stalin. Excepting Stalin, all of them have been adored by fanatic followers and have then been killed.

The chief interest in the book is the chapter of conclusions wherein Bychowski summarizes the characteristics of the dictators and their followers. After wars or revolutions, the collective ego of some nations, weakened in its feeling of security and having regressed to a primitive stage of development, inclines toward leaning on an individual who ascribes to himself the attributes of magic and total omnipotence. His image replaces the ego ideal which has been shaken by the social crises preceding the dictatorship. The group accepts the new ruler because it finds outlets for repressed sadomasochism. Aggression is rationalized ideologically and by projection. Because of the regression the infallibility of the dictator restores security and faith to the group. 'Like a hypnotist, the ruler infuses the masses with his own desires, ideals, hatreds and resentments.' The relationship between the masses and the dictator is based on a complete reciprocity. The masses make him feel omnipotent and he makes them the strongest and wisest nation in the world. It is a process of mutual identification; moreover, both are bound by ties of common guilt and anxieties that are defended by delusions of grandeur and persecution.

Dictators, however different, have in common excessive narcissism, aggressive hatred and lust for power. These conceal manifest weaknesses and insecurities, based on infantile frustration and consequent inadequacies in virility. The dictator, like the artist, remains fixed to his infantile emotional conflicts, never relieves them except in acting out so that they provide continual fuel for his activity. The personality of a dictator seems to be paranoid psychotic; what distinguishes him from a psychotic is the possibility of acting out his fantasies in reality.

The last pages of the book are devoted to prophylaxis. It is regrettable that the author has limited himself to generalities about educating the masses.

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