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Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War Paperback – May 1, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
Indeed what we regard as morals are the implanted instinctive or trained promptings of group service, which necessarily conflict with selfish instincts, and thus set up the mental conflicts that are the bread and butter of psychotherapy. "Normal" people are fully adapted to this regime, submerging their selves into the larger group and thus are ready to go off to war and other group activities. Trotter is rather biting in his analysis of war (WWI was to come as he presciently wrote in 1908, and was underway as he wrote in 1915). He also identifies religion as the natural consequence of this social instinct, which progressively hypostasizes the imaginary emblem and enforcer of the social order, until it is both all-powerful and psychologically internalized.
Trotter's take on the then-new Freudian corpus is especially interesting, taking him seriously, but also identifying Freud's remarkable excesses of assigning all causes to sex and all scientific objectivity to himself. Trotter explains that while Freud's school is exceedingly interested in the causes of individual resistance to communal indoctrination, it is remarkably uninterested both in the sources of this indoctrination and in our natural suggestibility to it. Thus this book and this thread of thought is an important complement to whatever is left of psychoanalysis. It is somewhat depressing to realize that perhaps the principal current inheritor of Trotter's tradition and insights is the advertising industry.
Lastly, Trotter indulges in long mid-war and post-war analyses of German instincts and character, contrasting the militaristic wolf-like follower/leader system of the German nation with the more advanced bee-like, collegial, bottom-up integration of countries like Britain, which is virtually allergic to strong leaders and external aggression. This section would be comically jingoistic were it not that his analysis became realized to an unimaginable degree in the "Führer prinzip" fifteen years later. Sadly, his prescription for post-war treatment of Germany is to "give it a good whipping", which may have done more to reinforce the psychology he writes about than any other treatment.