Diagnosing the Revolution
As the First World War ended and revolutions swept away the royal dynasties of Central Europe, German-speaking psychiatrists turned their medical gaze on the mental state of the nation. The defeat of the Central Powers and the German revolution of 1918/1919 became psychopathological symptoms—the recent upheaval was seen as being caused by a collective ‘mental breakdown’ instigated by revolutionary ‘psychopaths’ exploiting the mass psychology of a mentally exhausted nation, and some prominent psychiatrists even diagnosed the revolution as a kind of hysteria of the ‘national soul’ or a ‘disturbance in the mental structure of the world’. Awkwardly situated between psychiatric and political discourse, these psycho-political diagnoses were used to discuss culpability, political leadership, the future of the polity, and the role of psychiatry in society. Forcefully asserting far-reaching socio-medical authority, psychiatrists used their diagnoses to plan the ‘mental reconstruction of the German nation’. The of two main psycho-political programmes of the inter-war period discussed in the following chapters—‘applied psychiatry’ and ‘mental hygiene’—took shape during this period.