The sadistic behaviour of fascist gangs, the extraordinary mass hysteria generated by fascist rallies, and the apparently pathological conduct of many fascist leaders seemed to be such striking characteristics of fascist regimes that it was widely assumed that psychology was the only discipline capable of providing an adequate explanation of fascism. Social psychologists saw fascism and anti-semitism as a fruitful area for fresh research and speculation, or as confirmation of their fondly held theories. The gloomy prophets of ‘mass society’ saw in fascism the realisation of their worst fears that bourgeois culture, which in their view was synonymous with civilisation itself, would be drowned in the irrational, brutal, instinctual and easily manipulated behaviour of the masses. From the other end of the political spectrum neo-Marxists were anxious to discover the mechanisms whereby the economic infrastructure was reflected in the ideological superstructure, so that the relationship between social being and consciousness could be established and the origins of ‘false consciousness’ illuminated.
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