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Hunter Grice, Page 1

The two books I read involving very different historical theories are The Mass

Psychology of Fascism, written by Wilhelm Reich and Orientalism, written by Edward W. Said.

The first theory introduced by Reich, is fascism, which involves the ideal that the average human

acts irrational because of denied needs from past events (Preface). The second theory brought

upon by Said, is orientalism, which is the Western style view of the Orient region of the world

(3).

The first written forms of The Mass Psychology of Fascism, began to circulate around

early 1930s, in which a major depression was occurring in Germany, around the same time Hitler

began to come to power. It wasn’t until around ten years later that Reich was able to analyze

some of his previous scholastic work involving fascism and began to revise it. A huge part of

fascism was its theory held up against Marxism, a socialistic theory, that came to fruition in the

19th century that talked about capitalism, unfair working conditions and the means of production

controlled by a few elites. This theory had fellow Marxists believe that a social revolution would

occur in which the Proletariat (working class) would overthrow the Bourgeoise, the elites.

However, after almost a full century of no workers revolution in the state of Germany, fascism

began to gain steam, because people were getting restless with the little change going on (Reich,

9). Nationalistic revolutionaries such as Otto Strasser, began to preach that social revolution was

not occurring and this led to the growth of the German Nationalistic party (NSDAP), during the

economic decline of 1929-1933 (5). The appeal of the new party was comparable to a new

island, in that it was something new to citizens and intrigued them (13). Unlike Marxism,

fascism was appealing to almost every class. Marxism showed that there was a cleavage between

economic and ideological views. What is meant by that is workers stated they were tired of their
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current conditions and a few may have acted, but until all of them did, there would not be a

change. This aspect of cleavage which is discussed by Reich, is a big reason why Marxism failed

(19). Mass psychology, as discussed by Reich, illustrated that the Nationalistic party in

Germany appeased to every class by stating different propaganda to each one and therefore

garnering more votes (36). Winning over the middle class was crucial for the fascism movement

and Hitler appealed to them because he promised to fight big businesses (42). The triumph of the

Nationalistic party led by Hitler was just the beginning of the fascism theory. At the head of the

German fascism theoretical axis was the theory of the pure blood race. The Nazi-fascist regime

centered around the idea of a perfect Aryan Race. The idea of this perfect race meant the

degradation of another and that was the Jews. The Jews were looked at as inferior and Hitler

went onto to say about the race theory and his fellow Germans “as long as he does not fall a

victim to defilement of the blood.” (75-7) The fascism theory also centered around the

preservation of the authoritarian family, in which men displayed their authority to the men below

them (Green and Troup, 62). One more important aspect to the rise of fascism in Germany and

the NSDAP was the ability to gather women into believing that they were solely child bearers.

The Nationalistic party was able to receive votes from women who wanted things such as birth

control and abortion but feared the change a possible revolution could have on their lives (Reich,

105-9).

The Orient region of the world can be described as Asia, the Middle East and North

Africa. Orientalism revolved around the distinction between the East (Orient) and the West

(Occident). Orient history viewed outside the countries that encompass this region have a

difficult time defining their own history because most of it is defined by Western perspectives.
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The Orient not being able to portray their own history to their understanding is centered around

Said’s theory of Orientalism. The Orient view from the 19th century up until World War II was

dominated so much by British and French culture, that its history became based off these two

national powers. When it came to writing, acting and thinking, the limitations Orientalism had on

the Orient really hindered their interpretation of history (Said, 2-4). This limited perspective of

the Orient can be seen in Orientalism, when James Balfour talked about his time in the British

colonial state of Egypt. Balfour insisted on the fact the he was not questioning the superiority or

inferiority of Britain and Egypt. However, he stated that no matter how great Egyptian history

was, that they were not capable of self-government like the Western world displayed, because

they have maintained an absolute government. He believed that British colonization was for the

greater good of Egypt but did not care to receive any opinions from the Egyptians of his view

point. He believed that since he knew the history of the Egyptians, he knew their mindset,

despite not being able to communicate with them through their language (32-4). However, by the

end of WWII a new political power came to dictate the viewpoint of the Orient and that was the

United States. The Arab Muslim became a big concentration of the American pop culture post

WWII. In the late 60s and early 70s, Arabs were depicted with their hands above their head after

losing during war in 1967. This was not the only way Arabs began to be portrayed in American

culture, however. They were also depicted behind gasoline pumps, with sharp noses and thick

mustaches on their faces. They were associated with oil and portrayed often as villains and

dishonest (285-6). These depictions labeled all Arabs as the same and almost no distinction

between the people. Historians such as Morroe Berger in 1967, then president of the Middle East

Studies Association, did not help the outlook of the Orient view in his work. He degraded any
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cultural achievement in the Middle East and North Africa by stating that their future does not

look to be bright. He stated that the Middle East did not have enough importance to attract

scholarly attention. Berger, being an orientalist, whose duty is to cover the Orient, presented that

this region was not very important and the people did not have the capacity to interpret their own

self. Berger’s close minded and naïve views of the Orient is the perfect example of what

encompassed Said’s orientalism theory (288-9).

The historical theory of fascism, demonstrated by Wilhelm Reich, is most exemplified

through history by the Nazi regime. However, fascism is more than just a theory or discipline the

Nazis followed in history but a concept that many people have followed throughout the past

several thousand years. This theory shows the authoritarian structure of people wanting change

and willing to go to brutal measures to do so. A huge downfall of Marxism according to Reich is

that the theory, “tried to ram an elephant into a foxhole.” (Preface XXVI) According to Reich

though, Marxism was over the viewpoint of just a couple hundred years and therefore fascism

centered around the failure of Marxism and really sparked people’s want for change.

Orientalism, discussed by Edward W. Said centered around the other viewpoints of the Orient by

Western cultures that have dominated their economies for several hundred years. Orientalism

denies the viewpoint of the Orient and often paints an unfair depiction of the residents of these

countries and their descendants. As Said stated about orientalism, “Every European, in what he

could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost total

ethnocentric.” (204)
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Bibliography

Green, A., Troup, K. (1999) The Houses of History. Washington Square, New York: New York

University Press.

Reich, W. (1970) The Mass Psychology of Fascism. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Said, E. W. (1979) Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books A Division of Random House.