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The Gendered Genealogy of Political Religions Theory



This article explores the origins of certain theories of fascism, notably political religions theory, in the gendered intellectual milieu of the late nineteenth century. It suggests that political religions theory owes much to Gustave Le Bon's collective psychology (or crowd theory), a discipline that depended on a distinction between the feminised, racialised mass and the active male elite, and which saw women as trapped in the traditional phase of history. The article shows the influence of collective psychology in Durkheimian sociology and Freudian social psychology, and details its transmission to political theory via Talcott Parsons's account of the origins and nature of Nazism. The unacknowledged influence of collective psychology means that advocates of political religions theory either ignore women, or depict them as passive creatures defined by their need for the domination of a male elite.