Recent trends in politics culminating in the US with the election of Donald Trump both provoked and expressed a troubling intensification of emotion in the body politic. Heightened levels of anger, frustration, and distrust, the dismissal of the norms of politics and policy making, and the prevalence of intractable conflict indicate an increase in the power of regressive forces. The power of these forces takes the form of dark fantasies involving the loss, indeed the destruction, of safe space, the prevalence of existential threat, and the corrosion of the kinds of relationships that make living in the world tolerable.
This book explores the emotional meaning of regressive movements in contemporary politics with special reference to Trump and his supporters. Its main hypothesis is that the primary goal of these movements is not to restore a lost world of safety and wellbeing as they claim it is, but to make their members’ experience of the destruction and loss of that world universal. In exploring regressive movements, use is made of Wilfred Bion’s notions of the “hatred of reality” and the “hatred of a process of development,” and of the idea of annihilation anxiety as that has come to be understood in psychoanalytic self-psychology.