the observer Sat 23 August 2008
When Hitler invaded Austria in 1938 and Vienna's Jews found themselves under sudden, violent attack from their fellow Austrians, no one was less surprised than Sigmund Freud: for years he had been writing about our fascination with messianic figures of authority. In this effortlessly readable investigation into Freud's thinking on fascism and power, Mark Edmundson draws a compelling cameo of Hitler and Freud's parallel lives in Vienna. He's not afraid to point out the paradoxes in Freud's own life, as 'the great cultural patriarch, who stood for nothing so much as the dismantling of patriarchy'. Yet it's precisely this conflict, he argues, that produced Freud's lasting legacy - a warning that the seeds of fascism lie dormant within us.