From Multitude to Crowds in Social Movements – Publics, Gatherings, Networks and Media in the 21th Century
Organização: Research Centre for Communication and Culture (CECC), Catholic University of Portugal; Communication and Languages Research Center (CECL), Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, NOVA University
Local: Lisboa (Portugal)
Data: 26 e 27 de janeiro de 2015
Freudian mass psychology in the age of networks
CASTRO, J. C. L.
Resumo: According to Freud, the force that bonds one individual to another inside a group is the libido present in the ego, but deflected from sexual goals. The horizontal identification among the members of a group arises around a shared symptom, the vertical identification of each individual with the leader. As a target of identification, the leader represents an idealized version of the subject, replacing, for each follower, his own ego ideal. The identification with the leader is limited though, since it is based on a particular trait distilled from him. Furthermore, the leader may be an abstract one, if a shared purpose takes the place of a person.
Insofar as the ego ideal (later called superego) is an instance of control, to replace them by an external object has the effect of disabling self-control, that is, of outsourcing control. In the case of what Freud calls “artificial” groups, like the army and the church, the group ego which replaces the individual ego ideals is relatively steady. In other cases, like the ephemeral crowds which assemble in big cities, with a very informal leadership, the group ego is looser.
Contemporary media provide new tools of mobilization and have an important impact on collective action. When crowds are summoned via social networks by organized forces or around a specific cause, they have a clear leader, even if it is an abstract one, and have more chance to succeed. Normally, though, their coordination is much more fluid and dispersed. Because of that, in many cases their action is not really effective. In other circumstances they do bring about change, but are not able to imprint a direction to it. Social networks also enable gatherings in which people do not have an object in common at all – each one seeks then his own enjoyment.
Palavras-chave: crowds, mass psychology, Freud, social networks.