A leader without a body?
The following is a quote from Ernesto Laclau's The Populist Reason (Verso, 2005: 60-1), but, as he explains, he himself is quoting in extenso from Sigmund Freud. I think it is important to read this passage in relation to "A commune with a leader?" and "No commune without a leader?" postings. [It is even possible to read it in relation to the "A body without a head" posting.] This is the last in a series of postings and I will lay it low on this topic after this installment.
Let us finish this discussion by stressing that Freud was so acutely aware of the impossibility of reducing the process of group formation to the central role of the authoritarian chief of the horde that at the beginning of the Chapter 6 of Group Psychology he provides us with an interventory of other possible situations and social combinations-it is, in fact, a sort of programmatic description of a virgin terrain to be intellectually occupied. It is worthwhile quoting it in extenso:
Now much else remains to be examined and described in the morphology of groups. We should have to give our attention to the different kinds of groups, more or less stable, that arise spontaneously, and to study the conditions of their origin and of their dissolution. We should above all be concerned with the distinction between groups which have a leader and leaderless groups. We should consider whether groups with leaders may not be the more primitive and complete, whether in the others an idea, an abstraction, may not take the place of the leader (a state of things to which religious groups, with their invisible head, form a transitional stage), and whether a common tendency, a wish in which a number of people can have a share, may not in the same way serve as a substitute. This abstraction, again, may be more or less completely embodied in the figure of what we may call a secondary leader and interesting varieties would arise from the relation between the idea and the leader. The leader or the leading idea might also, so to speak, be negative; hatred against a particular person or institution might operate in just the same unifiying way, and might call up the same kind of emotional ties as positive attachment. Then the
question would also arise whether a leader is really indispensable to the essence of a group-and other questions besides. [Sigmund Freud, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921), in The Standard Edition of the Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XVIII, p. 100, London, Vintage, 2001.]