Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 15–27 | Cite as

Exploring malignancies: Narcissism and paranoia today

  • Barry Richards


Lasch’s (1978) study of the ‘culture of narcissism’ is discussed as a model socio-psychoanalytic inquiry. However, in fragmented societies, the search for an encompassing diagnosis is less useful than a strategy of identifying states of mind active in specific situations. In studying more malignant phenomena, paranoid states are important, especially in their combination with narcissism. Hofstadter’s (1964) essay on the paranoid ‘style’ is a key reference point. Comparing Lasch and Hofstadter invites a consideration of broad issues concerning the relations between culture and psyche, and between leaders and followers. The paper ends with a short commentary on narcissistic and paranoid states of mind in the case of President Trump.


states of mind narcissism paranoia malignancy Trump 


  1. Alveson, M. and Gabriel, Y. (2016) Grandiosity in contemporary management and education. Management Learning 47(4): 464-473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bar-Tal, D. (2016) Intractable Conflicts. Socio-psychological Foundations and Dynamics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Carter, J. (1979) Energy and national goals: Address to the nation, 15 July 1979., accessed 28 June 2017.
  4. Cichocka, A. (2016) Understanding defensive and secure in-group positivity: The role of collective narcissism. European Review of Social Psychology 27(1): 283-317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Hatemi, P. and Fazekas, Z. (forthcoming) Narcissism and the Political Behavior of Mass Publics. Google Scholar
  6. Hayek, F. (1960) The Constitution of Liberty. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  7. Hofstadter, R. (1964) The paranoid style in American politics. Harper’s Magazine, November.Google Scholar
  8. Kernberg, O. (1975) Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism. New York: Jason Aronson.Google Scholar
  9. Kilminster, R. (2008) Narcissism or informalisation? Christopher Lasch, Norbert Elias and social diagnosis. Theory, Culture and Society 25(3): 131-151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kim, Jong-un (2017) Respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un made the New Year Address for 2017., accessed 28 June 2017
  11. Klein, M. (1957) Envy and Gratitude. London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
  12. Kranish, M. and Fisher, M. (2016) Trump Revealed. The Definitive Biography of the 45th President. London: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  13. Lasch, C. (1978) The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  14. Lasch, C. (1984) The Minimal Self. Psychic Survival in Troubled Times. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  15. Lunbeck, E. (2017) The narcissistic appeal of Donald Trump. Paper presented at ESRC seminar on ‘Narcissism and destructive leadership’, London, 16 June.Google Scholar
  16. Richards, B. (2016) The narcissistic capture of American nationalism. In: D. Lilleker, E. Thorsen, D. Jackson, & A.Veneti (eds.) US Election Analysis 2016: Media, Voters and the Campaign. Bournemouth: Centre for the Study of Journalism, Culture and Community, p. 99.Google Scholar
  17. Rosenfeld, H. (1971) A clinical approach to the psycho-analytic theory of the life and death instincts: an investigation into the aggressive aspects of narcissism. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 52: 169-178.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Segal, H. (1983) Some clinical implications of Melanie Klein’s work. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 66: 201-213.Google Scholar
  19. Stein, M. (2013) When does narcissistic leadership become problematic? Dick Fuld at Lehman Brothers. Journal of Management Inquiry 22(3): 282-293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Torrissen, T. and Aspass, A. (2012) Anders Behring Breivik, psychiatric report 2012-04-10. Court psychiatric statement to the Oslo District Court., accessed 28 June 2017.
  21. Twenge, J.M. and Campbell, W.K. (2009) The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Media and CommunicationBournemouth UniversityPooleUK

Personalised recommendations