Publication information

Chicago Sunday Tribune
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Psychology of the Anarchist”
Author(s): Malagodi, Olindo
City of publication: Chicago, Illinois
Date of publication: 15 September 1901
Volume number: 60
Issue number: 258
Part/Section: 2
Pagination: 13

Malagodi, Olindo. “Psychology of the Anarchist.” Chicago Sunday Tribune 15 Sept. 1901 v60n258: part 2, p. 13.
full text
anarchism (psychology of).
Named persons
Marie François Sadi Carnot; Émile Henry; Friedrich Nietzsche; Leo Tolstoy [variant spelling below]; Auguste Vaillant [misspelled below]; Jules Vallès; Paul Verlaine.
A photograph of the author accompanies this editorial on the same page.

“By Dr. Olindo Malagodi, Italian Criminologist.”

Psychology of the Anarchist

EVERY time that the police succeed in laying hands on a band of Anarchists and in discovering one of those conspiracies which are among the strangest anachronisms of our time, the first question which presents itself for discussion is the danger to which society has been exposed. The answers are of no exact value whatever because they take no account of the most important data, that is, of the especial psychology peculiar to these curious anarchical associations which take root here and there like destructive parasites in the interstices of society.
     At the time of the assassination of Carnot we of the school of criminal sociology had occasion to study on positive lines this phenomenon of modern criminology. From the observations which I then gathered and which were afterwards confirmed by other facts collected by friends in different places, it was possible to draw interesting deductions.
     One of the most prominent characteristics in the psychology of the Anarchist is the extraordinary predominance of the visionary imagination over all other faculties, including that of critical judgment and of reasoning. Moreover, the causes which produce in the midst of an orderly social system the Anarchist type of individual are many and complex; but undoubtedly the prevalence of the imagination over the critical faculty is the cause which exercises the greatest influence. So true it is that the type of the Anarchist, if not in practice, at least in intellectual characteristics, is to be found not only among delinquents but frequently in the highest classes of mankind, that in which the imaginative faculty is most highly developed—the artist class. Tolstoi, Verlaine, Valles, Nietzsche, are, from a certain point of view, the brothers of Henry and Vailant.
     This hyperthrophy of the imaginative faculty, which I have always observed in all the Anarchists with whom I have come into contact, and which in itself constitutes a want of mental equilibrium, is exaggerated by the special conditions of life in which Anarchists find themselves; above all, by the inactivity to which they are condemned. By reason of their own program, every form of action except that of violence being excluded all their psychological energy is inevitably directed towards fermenting dreams.
     Finally, a third cause tending to exaggerate this tendency still more is the reunion of several individuals of the same type. Whilst the intellectual faculties of reasoning and criticism possess little expansive force, those of sentiment and imagination, based on simpler elements, are enormously contagious. In these anarchical assemblages reciprocal excitation exerts an extraordinary influence and leads the whole group to such grades of visionary intoxication, to such paroxysms of imagination as not one of the individuals composing the group would be singly capable of experiencing.
     Predominance of the imaginative faculty, inaction, and mutual excitation are the three fundamentals of anarchical conspirators. And thus from the gatherings of these generally half-mad, half-imbecile, half-criminal individuals, from obscure clubs met for drinking and chatting there arises a continuous misty cloud of terribly grandiose plots against society, grotesquely impracticable, perhaps, but beside which the most sensational revelations of the police seem insipid.
     In the gravest movement of agitation and anarchical conspiracy one of the best painters of the present day, an Anarchist—and harmless as a child, kept me informed of all. It was a question of huge projects. Dynamite and the dagger were relegated to a secondary position; the upsetting of trains and explosions were mere child’s play in comparison. The idea was to poison the aqueducts of towns, either by poisonous matter or by means of microbes, to call typhus and cholera to the aid of the Anarchist Utopia. It was a ghastly exposition, and enough to make one shudder even to hear it mysteriously talked about.