The Group's Vulnerability to Disaster: Basic Assumption and Work Group Mentalities Underlying Trump's 2016 Election

Int J Psychoanal. 2019 Aug;100(4):711-731. doi: 10.1080/00207578.2019.1591159.


Donald Trump's improbable political rise and unexpected capture of the US presidency during the 2016 presidential election is framed within Wilfred Bion's (1961) theory of groups. Bion's concepts of basic assumption phenomena, the group as a part-object mother's body, the function of specialized work groups, and the roles of introjective and projective identification are explored and elaborated upon in the context of the relation between Trump and his supporters and detractors. Basic assumption phenomena were activated in both groups as each defended against psychotic anxieties tied to work group activity and other threatening aspects of group experience. Trump-as-leader emerged through a neglect of projective identification due to both supporters' and detractors' regressive and dissociative tendencies as they relate predominantly to pairing group activity.

Keywords: Bion; Trump; basic assumptions; dissociation; groups; introjective identification; part-object; projective identification; regression.