“The term appeared in Civilization and Its Discontents (1929–30) in relation to the application of the inborn aggression in man to ethnic (and other) conflicts, a process still considered by Freud, at that point, as a convenient and relatively harmless satisfaction of the inclination to aggression. For Lacanians, the concept clearly related to the sphere of the Imaginary: the narcissism of small differences, which situates envy as the decisive element in issues that involve narcissistic image. American psychiatrist Glen O. Gabbard has suggested that Freud’s narcissism of small differences provides a framework to understand that in a loving relationship, there can be a need to find, and even exaggerate, differences in order to preserve a feeling of separateness and self.
In terms of postmodernity, Clive Hazell argues that consumer culture has been seen as predicated on the narcissism of small differences to achieve a superficial sense of one’s own uniqueness, an ersatz sense of otherness which is only a mask for an underlying uniformity and sameness. The phenomenon has been portrayed by the British comedy group Monty Python in their satirical 1979 film Life of Brian and by author Joan Didion in an essay (part of her 1968 book Slouching Towards Bethlehem) about Michael Laski, the founder of the Communist Party USA (Marxist–Leninist).”