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Have you got an ‘authoritarian personality’? 

Many try and intellectualize what makes a person become naturally attracted to ideologies or religions that demand allegiance to a strong dictator figure or authority. What makes someone voluntarily join such an organization?

If you study sociology or politics then you might have heard of Theodor Adorno, the main theorist of the Marxist Frankfurt School. He was one of a number of Jewish Marxist intellectuals who found themselves as exiles in the US during and after WW II.

Much of their work tried to explain the rise of fascism in Europe. Adorno’s most famous work, The Authoritarian Personality was yet another attempt to merge Freud with Marx. The results, I think, were a bit of a dog’s dinner (something to do with your relationship with your dad, or something) but very influential for a while.

Some people have tried to explain the rise of religious fundamentalism (and suicide bombing) using Adorno’s method.

So, are you a possible suicide bomber or fascist? Have you got a personality that desires a strong hand to guide you, as it were? Do you love Big Brother?

Take the F-scale test here and find out.

Warning: some of the questions are a bit odd.

Latest attempt to refine specific personality came from Conservatives Without Conscience

Conservatives Without Conscience by John W. Dean

Amazon.com

In "Conservatives Without Conscience," author John Dean makes the observation that seemingly good people will do unconscionable even criminal acts, and put their consciences aside without guilt. Dean wants to know why, and he provides a hypothesis to explain why some will lead people in this direction, and explain why others are willing to follow them.

The author may be well-suited for such a task. As White House Counsel to President Richard M. Nixon, and an admitted Barry Goldwater conservative, he was surrounded by the Watergate Investigation, in which White House staffers conducted burglary, perjury, obstruction of justice, and other crimes, or knew of them, or concealed them, all in the name of their leader, Richard Nixon.

John Dean relies heavily on the work of a social psychologist, Dr. Altemeyer of the University of Manitoba, who has done much work on the theory of authoritarianism. According to Dean, Altemeyer's work in this area has been officially recognized, and he is considered an expert in the field.

Dr Altemeyer categorizes authoritarians as followers and leaders to varying degrees. What he also found was that authoritarians are likely to maintain certain beliefs about themselves which include a deep belief in God, patriotic, conservative, and see themselves as being more moral, ethical, honest, and better people than others in general. Their behavior however, is likely to be less honest, loyal or ethical than others.

Dean attempts to apply this to our modern day politicians of whom he is very selective. He finds a match between Altemeyer's theories and list of traits in people like Dick Cheney whom he contends is the real president, George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, Bill Frist, Tom Delay and others.

The author provides plenty of anecdotal evidence to support his hypothesis: the president's signing statements, the secret meetings that are withheld from the public because of national security, George Bush's comments: "A dictatorship wouldn't be bad, just so long as I'm the dictator," or "I'm the decider." Newt Gingrich's ability to discard friends once he no longer finds them useful, and of course, Tom Delay who changed the rules of congress, where subterfuge and heavy-handed tactics have replaced debate, discussion, and compromise.

Because of the abiding belief in their leaders, authoritarian followers will put their scruples aside, for the greater good. Examples of these followers were: Attorney General, John Mitchell, G. Gordon Liddy, Paul Ehrichman, H.R. Haldeman, and Charles Colson during the Nixon administration. According to Dean, their modern day counterparts are members of Congress, cabinet secretaries who serve at the pleasure of the president, and millions of others who believe that patriotic Americans are leading them.

The reader should keep in mind that the author is attempting to prove a thesis here but offers no scientific evidence. It does not prove that all the people described earlier fit neatly in this authoritarian theory, nor can it explain their behavior with any certainty.

The one part of this book that is unquestionable is Dean's assertion that Americans must participate in their democratic form of government if it is to succeed. It cannot be simply observed or ignored. If it is, authoritarians will pick it up and take it away. Dean warns that we haven't lost it yet, but we are losing it day by day.

I recommend this book (after the first chapter) because it provided another way for me to look at family members and acquaintances whose rabid or knee-jerk loyalty for anything conservative I could not explain.

At least, now I have an explanation.

 


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The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D


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