The Authoritarian Personality

Posted: April 18, 2011 in Election, politics

In the 1950s, the decade following WW2, a group of German scientists  wanted to explain how it was possible for such a large number of people in a country to go so insane that they would perpetrate The Holocaust.  They worked out a theory, where they identified a set of characteristics that belonged to a personality type that they called the “Authoritarian Personality”.  They identified this as a personality disorder which resulted in a predisposition and a receptivity to fascist ideas.

The characteristics are as follows:

1. Conventionalism:  Rigid adherence to traditional values.
2. Authoritarian Submission:  A submissive, uncritical attitude to a morally, paternalistic status quo such as a religious or political ideology.
3. Authoritarian Aggression:  To condemn, reject or wish to punish those who don’t agree with that moral status quo.
4. Superstition and Stereotyping:  Thinking in rigid categories about such things as gender and race.  Belief in a mysticl or religious determination of human fate.
5. Power and Toughness:  Preoccupation with dominance, strength and power.  A need to “get tough” with problems in society.
6. Destructiveness and Cynicism:  Hostility and a feeling that humans are inherently bad.  An attraction to destruction and brute force, such as guns.  A belief in Armageddon.
7. Dangerous World:  A belief that there are bad things happening and conspiracies behind them.
8. Sex:  Exaggerated concern with sexual issues and questions.

These are the building blocks of the Authoritarian Personality.

Critics will say that the theory was discredited a decade later.  That is true but the discrediting came largely from the objections of certain conservative political groups who claimed it was unfair and who didn’t really like having their beliefs referred to a signs of a personality disorder.  McCarthyism had a lot of say in the criticism.  The theory has lived on in Psychology, although somewhat modified.  It retains many of its original characteristics, though.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I really see a connection between a lot of these characteristics and a some prominent members of a certain political party…

I’m sure that there’s a Left Wing personality disorder as well, but it’s not playing a dominant role in this election.

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