Oct 7, 2005

The Authoritarian Personality' Revisited

An important study, and an idea that should be discussed by anyone concerned about the direction civilization is taking. Mycos~ The Authoritarian Personality' Revisited [excerpt]"The Authoritarian Personality addressed itself to the question of whether the United States might harbor significant numbers of people with a "potentially fascistic" disposition. It did so with methods that claimed to represent the cutting edge in social science -- and that's where the book got in trouble with scholars of its day. But in today's political climate, it might be time to revisit its thesis."

5 comments:

Jackl said...

Yes, indeedy, Evelyn, it is an interesting read. Thanks for forwarding the link...and thanks to the Chronicle of Higher Education, which, like the WSJ, usually hides most of its interesting articles about higher education behind a subscribers-only firewall.

I thought this article about the conservative mindset per Adorno's
"authoritarian personality" arguments, like George Lakoff's linguistic ("framing") analysis, right on target, especially this thought about why the underlying motivation of hating homosexuality and sexual liberation is so powerful to conservatives:

Even more significant than the collapse of left-wing authoritarianism has been the success of right-wing authoritarianism. Perhaps the authors of The Authoritarian Personality were on to something when they made questions about sexuality in general, and homosexuality in particular, so central to diagnosing authoritarianism.
In the June 19, 2005, issue of The New York Times Magazine, the journalist Russell Shorto interviewed activists against gay marriage and concluded that they were motivated not by a defense of traditional marriage, but by hatred of homosexuality itself. "Their passion," Shorto wrote, "comes from their conviction that homosexuality is a sin, is immoral, harms children and spreads
disease. Not only that, but they see homosexuality itself as a kind of disease, one that afflicts not only individuals but also society at large and that shares one of the prominent features of a disease: It seeks to spread itself." It is not difficult to conclude where those people would have stood on the F scale.

Jules Siegel said...

jackl said:
Even more significant than the collapse of left-wing authoritarianism has been the success of right-wing authoritarianism. Perhaps the authors of The Authoritarian Personality were on to something when they made questions about sexuality in general, and homosexuality in particular, so central to diagnosing authoritarianism.
In the June 19, 2005, issue of The New York Times Magazine, the journalist Russell Shorto interviewed activists against gay marriage and concluded that they were motivated not by a defense of traditional marriage, but by hatred of homosexuality itself. "Their passion," Shorto wrote, "comes from their conviction that homosexuality is a sin, is immoral, harms children and spreads
disease. Not only that, but they see homosexuality itself as a kind of disease, one that afflicts not only individuals but also society at large and that shares one of the prominent features of a disease: It seeks to spread itself." It is not difficult to conclude where those people would have stood on the F scale


This is true but doesn't quite get to the underlying political strategy. Homosexuality was forcefully condemned as unmanly by Victorian military theorists, who believed that the ability to kill effectively and without remorse was a function of masculinity.

Paul Wright said...

Wilhelm Reich wrote a lot about politics and sexuality, (he defined himself as a Freudian Marxist), one of his thesis's was that people became fascists because they could not have satisfactory orgasms.

While there may be some connection between authoritarianism and sexuality I don't think that plays out in the real world where plenty of right wing conservatives and Victorians of the day are or were gay (i.e., J. Edgar Hoover, half the British ruling class, etc.)

I dislike the term "homophobia" as it means a fear of homosexuals. What I
observe is a hatred of homosexuals. For other forms of bigotry we don't have "blackophobia" or "latinophobia" so why dignify this one with its own name? The ultimate expression of this is in criminal defense cases, usually murder cases, where the defendant claims they were subjected to an unwanted homosexual advance and respond by killing the other person. If women killed every man who made an unwanted advance.....

Jackl said...

Paul Wright wrote:
While there may be some connection between authoritarianism and sexuality I don't think that plays out in the real world where plenty of right wing
conservatives and Victorians of the day are or were gay (i.e., J. Edgar Hoover, half the British ruling class, etc.)



Well, chalk that up to elite deviance, hypocrisy, need for "cover"whatever, but I don't think what either either Adorno or the Chronicle article were talking about was the well-known and always curious spectacle of closeted homosexual right-wing homohaters leading the anti-gay pack (J. Edgar Hoover, Roy Cohn, many others).

But I don't think that blunts the basic point of the analysis. An authoritarian personality is not only like der Fuhrer, but more importantly like the millions of sheep who blindly submit to their will, believing that the natural order of things is for most people to be subjugated to those higher up the social food chain.
Moreover, to apply a Leo Straussian analysis, it is not important what the leaders actually believe, or do. You can be gay or not, religious or not, the hypocrisy of your actual belief systems is quite irrelevant. Religion, and traditional social attitudes they
support, like "gays = bad" are useful only that they coincide with the prejudices of the masses, fostered by religion and other aligned conservative organs.

These are useful lies, and since they are viewed as "pious lies" by the ruling elites, it really doesn't matter what you do or believe (although I'd assume that saying this plainly is a no-no, per the Straussian or Rovian rules of political engagement. Anyway, it probably works better all around for guys like J. Edgar to be tough-guy virulent anti-gay bashers and play it according to the basic cop type. They're still busting on that "softly softly" Brian Paddock guy in London for that type of sissy stuff. Do you think that kind of cop can be effective with inmates, Paul, from your
experience?)

I dislike the term "homophobia" as it means a fear of homosexuals. What I
observe is a hatred of homosexuals. For other forms of bigotry we don't have
"blackophobia" or "latinophobia" so why dignify this one with its own name?



We've got "racism", "anti-semitic" etc, but I do think anti-gay and those whose hot buttons are punched by gays are a logical subcategory of hate and hate crimes...

My 0.02,

J

Terry Donovan said...

This is all very interesting in helping me understand what conservatism is. Following some recent posts on this list, I have now abandoned all hope of knowing what a liberal or communist is (at least according to those posting here), but now I see that those homo-hating neo-cons really deep down hate the inability to kill. This also helps explain my gun-toting/hunting brother-in-law's opinion of me. He's a union supporter but wants so badly to be seen as a conservative.

And Paul, don't despair regarding the authoritarian/sexuality link. I see the term homophobia not so much fear of homosexuals, but fear of being one. I think we all embody male and female traits and some men who see their feminine side fear it and reject it. They internalize the fear by externalize the hatred. The same can be true, but to a lesser extend I think, for women. Maybe they feel less threatened by the inability to kill.

Thanks for helping me frame conservatism as including the desire to kill to get its way. My only problem now is where does that leave libertarians?

My gut reaction to that is, does it really matter? I waste a lot of my time reading posts on this list that endlessly debate who fits what mold, rather than any real discussion of the issues.