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July 12, 2006


Oops, forgot to byline. -- above by Sara.

Ah, yes, The Authoritarian Personality. It isn't secret. In my case it was buried in the dusty recesses of my memory, having been born in 1938 and studying Psychology at the University of Michigan circa 1960. When I read the title of this post, up popped "F-scale" from those recesses. Today "F-scale" might suggest other connotations, but the meaning would still be grasped. It would be interesting to read the book again; Powell's here we come.

I trained as a social psychologist in the late 60s-early 70s and always have understood the right wing in terms of the authoritarian personality (lots of examples readily found in the wild then too). I'm curious as to why we need to rediscover this -- did they stop teaching it in the interim since us geezers and geezerettes left school? As far as I know it was never invalidated and it does give a really useful frame for understanding politics.

Yes, I saw that DKos diary too. I didn't comment, but I wondered why all the fuss about correlations between authoritarian personality and right-wing ideology. I'm in psychology, and I'm familiar with this research. There is also research on the Big Five personality trait of Openness to Experience and political leanings. Liberals have been found to be high on Openness, while conservatives tend to be low in this trait. I still plan to take a look at Dean's book to get his take on how all this relates to the pathway the right-wingers have taken since Nixon.

"suggesting that somehow all the research on this has been "secret" for the last 50 years or so. Now I am glad that Dean is calling attention to the theory, but it is hardly secret."

I saw Dean on Oberman but didn't get any impression Dean believed the theory a "secret." He is doing a new application of the theory. Isn't that what intellectual thought and theories are about-they retain their validity in circumstances different from those in play when the theory was developed?

Dean was on John Stewrat's Daily Show last evening and it should be shown again tonight...not a great interview, but interesting none the less...

I saw the Daily Show interview. Jon Stewart never really let John Dean give an account of the book. Randi Rhodes had an hour on it yesterday, reading long excerpts.

Perhaps this is old news to Psych majors, but many of us are not very familiar with this work. John Dean is a big enough name (and conservative enough) to make this important reading for more average people.

I think that this should bring back to the forefront Eric Hoffer's The True Believer. That, I think, is a well written insight into this type of personality.

Saying something hasn't been generally discussed is not the same thing as saying it's been kept secret. I think Dean's view is, this is an elephant in the room no one is pointing out: the current GOP is as close to a cult as anything ever seen in American politics (except for maybe the Communist party of the late 40s/early 50s, but that was mostly a fringe group, not the holder of all the levers of power).

I don't know what Jon Stewart thought he was doing with Dean last night; he seemed to interrupt/redirect every time Dean got close to articulating his thesis (the Olbermann interview was much better). For all the great good Jon does "our" side, he does hold this "extremes control both parties/we in the center could get along" view that might have made him resistant to Dean's point.

I saw Dean on Stewart as well. This is old news to anyone's who's grown up with a religous fanatic (my father).

Authoritarianism is rooted in unseen fear or fears: the "god of the other shoe dropping" for example. Or homosexual urges or the compulsion to dominate the percieved weak, for whatever reason. A more accurate description of these people is true believers.

Yes--Bring back Hoffer's True Believers--one of the all-time greats.

I'm not a psychologist and am happy that Dean brought this work back to our attention. It's one of my favorite kinds of learning--discovering something that, once you read it, it's obvious, but you wouldn't necessarily have thought of it yourself. Best of all when it's supported by DATA! How superior is that.

As for Dean, he's one of those rare people who started out on the wrong side of the line and crossed over to the right side. Good for him.

"I'm not a psychologist and am happy that Dean brought this work back to our attention."

This may be directed at me. I didn't mean to be dismissive at all, and I'm sorry if I sounded that way. This has been an interest of mine, since I love both politics and psychology. I think it's interesting that personality traits can be linked to idealogy. I have a great deal of respect for John Dean, and the fact that he has for years been trying to call attention to the excessive secrecy and power grabbing of the Bush administration. I intend to buy the book this afternoon.

I'd love to read this, but I physically can't without paragraph breaks.

I am a therapist. The thing is that alcoholism and addiction go hand in hand with the authoritarian personality. These folks cannot live up to their own standards so they focus on what is wrong with everyone else (holding themselves and their convictions up as the ideal, an ideal they cannot attain), and need considerable distracting to deal with the incongruency between how they believe they SHOULD behave and how they really behave. This distraction often comes in the form of compulsive behaviors. These behaviors can be drugs, sex, money, gambling, etc...

We can blame the personalities but we have to accept that as we become more and more of an addictive society we will vote for and favor those folks who views replicate our own. So the nation likes that behavior. We respect it.

This inflexible thinking is the baseline for all mental illness. It is a form of cognitive dysregulation and creates a feedback loop that leads to all kinds of life problems. It doesn't cause schizophrenia but it is a symptom. The mental illness that results varies depending on the genetic predisposition of the individual.

Twelve steps work because it teaches accountability, forgiveness, letting go and flexible thinking. It repairs the underlying cognitive disorder. For instance how valid can your self concept be if your thinking is distorted by these sweeping generalizations, how valid can your world view be? Validity is the cure for this problem. Learning how to validly assess ourselves and the situation and finding valid solutions. Solutions that really work instead of solutions that feel good. The addict focuses on feeling good. It fools us into thinking that we have valid solutions. The rules replace reality.

My old professor used to say (he was a communications specialist for the cia during the truman administration) "the map is not the territory." Some of us know this but some of us think the map IS the territory. (he would use this reference regarding language and he referred to such errors in thinking as identification errors.)

When was the last time we had a president who did not have an underlying addiction to sex, drugs, or alcohol or was the child, sibling or spouse of an addict. It's a systems disease. A family disease, a society disease and it will destroy us eventually.


"The Authoritarian Personality" or better known as the effects of global racism. Cultural purity is something that takes different forms, but never changes. One day we may come to know and understanding how destructive hate can be. Malcolm X..."Make it Plain", a good read.

Fortune smiled and I took a class about political personality at university, where I learned about authoritarianism. It has informed me ever since. Thank you Dr. Clarke.

It's interesting that this is coming up as a personality trait, because in the last few days, I had the "Authoritarian Wing" of the Republican Party brought up to me rather differently.

I was on IM with my ex-brother-in-law, the first time we'd communicated in at least a decode. I knew that he had been a very strong conservative, very much an admirer of Barry Goldwater, and when we were actually in the same family we used to have an ongoing debate about everything political.

BUT I also remembered that, if this guy was anything, it was intellectually honest. He would interpret through his world view and philosophy, but I could not imagine him making up his own facts. So I really wondered -- what does he think of all this, and what has happened the the Republicans?

I had perceived that the "far right" and "religious right" had taken over the Party, but he had a different perception. The Republican Party had two fundamentally "conservative" philosophies -- the Libertarian Wing, and the Authoritarian Wing. The Libertarians are getting progressively (so to speak) more uneasy with the greater and greater accumulation of power, the interference in their lives, the bloated government, but especially with the fear-mongering.

And in that discomfort, I think, is an opportunity.

The post is accurate, but leaves out a few tidbits. Adorno, Fromm, et al, left Frankfurt, Germany in 1933 because they were Jews. They were also Marxists. Not a good combination in Hitler's Germany. This group has been credited with developing what has become known as "cultural marxism," a variant on orthodox Marxism. Its thesis is that the West could not be penetrated and transformed ("revolutionalized") through economic means or theory, so intellectual and political assault should be targeted on its culture. Adorno's book "The Authoritarian Personality" is a semi-literate effort (Adorno was a cultural and literary critic, not a sociologist) to impugn Western cultural institutions -- such as family, religion, traditional morality, gender roles, language, etc. -- in the name of "liberation." Interestingly, because this group eventually settled in the United States, it had more influence here than in Europe.

I think a better analysis of our current collective psychosis is provided by Paul Levy. He posted it on the web, and it relies on a Jungian analysis. http://www.awakeninthedream.com/bushcert.html

The problem with an "authoritarian personality" analysis is that such types can appear in all kinds of guises, left or right (Stalin, Robespierre, or Mao weren't neoconservatives). It's hardly limited to a particular faction of American Republicans.

I always grow concerned when we create labels and stick people into these categories. It allows us to so easily dismiss that which we disagree with.

The definition as far as I know (found on http://www.answers.com/topic/authoritarian-personality ) is as follows

A personality pattern reflecting a desire for security, order, power, and status, with a desire for structured lines of authority, a conventional set of values or outlook, a demand for unquestioning obedience, and a tendency to be hostile toward or use as scapegoats individuals of minority or nontraditional groups.

It is easy to identify group think with

security, order, power, and status, with a desire for structured lines of authority, a conventional set of values or outlook, a demand for unquestioning obedience

BUT that does not make anyone simply fall into that category. Oh I know it is easy for the label to be made especially when you look at the stance toward homosexuality, polygamy, and various other issues where they have not allowed these groups to have recognized legal status ( I know polygamy is not a big one, but I like to get people to remember there are more groups then just one that deal with provincial attitudes)

Can you imagine how a Democrat who expresses the view of Right-To-Life is treated? I know a couple who have expressed that they feel that abortion is wrong, they are Democrats, and they told me that they stopped talking to other Democrats about it because when they brought it up they were told they were wrong and how could they question something that has been proven by medical science as being okay, what were they anyway REPUBLICANS???, or some kind of wacko anti-woman hate mongers? How dare they!!!

My end point is simply this, if we were to take the above definition and fudge it just slightly then it would apply to almost everyone in the entire world, however by using several key words this definition is easily manipulated into casting the prejudice of our own belief systems into that of others. Please see if the following definition fits you at all.

A personality pattern reflecting a desire for security(No one wants this), order((bureaucracy is pain but it works), power (Does anyone not want some power? Or are we all slaves?), and recognized status (any one here have a degree?), with a desire for structured lines of communication(chaos anyone?), a common set of values or outlook within a group(Anyone here registered to a party? Why?), a demand for obedience to the understood ideals of that group(Ever tried expressing an opinion different the the commonly held one of your political party, try it see how far you get), and a tendency to be hostile toward or use as scapegoats individuals who do not believe like-wise (Its all (place group or individuals name here) fault!)

This of course in no way excuses the usurpation of power made by the current administration in the executive branch, just as it should not have been excuses over the past hundred years of power absorption by the Executive branch ( I believe starting with FDR for the most part, though I suppose Lincoln did his fair share as well ), I feel the same way about Roe V Wade, and Brown v. Board of Education in the courts, they should not have been the ones to decide these things, however congress seemed to be silent on these, just as they are about illegal immigration, which I expect to ultimately be decided by the courts and Executive branch as well at this point by the way. This is not to say I do not believe that the usurpation of these powers has always been a bad thing. However, based on my understanding of how our government was set up I shudder at the publics acceptance of these fundamental shifts of power.

Please understand that I can, and am wrong about many things fairly often, I am simply expressing an opinion that using the label “authoritarian” is in many ways a straw man and while it may cause a rallying cry for a just purpose (namely the redistribution of power that has been taken by the executive branch) the terminology can create a false perception, a labeling if you will, of a great many people, many of whom share your self-same desires to understand others and be understood and while differences in beliefs will exist and cause contention. Let's try to remember that categorization of any kind creates an easy way to bias others.

Don't listen to him, he's black. The only good Mormon is a dead Mormon. He can not be right on any issue, he is an authoritarian, Christian, white, protestant, homophobic, republican. Only Jihadist Polygamist Muslims are the cause of terrorism.

Again, more then likely I am off point, thanks for reading, I enjoyed reading everyone else's thoughts.

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