Home Concepts Interpersonal Relationships The Authoritarian Personality: Contemporary Appraisals and Implications for the Crisis of Expertise

The Authoritarian Personality: Contemporary Appraisals and Implications for the Crisis of Expertise

102 min read

William Bergquist, Ph.D. and Kevin Weitz,Psy.D.

(Authoritarian Personalities) seem to combine the worst elements of each kind of personality, being power-hungry, unsupportive of equality, manipulative, and amoral, as social dominators are in general, while also being religiously ethnocentric and dogmatic, as right-wing authoritarians tend to be. The author suggested that, although they are small in number, such persons can have considerable impact on society because they are well-positioned to become the leaders of prejudiced right-wing political movements.
Highly dominating, highly authoritarian personalities – PubMed (nih.gov)

… Researchers found some common traits between left-wing and right-wing authoritarians, including a “preference for social uniformity, prejudice towards different others, willingness to wield group authority to coerce behavior, cognitive rigidity, aggression and punitiveness towards perceived enemies, outsized concern for hierarchy, and moral absolutism.”
How Experts Overlooked Left-Wing Authoritarianism – The Atlantic

In The Authoritarian Personality, one of the most influential and widely debated works in the history of social science, Theodor W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswick, Daniel J. Levinson, and R. Nevitt Sanford (Adorno, et al. 1950) proposed a psychodynamic theory of prejudice and ideology that was intended to explain why economic frustration brought on by World War I and the Great Depression contributed to the mass popularity of fascist movements in Europe from the 1920s to the 1940s. The gist of their argument was that “status anxiety produces authoritarian discipline which produces repression of faults and shortcomings and of aggression against authority,” which is then “projected onto minorities and outsiders” (Brown 1965, p. 504).

One of the central insights of this theoretical perspective, which has received a great deal of empirical support, is that “a man who is hostile toward one minority group is very likely to be hostile against a wide variety of others” (Adorno, et al. 1950, p. 9). In other words, the authoritarian is an individual for whom generalized prejudice has become a structured aspect of his or her personality. In this seminal work addressing the individual and social origins of authoritarianism as a personality characteristic, the legendary social theorist T.W. Adorno teamed up with three research psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley. They constructed a new questionnaire to measure pre-fascist tendencies (the F-Scale) as well as instruments to measure ethnocentrism or anti-Semitism (the E-scale) and political-economic conservatism (the P.E.C. scale).

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