Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Tuesday, July 08, 2003  

I stumbled across a fascinating book called The Authoritarian Specter, by a psych professor in Canada named Bob Altemeyer. He’s been doing research on authoritarianism for decades (more on that in a second), mostly, it seems from his acknowledgements, without much recognition. Possibly this is because, over the course of his career, America and the world seemed to be moving away from authoritarianism, not toward it. Apparently he was just so far ahead of the curve, no one could see the value of his work.

The central apprehension behind my research program, driven by twenty-five years of alarming findings now being confirmed in tragic headlines, is that a potential for acceptance of right-wing totalitarian rule exists in countries such as Canada and the United States. This acceptance boils down to essentially an attitude, a state of mind, a willingness to see democratic institutions destroyed, which in some people may even be a desire.

What’s an authoritarian? By this, the Professor means “a covariation of three attitudinal clusters in a person.” (Yeah, I could have said “three characteristics,” but his version is more punchy, don’t you think?)

1. Authoritarian Submission. A high degree of submission to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate in the society in which one lives.

2. Authoritarian Agression. A general aggressiveness, directed against various persons, that is perceived to be sanctioned by established authorities.

3. Conventionalism. A high degree of adherence to the social conventions that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities.

I've just started the book--I'll blog in the future about some of his major findings.

posted by Jeff | 7:41 AM |
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