The Authoritarian Personality Reconsidered

Mr. Joseph Kaminski
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My senior honors thesis is a 75 page work which explores the nature of the authoritarian personality via historical research projects conducted throughout the mid to late 20th century. I discuss Eric Fromm's models of 'authority' and his notion of 'rational authority v. irrational authority' as an introduction to the larger works that would be done on the overall subject matter. My third chapter, containing the bulk of my research, discusses the 1950's Theodor Adorno and Berkeley School research project findings. The title of this masterpiece I investigate is called 'The Authoritarian Personality.' I breakdown this 900 page work into its main components, focusing upon the underlying personality structures the project unearth that generally fall into the authoritarian model. I then discuss two 'case studies' discussed in the project. One is of a high scorer on the "E-Scale" (Ethnocentrism scale) and the other is of a low scorer on the "E-Scale". Following the Adorno study, I discuss a study done in the 1970s-1980's by a psychologist from Canada named Robert Altemeyer who is critical of the methods used by the Berkeley team in the 1950's. Altemeyer's contention is that Authoritarianism is something that can be seen in 'outward affiliations and actions' rather than the psychoanalytic approach used by Adorno. The next chapter is my personal argument with the Altemeyer project. Altemeyer argues that 'he does not know if a left wing authoritarian can exist.' In this chapter I argue that a 'left wing authoritarian' can exist, just as a 'right wing authoritarian.' I discuss the writings of Lenin, and discuss how his own words fall within Altemeyer's own categorization of 'the right wing authoritarian,' despite Lenin's leftist political ideology. My conclusion is that by taking certain postulates of each study, both having their own strengths and weaknesses, one can reach a more complete understanding of the phenomenon of authoritarianism.

Keywords: Authoritarianism, Adorno, Berkeley Research School, Psychoanalysis, Robert Altemeyer, Right Wing Authoritarianism, "F-Scale", Anti-Semitism, Fascism, Eric Fromm
Stream: Political Science, Politics
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Mr. Joseph Kaminski

Graduate Student, Political Science, CUNY- Graduate Center

My name is Joseph Kaminski. I think it would be a great opportunity to discuss the findings of my research project with a group of scholars dedicated to furthering knowledge of social phenomenon. Authoritarianism is something that has plagued the 20th century in a way the world previously had never seen. From fascism in Europe, to Maoism in China, to Soviet style communism, the world has be terrorized in a way that completely undermines the essence of humanity. I feel it is of the utmost importance to be aware of authoritarian trends which may be going on, right before our eyes that we may not even be aware of. This is a phenomenon that touches all aspects of social relations, from family interactions on the micro to the highest level of government bureaucracy on the macro. The main purpose of my project is bring back to life the discussion of the authoritarian praxis. I feel that the Berkeley schools project served as a great exploratory investigation to this problem. The Berkeley school gave philosophical solutions to a major empirical problem of their time. This 'philosophical' approach was challenged in the 1970's by a new, 'technical' psychological approach, which attempted to give more concrete definitions. Both studies have their merits and weaknesses. I think by critically evaluating both studies, one can reach a greater understanding of the overall scope of what authoritarianism is.

Ref: H05P0115