The Authoritarian Personality

This past week in class we reviewed an article entitled “The Authoritarian Perspective.” This reading was composed shortly after the end of World War II, and the fall of Adolf Hitler. The literary work analyzed what made a Fascist style government so appealing to the masses, and attempted to make sense of the horrible atrocities that the world had just witnessed. The authors of the study created a list of variables that must exist in order for Fascism to thrive. They argued that without the presence of all factors, this style of government cannot gain power, and will not succeed.

Fascism is an authoritarian, right-wing style of rule that sacrifices the wants and needs of the many for the desires of a few. It is hard to believe that this form of tyranny would ever be willingly accepted by a country or even small group of people. But time and time again, the world has seen the rise of many controversial leaders who put their selfish intentions first. A lot of the time, this is done through the use of fear, corruption and intimidation, but that is not the most dangerous form of rule. The true danger lies within the form of Fascism the masses accept, ignore or even encourage. According to the reading, the only way for this to truly be accepted is through a “perfect storm” of traits. When crippling social events occur, and are mixed with hateful and intolerant forms of personality, there is the possibility for the ideology to gain momentum. These social events may include a weakened economy, acts of war or peace, and large scale advancements in technological fields. For the most part, these social changes are not under the control of the average person. But what is in each person’s control is their susceptibilities to fear mongering and hate. Through the manipulation of these two powerful emotions, logical thought and reason can be completely discredited, and senseless behavior may ensue. But does this mean each individual has the capability of accepting Fascism? The authors this cannot not be possible and instead, that it takes a certain type of person to align their views with such radical thinking. The radical views they mentioned were classified as an anti-Democratic personality.

To be considered as having an anti-Democratic, or Fascist, personality, a person must possess the views of anti-Semitism, ethnocentrism or political-economic conservatism. Without these limiting ideals, an individual may not be radicalized enough to accept such a controversial and harmful form of leadership. Based on this theory, the German people allowed Fascism to take hold of them just before the beginning of World War II, without even realizing it. This is plausible due to the presence of the same factors previously mentioned. For example, the social instigator present in Germany was the rampant starvation due to their collapsed economy. These hardships had been caused by the loss of World War I and the money Germany then had to pay the rest of the world as retribution. This altered the outlook of many German citizens to a more hateful and resentful perspective. Then with near perfect timing, Adolf Hitler came along, and played off of the fear and anger of the German people while simultaneously making empty promises. He was eventually put in power, and was able to begin his ultimate goal of mass genocide and all-out war before anyone within the country even realized atrocities were being committed. This is a prime example as to how Fascism can be extremely dangerous. For it is not only the ideology itself that is the threat, but the way in which one’s lust for power first masquerades as something innocent.

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One Reply to “The Authoritarian Personality”

  1. Ethan – I like how you described Fascism more in depth in this post. It was a topic that I was still confused about, and this post helped!! I liked how you included the part about Ethnocentrism! Very well written!

    Like

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