The bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, the emergence of militias and skinheads, the rise of the religious right, the attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics, the backlash against equal rights movements, the increase in poverty...these, according to Bob Altemeyer, are all versions of one story--the authoritarian personality in action. But aren't authoritarians Nazi types, kooks, the Klan? These are just the extreme examples, he argues. The Authoritarian Specter shows that many ordinary people today are psychologically disposed to embrace antidemocratic, fascist policies.
The book presents the latest results from a prize-winning research program on the authoritarian personality--a victory for the scientific method in the struggle to understand the worst aspects of ourselves. It connects for the first time the many ways authoritarianism undermines democracy. Many of our biggest problems, seemingly unrelated, have authoritarian roots. The scientific studies demonstrating this are extensive and thorough; their powerful findings are presented in a conversational, clear manner that engages readers from all backgrounds.
This is an important, timely work. It explains a growing movement to submit to a "man on horseback," to attack those who are different, to march in lockstep. Altemeyer reveals that these sentiments are strongly held even by many American lawmakers. These discoveries deserve careful attention in a presidential election year.
Is fascism just around the corner? Will some social crisis or national panic evoke totalitarian solutions? Or are we reasonably protected from arbitrary cancellation of democratic institutions? This book provides assessment of the psychological potential of populations to support, accede, or resist the imposition of authoritarian rule...To our good fortune, Dr. Altemeyer has provided a unique and coherent body of solid scientific information...[and] he deploys a light, clear style and an engaging sense of humor...The most rewarded reader, and the one for whom the book was written, will be that citizen who retains a dedication to the retrieval and preservation of democracy. I hope for such a person that the book stays in print forever.
A marvelous work, beautifully written. The sections on cognitive behavior, double standards, sex, religion, left-wing authoritarianism, and the authoritarianism of legislators make important contributions to our understanding.
The study of authoritarianism is currently experiencing a marked upsurge of interest and activity, and Bob Altemeyer deserves a great deal of the credit. The research that he reports in this lively book is of great interest to those who are concerned with events such as the Oklahoma City bombing, and will serve as a touchstone for future work.
- 384 pages
- 6-11/16 x 9-9/16 inches
- Harvard University Press
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