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The Authoritarian Specter

The Authoritarian Specter

Bob Altemeyer

ISBN 9780674053052

Publication date: 11/15/1996

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.

Praise

  • 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.

    —Thomas H. Lewis, Journal of the American Medical Association

Author

  • Bob Altemeyer is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Manitoba.

Book Details

  • 384 pages
  • 6-11/16 x 9-9/16 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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