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Bringing Authoritarianism Back In: Reification, Latent Prejudice, and Economic Threat


During the run up to the 2010 mid-term elections in the United States, the NAACP published a controversial report on “Tea Party Nationalism,” documenting what was perceived as racist elements within the emergent conservative grassroots organization.[1]  The NAACP’s report became a lightning rod against which supporters and critics of the Tea Party vented their accusations of the other side’s “racism.”  Despite the promise of the country’s first black president, Barack Obama, the post-racial era had not yet arrived.  Meanwhile, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported a 244 percent jump in right-wing extremist groups and militias from 2008 to 2009.[2]  Public fixation on figures such as Glenn Beck who has been called a racist for calling the president a racist, indicate that racial sentiments are on the rise in American public discourse.[3]  While many studies have been conducted to determine the scope of the Tea Party and what percentage within the group can be deemed “racist,”[4] an equally interesting question is the fact that a clear definition of racism is yet to be accepted by opposed sides of the argument, perhaps reflecting George Lakoff’s cognitive analysis of politics from the perspective of there being different, incommensurable languages of morality that divide conservative and liberal political opinion.[5]

Perhaps for this reason as well, political sociologists seem to be facing misrecognition of where the clear anger and hostility the Tea Party directs at the government and, in certain instances, other racial groups such as blacks and immigrants, comes from.  Whereas much attention is paid to the Tea Party and right-wing reactions to the president’s race and otherness, whether expressed as questions of his birth or religion, not enough attention has been paid to the actual condition of high unemployment, the recession, and the economic insecurity many are facing.  At the same time, in efforts to be “objective,” social scientists may avoid calling this behavior what it is – namely, a manifestation of the authoritarian personality theorized by the Frankfurt School critical theorists during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.

In relation to the issues mentioned above, we argue that the theoretical perspective of authoritarianism, particularly when directed at the sociological, rather than psychological aspects of the phenomena, provides a useful analytic tool that helps us understand the emergence of racialized sentiments that had previously remained latent.  Under certain social conditions, especially perceived economic threat, authoritarians’ latent prejudice is far more likely to become activated into confirmed racist attitudes and/or actions.  In this sense, authoritarianism exists latently, or, in the words of Adorno and his colleagues, as “prefacism.”  We focus on the connection between economic threat and latent prejudice, and our findings indicate that while economic threat does have an influence on manifest racial attitudes, it is partially mediated through an underlying authoritarian personality construct.  By conceptualizing this mediating effect in terms of the process of reification we can theorize that authoritarians likely hold a relatively narrow and rigid conception of the world, which may not be conceived of as something that is “socially constructed.”  Thus, as threatening information, such as indicators of a poor economy, enter an authoritarian’s worldview the manner through which he or she processes it could be to project that feeling onto an outgroup, for example, an immigrant or minority population.

The relationship between economic threat and authoritarianism is especially relevant in 2011 as we persist within the longest recession since the Great Depression, with the highest unemployment rate since the early 1980s.  The ongoing adversities of the 2008 financial crisis clearly represent an economic threat to many Americans, and indications point to a slow recovery in middle and working class employment despite official claims that we are already out of the recession.[6]  Our analysis highlights important implications about the future of American political culture and has great significance for understanding the parallel between periods of high unemployment and the emergence of racialized sentiments within the Tea Party.


The Authoritarian Personality was published in 1950 by a group of social scientists at the University of California, Berkeley including Theodor W. Adorno.[7]  The study was one of five works in a series of publications devoted to examining authoritarianism and conformity in the United States from a critical social-psychology perspective.  The study was funded by the American Jewish Committee and examined the relationship between authoritarianism, ethnocentricism and their interaction with external social situations.  The study sought to uncover underlying social and psychological factors that were common among survey and interview participants who exhibited anti-Semitic attitudes and prejudices.  Following a number of stages of survey and questionnaire development, the Berkeley group identified sentiments such as anti-democratic attitudes, sexual repressiveness, and irrational belief systems, which pointed to a participant’s value on what was termed an “F-Scale.”  The F-Scale was said to measure “prefascism” – an underlying, often unconscious worldview and psychological outlook that predisposed oneself to anti-democratic and anti-Semitic attitudes.  Theoretically, the psychologist could then determine whether one was inclined toward fascism or racism – an admission that few would actually make publicly – via asking seemingly more innocent or neutral questions, such as one’s feelings concerning the statements: “A person who has bad manners, habits, and breeding can hardly expect to be liked and accepted by decent people,” or “The true American way of life is disappearing so fast that force may be necessary to preserve it.[8]  The project emerged out of an urgent interest on the part of the American Jewish Committee and the US Government to understand the roots of European Fascism and Anti-Fascism which played such large roles in the recently resolved Second World War.

Since its publication, the original Authoritarian Personality project has been the subject of numerous critiques.[9]  One author estimates that more than 1,200 publications had addressed the subject by 1987, most of these peaking during the 1970s, during which time 750 articles and books related to the theory were published.[10]  Though it would be nearly impossible to read every one of these texts, two themes crop up regularly in many of these sources, which we will argue has distracted attention from the original core theory.  These are:  an overemphasis on the psychological origins of “where” the authoritarian personality comes from, and an overconcern for whether authoritarianism is a quality that is limited to bearers of right-wing ideological views, or if there is evidence of authoritarianism within adherents of leftist ideology as well.  Our goals are two-fold – first we wish to recover the core theory as outlined by the Berkeley group and its theoretical predecessors to indicate its relevance in the present sociopolitical context.  Secondly, we wish to direct our study to the social rather than the psychological aspects of the authoritarian personality.  Following Howard Gabbenesch,[11] Erich Fromm,[12] Theodor Adorno,[13] and Berger and Pullberg[14] authoritarianism is assumed to be an objective social fact.[15]  We will not attempt to confirm, deny, or explain the psychological origins of the authoritarian personality, in terms of family upbringing or cultural values, but will rather direct our research toward uncovering patterns of authoritarianism within US population samples using secondary data analysis focusing on the relationship between latent prejudice, ethnocentrism, and social situation.

 The Authoritarian Personality:  A Theoretical Model

The original theoretical basis of The Authoritarian Personality had its roots in the research conducted at the so-called “Frankfurt School” in Frankfurt, Germany during the late 1920 and 1930s.  The psychologist, Erich Fromm, was particularly instrumental in developing a perspective that tied the depressed social conditions of the Weimar era to the emerging radical right and popular anti-Semitism.  Fromm later fleshed out this perspective in his works Escape From Freedom,[16] The Sane Society,[17] and An Anatomy of Human Destructiveness.[18]  Understanding and acknowledging the contradiction between modern democratic society and the actualization of human freedom was paramount to early critical social theory.  This critical theoretical perspective rooted authoritarian research in an uncompromising recognition of the limits of the Enlightenment project and an acute awareness of the centralization and concentration of the means of mass manipulation.[19]  Fromm and the Berkeley Group argued that under certain social conditions, especially economic threat, totalitarianism and fascism can occur—the explanation of which could not be reduced to the crazed actions of isolated individuals.  One of the goals of their authoritarian research was to understand the interaction between fascist tendencies and social perceptions within individuals that continued in late capitalist mass democracy.

In Escape from Freedom, Fromm argued that this “crisis of democracy” was a “problem of every modern state”.[20]  Likewise, Adorno outlined the sociological condition of the “damaged” individual in a “totally” administered world, confronted by mass culture, disenchantment, and alienation.[21]  Explaining the approach to The Authoritarian Personality, Adorno said,

“We followed what I believe to be the plausible idea that in the present society the objective institutions and developmental tendencies have attained such an overwhelming power over individuals that people…are becoming, and evidently in increasing measure, functionaries of the predominant tendencies operating over their heads”.[22]

For the critical theorists, the relationship between consciousness and society was dialectical. One-dimensional conceptualizations of this relationship, for example, in the Enlightment dualisms between mind/body and “Man”/Nature, dominated social science particularly during the postwar era in which positivist and empiricist conceptions of social research were encouraged due to the centralized needs of the military industrial complex.[23]  The problem with a one-sided individualistic approach is that it implicitly identifies the cause of fascism in the fallibilities of individuals themselves.  In contrast, critical theory eschewed rigid disciplinary boundaries and Adorno’s theoretical perspective was especially ill-suited for compartmentalization.  The Authoritarian Personality, reflecting Adorno’s theoretical concerns, did not adhere to the epistemological dichotomies often constructed from a rigid disciplinary boundary between psychology and sociology.  The study aimed “to take into account not only the psychological structure of the individual but the total objective situation in which he (sic) lives”.[24]

Figure 1 shows the basic theoretical approach we have drawn from these and other early studies on authoritarianism.[25]  The focus is on the interrelationship of three processes:  latent prejudice, social situation, and ethnocentrism.  The authors of the original study constructed an F-scale used to measure, “the potentially anti-democratic personality” in order to indicate latent prejudice within the individual.[26]  The distinction between latent and manifest prejudice was significant because the “threat to democratic societies arises not just from the attitude and behavior of a relatively small minority of declared fascists, but from the syndrome of an unexpressed, potential fascism that comes from the hidden layer of the personality” which can be “traced back to deeper-seated character-structures that predispose people toward authoritarianism”.[27] This can be summarized in the following diagram:

Unlike psychological research into the authoritarian personality, we follow the critical theorists’ notion that these “deep-seated character-structures” are thoroughly social in so far as the fascist potential within individuals cannot be distinguished from the social forms and structures within which this potential remains latent or becomes manifest.  The present study adopts this original conceptualization of social situation, referring to the “external stimuli to which Fascist predispositions within the individual have created and continue to react.”[28]  Ethnocentrism is defined as the general rejection of outgroups with the simultaneous reification of ingroups.[29]  Horkheimer and Adorno had earlier credited this process to the psychological projection of all that one feels insecure about onto the outgroup, for example, as when the Germans projected their own unwanted materialist sentiments and potential for treachery onto the Jewish population.[30]

A major shortcoming of individualistic approaches is the dismissal of the quantity, quality, and interconnectedness of points of analysis.[31]  Theoretical explanations of individual alienation, for example, rely on personality disorders defined by professionals.  This approach is problematic because, once institutionalized, it assumes a frame of reference that hides the fact that social institutions are human creations.  This (mis)understanding has political consequences in instances where individuals are unable to process a social situation, such as economic threat, as being man-made and instead project these threats on to an already reified understanding of the world.[32]  Theoretical explanations that do not deal with this contradiction do so at the risk of perpetuating social contradictions that are part and parcel of the very processes of alienation which they seek to explain.[33]

Berger and Pullberg[34] offer useful points of clarification for conceptualizing the relationship between authoritarianism and economic threat in their distinction between objectivation, objectification, alienation, and reification. Objectivation refers to the basic process by which humans transform the external world to meet their needs. Objectification refers to the ways in which people make sense out of transforming the external world. Alienation is the “process by which the unity of the producing and the product is broken”; redefining social reality and consciousness in such a way as to make this process oblique.[35]  Reification specifies a certain moment in the process of alienation wherein this redefinition becomes standard objective reality.  That is, “reification is objectification in an alienated mode.”[36]  Berger and Pullberg stress that objectivation and objectification are “anthropologically necessary” while reification and alienation are not.  Conflating objectivation, objectification, reification, and alienation has important implications for or against the notion that authoritarianism is to be found within the individual alone.  Fromm’s insights are apt here since if the social situation is defined (by the analyst) in alienated terms, “then those who share this definition will be psychologically healthy.”[37]  Failure to distinguish between these four concepts hides a main theoretical assumption this paper seeks to uncover, namely, that social institutions are human in origin and that these social institutions can be perceived by actors as either “natural” (i.e., reified), or as socially constructed.

Any discussion of the authoritarian personality theory must confront the great deal of debate that has surrounded the issue of whether authoritarianism is exclusively the property of a right-wing political perspective or whether it is also evident within adherents of leftist ideology.[38]  However, as interesting as this debate is, for our purposes and research question, we feel this issue can be reconciled by reflecting back on the definition of one critic who has challenged the “right-only” authoritarian theories.  John Ray suggested that the authoritarian personality model is “nothing but a measure of conservatism, but conservatism of a particularly old-fashioned and tough-minded sort.”[39]  Thus, instead of retorting in the vein of other scholars who would insist that “Left-Wing Authoritarianism is a Myth,”[40] we can put the matter behind us by suggesting that we are studying the persistence of this authoritarianism, whether it is old-fashioned, re-fashioned, conservative, or liberal.  Our conception of authoritarianism refers to the presence of a particularly-reified worldview, which can then be indicated via latent qualities that are likely related to actual manifest ethnocentrism and racist attitudes.

Indeed, research on authoritarianism has consistently shown a strong positive correlation between authoritarianism and ethnocentrism/racism.  In addition, research has supported Fromm’s hypothesis of the link between authoritarianism and economic threat.[41]  This relationship between economic threat and authoritarianism is especially relevant in 2011 as we persist within the longest recession since the Great Depression, with the highest unemployment rate since the early 1980s.  The ongoing adversities of the 2008 financial crisis clearly represent an economic threat to many Americans, and indications point to a slow recovery in middle and working class employment despite official claims that we are already out of the recession.[42]  We therefore take seriously the possibility that many Americans may not be able to process hardships of the economic crisis in relation to the actual sources of these social threats and instead project these threats onto a reified world.  The critical theoretical approach of Adorno and others appears to be all the more relevant today.

Recent research on the growth of extreme right-wing movements has failed to pay attention to the important theoretical insights that can be gleaned from The Authoritarian Personality.  This is unfortunate given that the growth of these movements has occurred during an ongoing financial crisis that began in 2008 which might be understood in terms of the interplay between socioeconomic structure and authoritarianism.  The original theoretical focus within authoritarian personality research (especially those that attended to the interrelationships between latent prejudice, social situation, and ethnocentrism) has the potential to connect the conceptual divide often constructed between the undemocratic actions of seemingly-irrational individual members of society and their objective social world.


Data for this study are taken from the General Social Survey (GSS).  The GSS is a sociological survey used to collect data on attitudes and demographic traits of residents across the United States.  GSS data are now collected bi-annually via face to face interviews using standard questionnaires.  The survey follows a full probability sample design that covers approximately 97.3% of the residents of the United States.

Dependent Variable:  Racism

Drawing on the theoretical perspective of authoritarianism, racism is conceptually defined as the general rejection of outgroups and the simultaneous reification of ingroups.  The early critical theorists who developed the theory of authoritarianism had credited this process to the psychological projection of all that one feels insecure about onto the outgroup.  Our dependent variable, racism, is based on previous GSS research on racial attitudes, particularly toward blacks, and is operationalized by a standardized scale based on survey questions that indicate racist attitudes (e.g., support for discriminatory laws that would segregate neighborhoods, disfavor for interracial marriage, negative feelings regarding black social improvement, etc.).

Predictor Variables

Based on the original theoretical perspective of authoritarianism, threatening social situations may activate latent prejudice within a population, igniting manifest racism.  From this perspective, authoritarianism may act as an essential mediating variable between perceived economic threat and manifest racism.  That is, under certain social conditions, especially perceived economic threat, the latent prejudice characteristic of authoritarians is far more likely to become activated into confirmed racist attitudes and/or actions than would otherwise be the case.

Economic Threat

Research on authoritarianism has consistently shown a strong positive relationship between economic threat and racism.  Data used for the construction of our first predictor variable come from respondents’ impression of whether the economy has gotten better; stayed the same; or gotten worse.  The response that the economy is “getting better” was used as the reference category.


Our second predictor variable is constructed by selecting several groups of variables that relatively correspond with the questionnaires used in the original Authoritarian Personality study and then narrowing these groups down to scales that have the highest alpha scores and corresponded well with authoritarianism in previous studies to construct an authoritarian index.

Data Limitations

Use of the GSS or other large secondary survey data to analyze sociological trends in authoritarianism is less common than psychological analyses.  This is reflective of the controversy surrounding the psychological origins of authoritarianism, whether in the family, religion, or another psychic source.[43]  The primary limitation of the present study is that the variable “economic threat” is only available in the 1994 GSS, which unfortunately limited our analysis to this year.  Results should be interpreted by keeping this caveat in mind.  Our approach will assume that authoritarianism does exist in some degree in the population and that the theoretical explanation for the correlation between economic threat and ethnocentrism is likely to be mediated through authoritarianism.  Our analysis does not in any way “prove” the authoritarian personality theory.  Empirical evidence is presented in order to urge social scientists to reconsider the contemporary significance of the original authoritarian personality theory.  Our goal is to demonstrate the use-value of the authoritarian personality concept, and the manner in which it can draw our attention to the relationship between latent prejudice, racism, and economic threat.


Our first model is a basic linear (OLS) regression analysis with “racism” as the dependent variable and “authoritarianism” as the independent variable.  The second model looks at the relationship between economic threat and ethnocentrism.  This is a typical model in many studies of racial attitudes during periods of high unemployment.  The variable “economic threat” provides a very direct indicator of respondents’ feelings about the economy, and is thus a better indicator than models used in research that traces a linear relationship between unemployment rates and racism.

The final model incorporates authoritarianism as a predictor in the bi-variate analysis conducted in Model 2.  This allows us to test whether economic threat is mediated by an authoritarian personality in predicting respondents’ racial attitudes.  Although a more complex analysis is theoretically possible, we justify the use of such parsimonious regression models because we are only interested in the mediating effects of our three variables (racism, economic threat, and authoritarianism).  We do not attempt to explain individual racism apart from these predictors.


Table 1 (see Appendix) contains the standardized regression coefficients of authoritarianism and economic threat on racism.  Results of Model 1 show a strong correlation between authoritarianism and racism, indicating that an increase in authoritarianism is significantly associated with an increase in racist attitudes.  This finding supports the original theories of Adorno and his colleagues, and most subsequent sociological researchers.

Estimates of Model 2 indicate that respondents who thought the economy had “gotten worse” were significantly more likely to exhibit racist attitudes than those who thought the economy had “gotten better.”  This finding supports research that indicates that during periods of perceived economic threat, for example, periods of unemployment, racist attitudes increase.

Provided certain data limitations outlined above, Model 3 suggests a striking finding in regard to our theory of authoritarianism and its relationship to perceived economic threat and racist attitudes.  When authoritarianism is added as a predictor variable in addition to economic threat, a strong mediating effect is observable in so far as the main effect of economic threat on racism drops from 0.19 (Model 2) to 0.11 (Model 3).  Furthermore, results indicate that authoritarianism is a much more significant predictor of racism than feelings of economic threat.  Our analysis, therefore, indicates that while economic threat does have an influence on manifest racial attitudes, it is partially mediated through an underlying authoritarian personality construct.  In this sense, authoritarianism could exist latently.  Then, following an event that can be perceived as economic threat, for example a sense in which the economy is getting worse, this may make the latent prejudice a confirmed racist attitude.  By conceptualizing the mediating effect of authoritarianism in terms of the concept of reification we can theorize that those who score high on the authoritarian index likely hold a relatively narrow and rigid conception of the world, which may not be conceived of as something that is “socially constructed.”  Thus, as threatening information, such as indicators of a poor economy, enter that respondent’s worldview the manner through which he or she processes it could be to project that feeling onto an outgroup, for example, an immigrant or minority population.

The confirmation of an underlying authoritarian construct as partially mediating the effect of perceived economic threat on expressed racism has great significance for our understanding of racism during periods of unemployment, such as the recession we are presently in.  Unfortunately, the GSS data, which deals with relatively general questions, and not specifically related to authoritarian personality questions, are not able to provide us with the necessary variables to track, for example, the sub-scale of “traditional familialism” used in the authoritarian index past 1998, or the very important variable of “economic threat” other than in year 1994.[44]  However, this initial test of the theory of authoritarianism indicates that a more substantial survey expressly dedicated to determining Americans’ authoritarian personality constructs would prove to be of great interest in 2011 as the recession, high unemployment, and racialized discourse surrounding the Tea Party and other groups persist. 


In this paper we argued that recent research on the growth of extreme right-wing movements has failed to pay attention to the important theoretical insights that can be gleaned from The Authoritarian Personality.  Although our data analysis cannot confirm or deny the relationship between authoritarianism and racism and the growth of the Tea Party, it is clear that the original theoretical orientation of The Authoritarian Personality provides a useful analytic tool that helps us understand the emergence of racialized sentiments that had previously remained latent and is thus worthy of reconsideration.  Our regression analyses support the original authoritarian personality theory, indicating a strong correlation between authoritarianism and racism.  Results also indicate that while economic threat does have an influence on manifest racial attitudes, it is partially mediated by an underlying authoritarian personality construct.  We explained alienation and reification as two key concepts in this process, pointing to a rigid, narrowly defined worldview that leads to the projection of social threats onto outgroups.  We did not concern ourselves with whether or not authoritarianism is exclusively the property of the political right or left because like Adorno and his colleagues, we were interested in studying the persistence of authoritarianism qua authoritarianism, whatever its manifest form.  Having conceived of authoritarianism as an objective social fact, we directed our attention to social conditions, specifically economic threat, that activate latent prejudice.

Our analysis also highlights important issues surrounding the future of American political culture.  The recognition of the social fact of authoritarian personalities changes the landscape of the sociopolitical phenomena we seek to address.  By definition, authoritarianism is “reactionary”—policy or social opinions are not “driving” attitudes so to speak, these opinions are manifestations of certain ways of seeing the world.  This has implications for both progressive hopes for a “double-movement” as well as political sociological research which needs to recognize that not all members of the polity are operating with the same worldviews, or with the same capacity to conceive of competing worldviews.  However, perhaps because of a break between theory and practice, it appears academics and progressives may not be paying adequate attention to the original concept of authoritarianism developed by the Frankfurt School critical theorists during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.  Progressives may regularly throw around the term fascist without breaking down analytically what they mean[45] while academics have taken the original theory of authoritarianism and reduced it into an uninteresting, unusable framework in efforts to be objective.[46]

This is all the more relevant when one considers the original inspiration of the Frankfurt School theorists.  These scholars were interested in understanding the ways in which the working class in Germany shifted to the political right instead of the left, as traditional Marxists would have expected.  The authoritarian personality model provides an explanation for why this may occur.  To be sure, and as certain scholars point out,[47] limits to democratic politics result from systematically grounded exploitation and inequality.  Overcoming these would involve overcoming the conditions of modern society that predetermine social action.[48]  Because of the implications of the authoritarian personality, different models of political analysis and activism may need to be conceived.  This is one of the “hard truths” we can glean from The Authoritarian Personality, and potentially one of the reasons it has been neglected.  Dealing with the social fact of authoritarianism problematizes the entire progressive political agenda.  That is, the solutions to a problem of reified worldviews are, in fact, much more difficult than reconfiguring the relations of production, and are in fact a necessary precondition for the latter potentially to emerge.  What the strategies and possibilities for this type of action might be cannot be directly predetermined by the research at hand, but certainly the spheres of education, media, and political discourse need to be considered in the light of this project.



Table 1.  Standardized Regression Coefficients of Authoritarianism on Racism

Model 1

Model 2

Model 3

Racism Racism Racism
Authoritarianism 0.41*** Economic Threat 0.19*** Economic Threat 0.11*
Authoritarianism 0.42***

*p<.05; **p<.01; ***p<.001            N=2955 (Model 1) N=1431 (Model 2 and Model 3)


[1] Devin Burghart et al., Tea Party Nationalism, 20 Oct. 2010, 10 Nov. 2010 http://www.teapartynationalism.com/the-reportbriall-of-tea-party-nationalismi; although many Tea Party supporters, including black conservatives, deny accusations of the organization’s “racism,” the report claims to have established links between Tea Party organizations and various hate groups, including white supremacist and anti-immigration groups.

[2] Mark Potok, “Rage on the Right: The Year in Hate and Extremism” (Montgomery, AL:  Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010).

[3] Sean Wilentz, “Confounding Fathers: The Tea Party’s Cold War Roots,” The New Yorker, 18 Oct. 2010.

[4] Amy Gardner, “Gaguing the Scope of the Tea Party Movement in America,” The Washington Post, 24 Oct. 2010; Kate Zernike, Boiling Mad : Inside Tea Party America (New York, NY: Times Books/Henry Holt and Co., 2010).

[5] George Lakoff, Moral politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2002).

[6] U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Economic News Release:  Employment Situation Summary, 3 June 2011 http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm.

[7] Theodore W. Adorno, et al., The Authoritarian Personality (New York, NY:  Harper & Row, 1950).

[8] Adorno et al. 1950, 178.

[9] R. Christie and M. Jahoda, eds.  Studies in the Scope and Method of “The Authoritarian Personality,” (New York, NY:  The Free Press, 1954); John Ray, “Why the F-Scale Predicts Racism:  A Critical Review,” Political Psychology 9 (December 1988):  671-679; John Levi Martin, “The Authoritarian Personality, 50 Years Later:  What Questions are there for Political Psychology?” Political Psychology 22 (March 2001):  1-26.

[10] Marinus H. van Ijzendoorn, “Moral Judgement, Authoritarianism and Ethnocentrism,” Journal of Social Psychology 129 (December 1989:  37-45).

[11] Howard Gabbennesch, “Authoritarianism as Worldview,” American Journal of Sociology 77 (March 1972):  857-875.

[12] Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom (New York, NY [etc.]:  Farrar & Rinehart, 1941).

[13] Adorno et al. 1950

[14] Peter Berger and Stanley Pullberg, “Reification and the Sociological Critique of Consciousness,” History and Theory 4 (1964-65):  196-211.

[15] Emile Durkheim, The Rules of the Sociological Method, trans. S. A. Solovay and J. Mueller (Chicago, IL:  University of Chicago Press, 1938).

[16] Fromm 1941.

[17] Erich Fromm, The Sane Society (New York, NY:  Rinehart, 1955).

[18] Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (New York, NY:  Holt, 1973).

[19] Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, and Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, Dialectic of Enlightenment:  Philosophical Fragments (Stanford, California:  Stanford University Press, 2002); Herbert Marcuse, One-dimensional Man:  Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (Boston, MA:  Beacon Press, 1991); Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics (New York, NY:  Seabury Press, 1973).

[20] Fromm 1941, 20.

[21] Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia:  Reflections on a Damaged Life, trans. E.F.N. Jephcott (New York, NY:  Verso, 2005).

[22] Theodor W. Adorno, quoted in Stefan Müller-Doohm, Adorno:  A Biography, trans. R. Livingstone (Cambridge, MA:  Polity Press, 2005).

[23] George Steinmetz, ed., The Politics of Method in the Human Sciences:  Positivism and its Epistemological Others (Durham, NC:  Duke University Press, 2005).

[24] Adorno et al. 1950, 8.

[25] See also Seymour Martin Lipset, “Democracy and Working-Class Authoritarianism,” American Sociological Review 24 (August 1959):  482-501.

[26] Adorno et al. 1950.

[27]  Müller-Doohm 2005, 294.

[28] Adorno et al. 1950, vii.

[29] See Christie 1954, 153.

[30] Horkeimer and Adorno 2002; see also Moishe Postone, “Anti-Semitism and National Socialism:  Notes on the German Reaction to ‘Holocaust’,” New German Critique 19 (Winter 1980):  97-115; Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York, NY:  Schocken Books, 2004).

[31] See Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social:  An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (New York, NY:  Oxford University Press-USA, 2008).

[32] Berger and Pullberg 1965.

[33] Harry F. Dahms, “How Social Science is Impossible Without Critical Theory:  The Immersion of Mainstream Approaches in Time and Space” in No Social Science Without Critical Theory (Current Perspectives in Social Theory) 26 (June 2008):  3-61; Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality:  A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (New York, NY:  Anchor Books, 1967); Fromm 1941.

[34] Berger and Pullberg 1965.

[35] ibid., 61.

[36] ibid., 61.

[37] ibid., 61.

[38] Richard Christie and John Garcia, “Subcultural Variation in Authoritarian Personality,” The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 46 (October 1951):  457-468; Seymour Martin Lipset, Political Man:  The Social Bases of Politics (Garden City, NY:  Doubleday, 1960); Bob Altemeyer, Enemies of Freedom:  Understanding Right-Wing Authoritarianism (San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass, 1988); John Ray, “Half of All Authoritarians are Left Wing:  A Reply to Eysench and Stone,” Political Psychology 19 (March 1983):  707-720; Ray 1988.

[39] Ray 1983, 141.

[40] William Stone, “The Myth of Left-Wing Authoritarianism,” Political Psychology 2 (Autumn-Winter 1980):  3-19.

[41] Richard Doty, Bill Peterson, and David Winter, “Threat and Authoritarianism in the United States, 1978-1987,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 61 (October 1991):  629-640; Stanley Feldman and Karen Stenner, “Perceived Threat and Authoritarianism,” Political Psychology 18 (December 1997):  741-770; Edward Rickert, “Authoritarianism and Economic Threat:  Implications for Political Behavior,” Political Psychology 19 (December 1998):  707-720; see also Karen Stenner, The Authoritarian Dynamic (New York, NY [etc.]:  Cambridge University Press, 2005).

[42] See Fred Magdoff, “The Jobs Disaster in the United States,” Monthly Review 63 (June 2011):  24-37.

[43] Kathleen Blee and Kimberly Creasap, “Conservative and Right-Wing Movements,” Annual Review of Sociology 36 (April 2010):  269-286.

[44] See Stenner 2005 for comprehensive empirical application and emendation to Adorno et al. 1950.

[45] See Matthew Rothschild, “Chomsky’s Nightmare:  Is Facism Coming to America?” The Progressive 74 (June 2010):  http://www.progressive.org/rothschild0610.html.

[46] See Alvin Gouldner, “Anti-Minotaur:  The Myth of a Value-Free Sociology,” Social Problems 9 (Winter 1962):  199-213.

[47] John Gaventa, Power and Powerlessness:  Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley (Champaign, IL:  University of Illinois Press, 1982); Jürgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, Vol. 2 (Boston, MA:  Beacon Press, 1985); Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward, Regulating the Poor:  The Functions of Public Welfare, Rev. edition (New York, NY:  Vintage, 1993).

[48] Moishe Postone, “History and Helplessness:  Mass Mobilization and Contemporary Forms of Anti-Capitalism,” Public Culture 18:1 (Duke University Press, 2006).


Alex Stoner is currently a PhD student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  His research areas include social theory, political sociology, and environmental sociology.  Eric Lybeck is currently a PhD student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  His research areas include social theory, political sociology, and historical sociology.  Contact information—Alex Stoner:  astoner1@utk.edu.  Eric Lybeck:  elybeck@utk.edu. Thanks to Harry F. Dahms, Damayanti Banerjee, Stephanie Bohon, James Maples, and Ben Feldmeyer for their helpful comments and feedback during the construction of this paper.


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