Thursday, November 16, 2006

Is There an Inborn Authoritarian Disposition?

I've been reading a wonderful book by Karen Stenner, The Authoritarian Dynamic. (The book is serious academic social science rather than light reading, but it's probably the most clearly thought through social science I've read in years.) Though she doesn't say so the book at least suggests the possibility that there could be an inborn temperamental tendency toward authoritarianism at one extreme and libertarianism at the other. Thinking about this possibility I was reminded of a lyric from Gilbert and Sullivan's operatta Iolanthe:

I often think it's comical
How Nature always does contrive
That every boy and every gal
That’s born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative!

Actually I'm doing Dr. Stenner a disservice in a couple of ways: she doesn't really have much to say about the origins of authoritarianism, i.e., whether it is inborn temperament or not, and she explicitly does argue that authoritarianism is NOT equivalent to conservatism. I may be able to use this point later on because, as I've been at pains to argue (see Why Pseudo-Conservatives are not "Conservative"), I believe today's pseudo-conservative is an authoritarian and not a genuine conservative.

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