Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Authoritarians

The Authoritarians

Professor Bob Altemeyer, University of Manitoba, Department of Psychology, brought to some prominence by former Nixon lawyer John Dean, has apparently spent most of his life studying authoritarianism. He's releasing his new book, The Authoritarians, on the internet, he says,
...partly because this book would never have rung up big sales. I did make one attempt to place it with a trade publisher, but when their editor said no I stopped acting out of habit and started reflecting. I think what I have found is rather important to the survival of American democracy. As such, it should be made available to everyone, and be essentially free. The “www” makes this possible...
In Chapter 1, which is as far as I've gotten, there is the RWA Scale. "This survey is part of an investigation of general public opinion concerning a variety of social issues." He gives three reasons why one should take a personal score with some salt, and says his presentation of the survey in the book is to have the reader "experience for yourself the instrument used to identify and study authoritarian followers." And so on. It's pretty interesting so far.

I guess I'm a salty anti-authoritarian (I scored 34 on the survey), but I have mixed emotions about the issue. I worry that a preponderance of my mindset within the superorganism I inhabit may be suicidal (to my superorganism, that is). If there's to be a clash of memeplexes, and it seems likely that there is at least one serious clash in its early stages, it seems likely that the more cohesive memeplex (which I think implies "the most authoritarian memeplex" under present circumstances) may be the stronger. Is this self-evident or stupid?

Is it conceivable that an anti-authoritarian society could possess a ruthlessness sufficient to deal with this sort of clash? Is such ruthlessness conceivably compatible with a liberal society? Is such ruthlessness even necessary in such a clash?

I think the answer to the last question is probably "Yes". What, beside ruthlessness, will enable an anti-authoritarian society to survive in the face of conflict with a highly authoritarian and otherwise highly incompatible one, especially as the latter acquires the means, through various technologies and asymmetries, to threaten great or even terminal harm to the former?

Dunno. Given the trajectories of various other trends, it may not even matter. Sorry.

Hat tip to Pete Guither.

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