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Bryan Tucker – Authoritarian Character Structure

This essay from 2018 that was published in Fifth Estate covers the views of Wilhelm Reich and Erich Fromm on authoritarian character and/or personality. I am more familiar with Fromm’s views than Reich’s, but neither are new to me. The basic idea is that some people are more authoritarian than others and that this can be explained by the way that society is organized. It is difficult to deny that some people are more consistently authoritarian than others, but I think that the notion of an authoritarian type of person is much less useful than some would assume.

It is better to think about authoritarian behavior as a common response to common situations. When those situations are frequent and those who respond in an authoritarian way to them are rewarded, such behavior can become habitual. It can become so habitual that it then becomes formalized and pursued for its own sake, constructing forms of organization that we then think of as authoritarian systems. The important questions to answer are rather, “What situations encourage authoritarian behavior and why is that behavior successful in those situations?”

The three most obvious situations that result in authoritarian behavior are war, emergencies, and scarcity of survival necessities. While those situations do not need to result in authoritarian behavior, there are often rewards for such behavior. Social rewards like respect, admiration, and status that can result from authoritarian behavior can lead to rewards in other domains: psychological, economic, political. Furthermore, other situational factors can increase the chances of authoritarian behavior, like the incompetence, ignorance, or weakness of others involved or prejudices that suggest who should make decisions and who should initiate action. Concerns for privacy or secrecy also contribute to authoritarian behaviors because those concerns encourage strong boundaries between those who should and those who should not be informed.

None of the above factors absolutely determine authoritarian behavior and they do not generally indicate who should or shouldn’t act in such ways…

This distinction between behaviors and personalities may seem subtle, but it makes a huge difference. When we assume that some people are themselves more authoritarian than others, we set ourselves up to diagnose the person. In other areas of social behavior, we know how problematic such an approach can be. Criminal behavior is a good example. Anarchists have long criticized criminologists for assuming that there are in fact criminal people, those who crime comes natural to or who are otherwise overdetermined to commit crimes. We ought to be just as critical when it comes to authority and the formalization of authority as authoritarian systems.

Yes, it may be true that there are indeed authoritarian types, but compared with the motivations for authoritarian behavior described above, I think such people are much less of a problem for anarchists than the situations that encourage such behavior are. In recognizing our own potential authoritarian behaviors and their motivation, we face a much deeper problem. However, as we create non-authoritarian behaviors in response to those situations, we chart paths out of authoritarian relationships and systems.

I could elaborate on all of this much more, but it would be a waste of energy as a response to an old essay.

[Infographic] A Visual History of The English Language


The Crisis Over American Manhood Is Really Code for Something Else

Damn! What an excellent article!

The unanswered question, “what do men want?” is pretty simple…

Men want to win

The Best Way to Find Out If Someone Is a Trump Voter? Ask Them What They Think About Manhood

This was a nice addition to the previous article. I guess Politico is doing a whole issue (of something?) on masculinity.

One suggestion in the article was that since both Democrats and Republicans put a lot of importance on the idea of masculinity, the Democrats could counter the toxic masculinity supported by Republicans with their own ideal version. The author didn’t call it “toxic masculinity,” but I am guessing it’s what they were thinking. I think that idea sucks. I know what I propose is an impossible sell for most people, but the entire notion of masculinity is putrid. Masculinity should be attacked, ruthlessly. I’m pretty convinced that at the end of the day, the whole idea of masculinity is a device to encourage the development of cannon fodder. It out-performs nationalism and even afterlife rewards in that regard. And when there isn’t any combat to realize the goals of masculinity, masculinity finds other outlets for its aggression.

I’m going to wrap things up here because these pieces all complement each other so well.