On "Authoritarian Personality" and Democracy
In my opinion the single best work on democracy’s institutional needs is:
My own view is that to have democracy, several factors, in some mix, have to be present:
socio-economic (large middle class)
political culture (civic culture among the educated/or and the masses)
democratic personality (democratic leaders)
global conditions (antipathy towards dictatorial ideologies, interests of great powers)
To have dictatorship, also several factors have to be present:
socio-economic (ruling monarchies, small middle class, oligarchies with dictatorial ideologies)
political culture (authoritarian culture among the educated and/or masses)
authoritarian leaders (authoritarian personality)
global conditions (interests of great powers; dictatorial ideologies like Islamic fundamentalism, fascism, Stalinism are conducive for dictatorship)
The best work on socio-economic conditions for democracy and dictatorship is Barrington Moore’s classic study:
a good primer on civic culture and democracy:
a good article (later on book) on global conditions is Samuel Huntington’s "Democracy’s Third Wave" published on the Journal of Democracy.
Some scholars believe that some individuals (as followers and leaders) hold a cluster of characteristics that predisposes them towards authoritarian or democratic personality. It began with Erich Fromm and then the Frankfort School. There have been much corrections and modifications from the original formulations.
brief description of authoritarian personality
scholarly article on authoritarian personality (you might want to print and read it; some pages are upside-down).
I do have reservations on each of the above. But each contains great amount of wisdom and analyses. We could cull together from each that makes sense and discard that which does not.
If all the four factors are present, we see consolidated democracy. Otherwise, we might get dictatorship. Personality of leaders, educated middle class, and the masses each plays a significant and at times determining role. For example, in all indications, India in 1947 was NOT conducive for democracy. But the democratic personality of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawahar Laal Nehru made the difference. If these two leaders possessed authoritarian personalities, then India would have become dictatorial. But due to their personalities and commitments, they were able to create an enduring democracy despite massive poverty, huge ethno-sectarian divisions, mass illiteracy, and bad global conditions for democratization.
Pakistan was similar to India is almost all the indices. Except the religion and the leadership. Pakistan and India were part of the Indian subcontinent with the same class structure and same colonial history. Also the experience of Bangladesh is instructive that is similar to Pakistan in terms of religion, and was dominated by it, but became democratic, in large measure perhaps due to the influence of India during its war of independence.
In the U.S., the authoritarian personality of Nixon was so harmful (and the dictatorial actions he committed) that the Congress began the process to impeach and remove him. Nixon resigned on the eve of certain impeachment (and very highly likely removal). The democratic system in the U.S. along with the democratic civic culture of the U.S. removed a person with terribly dictatorial personality from ruling them.
In Iran today, we have a conducive situation for a transition to democracy. But it is not guaranteed. Certainly, the primary obstacle to a transition to democracy is the fundamentalist regime. But if the leaders possess authoritarian personality, we will not have a transition to democracy. If the educated individuals and the educated middle class support anti-democratic groups, then we will not have democracy.
We need to shun those with authoritarian personalities and support those with a democratic personality. Therefore, increase the likelihood of democratization and then democratic consolidation.
What are some of the characteristics of authoritarian personality? What are some of the characteristics of democratic personality?
accept diversity; tolerance of dissident views; pluralism; accept the rights of those with whom one disagrees; accept the rights of others to criticize one’s policies; defend the rights of those with whom one disagrees
viciously attack those who hold a different view; go ballistic when someone criticizes one’s policies; do not defend the rights of those with whom one disagrees; want permanent leadership in one’s group’s hands (more than just the policy, but rather a characteristic);
A person with democratic personality put in charge of a dictatorial system could cause it to collapse. For example, Gorbachev was the leader of the Communist Part of the Soviet Union. The CPSU was a total dictatorship. Its ideology was a dictatorial ideology (did not allow the right of dissent, did not allow free democratic elections, free press, etc). But Gorbachev’s reforms caused the whole system to collapse.
Stalin Personality: I define Stalinist personality as a personality that talks about progressive ideals while at the same time engaging in or supporting of, or being silent about terribly horrendous genocidal policies. Stalin talked about commitment to socialism (getting rid of exploitation, equality, and liberation) while at the same time mass murdering members of the CPSU’s own politburo, Central Committee, and putting millions of human beings in concentration camps and mass murdering them.
Hitler Personality: This personality regards other human being who think differently as pests and roaches to be exterminated. This personality does not think mass killing is bad. There is an aspect of psychopathic disregard for human life in their personality. The more sophisticated among this group hide their genocidal personality. Others in this group who are less sophisticated do not realize that genocide is regarded as bad by others, so they do not hide it until others condemn them. Many Pahlavi monarchists and many Islamic fundamentalist in Iran posses this kind of personality.
The Hitler personality is a fascist personality. This was discussed by Erich Fromm and then others in the Frankfort school (Adorno, Habermass). The individuals possessing the Hitler personality hold strong hierarchical views of society and government. In their view, those who are dissidents have to be eliminated. They are against democracy, freedom, and human rights. The more sophisticated among them hide their true views, while the less sophisticated express them. When one hears someone uses words like "pest" for human beings, then we should be alarmed about the existence of this personality in that person or group. When someone says that there should be ONLY one group or leader, then we have become alarmed.
The role of educated middle class and the educated individuals.
If we want freedom, democracy, and human rights, then we have to oppose dictatorial groups and support pro-democracy groups.
We should respect the rights of those with whom we disagree to hold their views. If they are anti-democratic, we should defend their rights and oppose the content of their ideas and policies.
In other words, we need to be actively civil libertarian. This means that we should defend the RIGHTS of those with whom we disagree to be able to express them.
At the current time, the number one enemy of democracy and freedom in Iran is the fundamentalist regime. This requires that we strongly and unequivocally criticize them and condemn them. This requires that we defeat them. Those on the streets of Iran will do the real heavy work and pay the highest price for freedom. Those of us in the safety of our homes outside Iran can and should do all we can to confront and defeat the supporters and apologists of the fundamentalist regime.
sorry for the typos
I may add if I could get some free time
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