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Question From Visitor

4 Jan 2004

Is there such a thing as a Liberal with an "Authoritarian Personality" disorder, or is this a problem unique to Conservatives?

Perhaps there is a parallel virus we might call "Anarchy Personality" disorder. Hmmm....?

Editor's Reply

Thanks for your excellent question. How did you happen to come up with this insight? It is most interesting. Yes, there are many authoritarians in the Liberal party in Canada and among the Democrats in the US, to answer your first question.

As for the second, we had not thought of the anarchy aspect in the way you suggest. You may have something. Our offhand take is that anarchists, and extremists in general, are mostly AP types; they are the extreme wing of a potentially extremist party, so to speak.

My psychology resource advises that AP is more complex than described on this site. At the same time my resource said that what we do make of it is basically correct.

Authoritarian Personality, AP, is a behavior type like introverted or extroverted and like those two is an inherited tendency. Some people naturally like structure in their lives, to be told what to do, and tell others likewise, all according to a book of rules. Like all personality types, an AP in the extreme range of a continuum is a dangerous AP.

AP is conservative by nature. Nevertheless, it is a perfectly good trait in many professions and bureaucracies requiring structure and discipline. Most authoritarians are likely to be conservatives, but many are thoughtful enough to hold liberal views even though they may be against their instincts. I know a few and I admire the fact that their heads overrule their instincts.

APs appear to be more vulnerable to radicalizing experiences than are thoughtful people with well-rounded educations. The Milgram Study is well worth the read; he found a very large fraction of all of us to be all too suggestible and obedient to the least of authorities. There were several follow-up studies that verified his basic conclusions under different conditions.

AP could hardly be classified as a personality disorder at this stage of our understanding of such things. One's environment influences what the owner of such a personality makes of it. Of course some four percent of all of us are Sociopaths, without conscience. They leave destruction in their wakes in whatever role they fill, at whatever level. These are the people who are not only abusive parents reproducing their own kind, but co-opt religions, companies and governments at every opportunity. They are the greatest danger to humanity.

Regards and thanks again for your marvelous question.


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