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Theodor Adorno--principal author

German philosopher, sociologist, composer: “The Authoritarian Personality” 1950. His co-authors were Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel Levinson, and R Nevitt Sanford. Adorno et al questioned why the German citizens tolerated mass extermination of Jews during WWII. He discovered a composite personality from a set of traits developed from contacts with former Nazis and German citizens in various walks of life. Adorno wanted to understand why and how an Authoritarian personality could replace the individualistic and democratic style that rose to prominence in the 19th Century. The Authoritarian personality was new, ambiguous, and surprising. His book was influential; it opened new avenues of research.

In 1950, Adorno et. al. characterized the Authoritarian Personality in the German populace. They found:

  • Excessive conformity
  • Insecurity
  • Intolerance, bigotry
  • Rigid, stereotyped thought patterns
  • Submissiveness to authority
  • Superstitiousness

Adorno was a prophet. His penetrating insights have stood the test of time. In high irony, some of the traits Adorno found, Hitler projected onto the Jews!!

Links to Authoritarianism

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