Twentieth Century Psychology: Recent Developments in Psychology

By Philip Lawrence Harriman | Go to book overview

THE AUTHORITARIAN CHARACTER STRUCTURE*

A. H. MASLOW Brooklyn College

In this war it is difficult to differentiate our friends from our enemies. The usual criteria that have been used in the past fail us now. But even so, our press and our leaders come back to them again for lack of something better. A fascist cannot be defined by his geographical location, his nominal national citizenship, the language he speaks, his religion, his skin color or other racial characteristics, his economic class, or even social caste. Any of these determiners may be involved in any individual case, but none of them will serve for all cases. To make the situation worse, we cannot even trust what people say or do, for personal expediencey as well as covert loyalties may cause the most astounding shifts in policy or in behavior. It may be pointed out finally that in the last analysis even the conscious belief of the subjects about himself is not altogether trustworthy, for there are many who tend unconsciously in the authoritarian direction.

The psychologist now has available data and principles that can certainly help in clearing up these confusions, so that by

____________________
*
This paper is the result of five years of off-and-on clinical study of authoritarian individuals in our society. This study was stimulated primarily by a series of lectures on the subject by Dr. Erich Fromm, then of the International Institute of Social Research. Fromm recent book, Escape from Freedom, presents some of his conclusions on authoritarianism. Since I have found myself in disagreement with him at certain basic theoretical points (even though in agreement on most else) and since the subject is of such obvious importance today, it seemed justifiable to present this differently centered point of view of the same subject matter, even though he has discussed it so well. A summer's field work with the Northern Blackfoot Indians, made possible by a grant-in-aid from the Social Science Research Council, has also influenced this paper.

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