The recent book by John Dean (of Watergate fame), called Conservatives Without Conscience has been a great hit on the Leftist blogs. There is for instance a huge and hugely self-satisfied comment string about it here. The comments there that amused me most were the ones by Leftists saying that they had not actually read the book but still thought it was great. Very Leftist. They KNOW what is right: Evidence is irrelevant.
The book says of course that conservatives are psychologically disturbed and "authoritarian" -- an ongoing leftist theme that goes all the way back to a 1950 book which had as its leading author the Marxist theoretican Theodor Wiesengrund (aka Adorno). The Adorno book was written at a time when most Leftists alive could remember themselves espousing doctrines similar to Hitler's (the prewar American Left was heavily into racism, antisemitism, eugenics, nationalism, homophobia etc.) so, nonsensical though it was, the book was eagerly seized on by the Left of the day as a way of attaching Nazism to conservatives rather than to themselves.
The book has long since been discredited (See e.g. here and here) and one of the most comprehensive demolitions of it was by a curious Canadian psychology professor known as "Bob" Altemeyer. Altemeyer (1981) pointed out in great and convincing detail that the research methods and research results available did not support the claims of the book but he still thought that the theory behind the book was pretty right. So he set out on his own large program of research to find support for at least some parts of the theory.
The central pillar of his research was a new inventory of attitudes -- attitudes which he claimed reflected "Right-wing authoritarianism" (RWA). In a quite hilarious piece of bathos, however, he concluded in one of his later books that: "Right wing authoritarians show little preference in general for any political party" (p. 239 of Enemies of Freedom). In other words, the people Altemeyer's questionnaire identified as "Right-wing authoritarians" were in fact as likely to vote for the Canadian Liberals or the U.S. Democrats as they were likely to vote for Conservatives or Republicans! His "Rightists" were, in other words, often Leftists!
Such a stupid body of work as Altemeyer's claims about conservatism would of course long ago have been consigned to the dustbin of history if reason and logic were what motivated the Left but in fact Altemeyer's work is wildly popular among Leftist social scientists and social commentators -- and the John Dean book relies heavily on it. So if you ever do get around to looking at the Dean book, just remember that everything he says is just as likely to be true of Democrat supporters as GOP voters!
For those interested in a more comprehensive demolition of the Dean book, Peter Thomas has written one. See Liberals Without Logic.
Adorno,T.W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D.J. & Sanford, R.N. (1950). The authoritarian personality. New York: Harper.
Altemeyer, R. (1981). Right-wing authoritarianism. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.
Altemeyer, R. (1988) Enemies of freedom: Understanding Right-wing authoritarianism. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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