Even psychologists are now beginning to notice Leftist authoritarianism
With Antifa and many students marching in the footsteps of Hitler's brownshirts, it had become hard not to notice.After the summary and abstract below I add a few notes designed to recontextualize the article below
New research provides evidence that left-wing authoritarian attitudes exist in the United States. The preliminary findings, published in the scientific journal Political Psychology, suggest liberals could be just as likely to be authoritarians as conservatives.
“Political ideology in general is one of the most important and predictive variables in human psychology,” said study author Lucian Gideon Conway, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Montana.
“I became interested in left-wing authoritarianism in particular because some people have said it isn’t a very real or likely phenomenon — and yet I know people I would describe as left-wing authoritarians. So I was curious to figure that out.”
Conway and his colleagues developed a measure of left-wing authoritarianism, which was adapted from the right-wing authoritarianism scale developed by psychologist Bob Altemeyer.
The RWA scale asks participants how much they agree with statements such as: “It’s always better to trust the judgment of the proper authorities in government and religion than to listen to the noisy rabble-rousers in our society who are trying to create doubts in people’s minds” and “Our country desperately needs a mighty leader who will do what has to be done to destroy the radical new ways and sinfulness that are ruining us.”
The new LWA scale, on the other hand, asks questions such as: “It’s always better to trust the judgment of the proper authorities in science with respect to issues like global warming and evolution than to listen to the noisy rabble-rousers in our society who are trying to create doubts in people’s minds” and “Our country desperately needs a mighty leader who will do what has to be done to destroy the radical new ways and sinfulness that are ruining us.”
Both scales were tested on a group of 475 undergraduates at the University of Montana and a group of 305 U.S. adults who were recruited online from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.
The researchers found that left-wing authoritarianism was associated with liberal views, dogmatism, and prejudice among both samples of participants, suggesting it is a valid concept.
“Our data suggest that average Americans on the political left are just as likely to be dogmatic authoritarians as those on the political right. And those left-wing authoritarians can be just as prejudiced, dogmatic, and extremist as right-wing authoritarians,” Conway told PsyPost.
Finding the Loch Ness Monster: Left-Wing Authoritarianism in the United States
Lucian Gideon Conway III et al.
Although past research suggests authoritarianism may be a uniquely right-wing phenomenon, the present two studies tested the hypothesis that authoritarianism exists in both right-wing and left-wing contexts in essentially equal degrees. Across two studies, university (n = 475) and Mechanical Turk (n = 298) participants completed either the RWA (right-wing authoritarianism) scale or a newly developed (and parallel) LWA (left-wing authoritarianism) scale. Participants further completed measurements of ideology and three domain-specific scales: prejudice, dogmatism, and attitude strength. Findings from both studies lend support to an authoritarianism symmetry hypothesis: Significant positive correlations emerged between LWA and measurements of liberalism, prejudice, dogmatism, and attitude strength. These results largely paralleled those correlating RWA with identical conservative-focused measurements, and an overall effect-size measurement showed LWA was similarly related to those constructs (compared to RWA) in both Study 1 and Study 2. Taken together, these studies provide evidence that LWA may be a viable construct in ordinary U.S. samples.
COMMENT: This article was written from within the tight bubble of leftist political psychology so it is unusual only in that context.
Readers of history or observers of contemporary politics would know that ALL Leftism is authoritarian. Barack Obama was the chosen delegate of the Democratic party so when in his first campaign he said to wild cheers from his supporters that his aim was to "fundamentally transform" America he was presenting an ideology that was just about as authoritarian as you could get. And Leftism in general is about imposed change.
And in the French revolution and the Communist regimes of the 20th century we saw how brutally Leftists impose change when they get their hands of the levers of power. Fortunately, Congress was too big a block on change for Mr Obama to accomplish much of his aims.
But let us temporarily abandon reality and dive into the bubble of Leftist thinking about political psychology.
Leftist political psychology principally originated to meet a desperate need of the American Left immediately after the defeat of Hitler. Hitler had become a huge embarrassment. Anybody who knew well the Americam "Progressive" politics of the 1930's would be aware Hitler's ideas and what was preached by Americam "Progressives" were basically the same -- including the antisemitism and the eugenics. Hitler just applied German thoroughness to 1930s socialism.
But Hitler was now the great political failure so there was a desperate need to prevent any connections with him and his ideas. You could abandon some of your policies that you shared with hin -- such as eugenics -- but other policies -- such as hostility to business and a desire to control it -- were too basic to let go.
So where was a way out of that dilemma? One way out was to adopt the Communist claim that Hitler was "Rightist". And the Marxists were partly right about that. Hitler was less disruptive to the existing order than the Communists in Russia were so he was clearly to the right of Communism, but Leftist otherwise. But that in fact made him MORE like the American Progressives than less so that was not much of a solution.
But help was at hand. Some mostly German academics led by prominent Marxist theoretician, Theodor Wiesengrund (AKA Adorno) had a solution. They would use the methods of psychological research to show that it was really conservatives, not Leftists who threatened America with authoritarian rule. Reality could be flipped on its head and conservatives could be presented as the true heirs of Hitler.
One would have thought that such an absurdly counter-factual proposition would be laughed to death but the opposite happened. The whole American Left celebrated the revelation with gladsome hearts. They built an intellectual bubble wherein only conservatives could be authoritarian. And they never strayed from that bubble. The highpoint of that folly was probably when Robert Altemeyer claimed that he couldn't find a single Authoritarian Leftist in the whole of Canada! So you can see what brave skeptics Conway and his co-authors above are. It will be interesting to see if he has any influence.
Just a methodological note to conclude: Conway et al. used as their measure of authoritarianism the ludicrous Altemeyer RWA scale. That scale allegedly measures Right-wing authoritarianism. But the highest scores found on it were from Russian Communists. But if Communists are Right-swing, we would seem to be in a state of definitional collapse. If Communists are Right-wing, who are the Leftists? The RWA scale clearly does not measure what it claims to measure.
Altemeyer himself has backed down in response to that revelation and defined his RWA scale as measuring "submission to the perceived established authorities in one's life". It now measures neither authoritarianism nor anything Right wing! Looking at its items, I would say that it just measures political hostility but who knows what it measures, if anything?
In his future research Conway should clearly pay much more attention to the validity of the instruments he uses. As it stands, I doubt that he has proved anything
My academic publications on authoritarianism are here. A comment on Altemeyer's more recent capers is here