Essay Compare And Contrast Altemeyer's Approach To Authoritarianism

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Outline the similarities and differences between Adorno et al.’s (1950) and Altemeyer’s (1981) approach to authoritarianism

The rise of fascism in Germany in the 1930’s and the acts of aggression and atrocities committed by the Nazis during the Second World War led to questions being asked as to why some people where prone to such levels of violence and hate in the name of political ideology. The ‘Authoritarian Personality’ was a concept suggested in 1950 by German sociologist Theodor Adorno and colleagues following their research identifying the personality traits believed to allow an individual to be bias towards and follow a fascist ideology. Although initially met with great excitement, over time the authoritarian personality alone …show more content…

(2012). Although Altemeyer’s research also recognised and supported these findings his concept of authoritarianism was different. He defined RWA not as personality type with fixed characteristics but as a set of three attitudes similar to three of the characteristics Adorno et al also used to describe the authoritarian personality:
Authoritarian submission: A high level of respect and submission to perceived legitimate authority figures or establishments. Authoritarian aggression: Aggressiveness directed against targets identified by the established authorities. Conventionalism: The aversion to new ideas with a preference towards social norms which should be adhered to by all of the individual’s society (Bobbio et al 2007).

Although Altemeyer agreed with Adorno et al on what the behavioral and attitudinal features of authoritarianism were, a key difference he put forward was his interpretation of where it actually came from. Adorno et al took a psychoanalytical approach, as first popularised by Sigmund Freud in the late 19th century to the explanation of the causes of authoritarianism. They claimed children who experienced a strong level of parental discipline

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