The Authoritarian Personality By Erich Fromm

1214 Words5 Pages
In his essay, “The Authoritarian Personality,” Erich Fromm elucidates the two types of authoritarian personalities: the passive-authoritarian (masochistic, submissive), and the active-authoritarian (sadistic, dominant). In contrast to the authoritarian personality—which is marked by one’s inability to rely upon oneself—Fromm posits that the character of the independent individual is marked by two skills: love and reason. According to Fromm, love allows the individual to maintain autonomy whilst connecting to the world, and reason allows the individual to delve beneath the surface to determine how things operate. Thus, the individual fueled by reason and love can participate in “rational authority”—a relationship (such as that between…show more content…
We became employees and consumers; we came to understand that we are responsible not only for our own welfare, but for the welfare of our fellow laborers. With individuality comes not only conscience and accountability, but perplexity, estrangement, thunderstruckness—in short, the deep aloneness of which Fromm writes. To participate in society, one must often be complicit. Responding to authority with trust rather than doubt provides the most convenient means by which to alleviate one’s deep sense of aloneness. To question everything, after all, is to put oneself in a state of perpetual limbo. Prolonged uncertainty wreaks inner havoc. Passivity (with its homeostatic rewards) often wins out. While passivity and domination is to be found everywhere in a capitalistic society, I often look to art to examine the mechanisms by which authority takes hold, and the ways that we struggle against it. Film, of course, is just one of many media we use to explore our own natures, particularly in relation to authority—our strengths, our shortcomings—but it is one of the most powerful. It can disseminate a point of view that strikes at all senses. (As Jeanette Winterson writes: “If art, all art, is concerned with truth, then a society in denial will not find much use for it…”). The 2012 film Compliance, for instance, dramatizes a series of real-life
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