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    Thompson, Michael J. 2009. Fleeing the City. p. 9.

  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: June 2012

4 - The Authoritarian Dynamic and the Politics of Fear: Putting the Pieces of the Puzzle Together


I have repeatedly asserted in the preceding discussions that the theory of the authoritarian dynamic resolves (actually, dissolves) some persistent empirical puzzles in the literature. These include, first, the troubling fact that authoritarianism does not consistently predict behavior across different situations. Sometimes the behavior of authoritarians is clearly distinguishable from that of libertarians, but other times it is not. Second, we have the fact that authoritarian behaviors in the aggregate appear to surge and subside with changing environmental conditions (although still rather inconsistently so). It turns out that these two empirical puzzles are actually one and the same. They simply represent two alternative perspectives, or “angles,” on the authoritarian dynamic, each generated by the fact that the relationship between authoritarianism and intolerance changes with varying conditions of normative threat. Since this notion of a dynamic relationship between authoritarian predisposition and expressions of intolerance is the central idea of this work, it seems appropriate and illuminating to get the investigations under way with some empirical demonstrations of the behavior of that dynamic, viewed under varying conditions and from different angles.


Recall from the earlier critique of Altemeyer's Right-Wing Authoritarianism scale my argument that the RWA index actually measures not fundamental predisposition to authoritarianism, but rather expressed authoritarian attitudes (i.e., manifest expressions of intolerance of difference).

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The Authoritarian Dynamic
  • Online ISBN: 9780511614712
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