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

1 - Introduction: The Authoritarian Dynamic


Some people will never live comfortably in a modern liberal democracy. How they got to be that way, what consequences it has for the rest of us, and the conditions under which we will feel those effects are the subjects of this book. This work focuses on a particular type of person: one who cannot treat with natural ease or generosity those who are not his own kindred or kind, who is inclined to believe only “right-thinking” people should be free to air their opinions, and who tends to see others' moral choices as everybody's business – indeed, the business of the state. It is about the kind of people who – by virtue of deep-seated predispositions neither they nor we have much capacity to alter – will always be imperfect democratic citizens, and only discouraged from infringing others' rights and liberties by responsible leadership, the force of law, fortuitous societal conditions, and near-constant reassurance.

This is not a person peculiar to any particular society or era; readers everywhere will recognize this character among their ranks (Greenstein 1987). The only variation is in the designation of “us” and “them” (Tajfel and Turner 1979; 1986; Tajfel 1981; Moscovici 1984; Turner 1987), and of what counts as right and wrong. What remains constant is this familiar triad of racial, political, and moral intolerance: the tendency to glorify some “in-group” and to denigrate “out-groups” (Turner and Brown 1978; Tajfel and Turner 1979; 1986; Tajfel 1981; Turner 1987), to venerate and privilege a set of ideas and practices, and to reward or punish others according to their conformity to this “normative order” (Stenner 1997).

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The Authoritarian Dynamic
  • Online ISBN: 9780511614712
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