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

9 - Manning the Barricades: Racism and Intolerance under Conditions of Normative Threat


The overarching goals of this work were to develop and test a general theory of intolerance of difference that could explain the most intolerance with the merest model, while accounting for both persistent inclinations to intolerance, and varying expression of that intolerance under differing conditions. In the early chapters, I elaborated and defended a dynamic mechanism purporting to explain the manifold expressions of intolerance of difference with just an enduring psychological predisposition responding to changing conditions of normative threat. Chapter 4 provided some initial tests of the theory, in the course of demonstrating the ability of the authoritarian dynamic to reconcile extant theories alternately emphasizing the psychology or the politics of intolerance, and to dissolve those persistent empirical puzzles long hindering acceptance of the value of the concept. But in the intervening chapters, the authoritarian dynamic has essentially been idling in the wings, its return to center stage awaiting persuasive demonstration that authoritarianism is a deep-seated predisposition, whose primary motives yield a functionally related array of stances concerned with minimizing difference in all its manifestations; that it is distinct from conservatism in its character, origins, and effects; and that it is the primary determinant of intolerance of difference across domains, cultures, and time.

With that much established, we return now to the fundamental dynamic with which we began. I have argued that racial, political, and moral intolerance and punitiveness are “kindred spirits”: that they are functionally related stances, driven by the same engine, fueled by the same impulses, and manifested under the same conditions.

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The Authoritarian Dynamic
  • Online ISBN: 9780511614712
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