Thesis Eleven 163 (1):89-102 (2021)

Geoff Boucher
Deakin University
Frankfurt School critical theory is perhaps the most significant theory of society to have developed directly from a research programme focused on the critique of political authoritarianism, as it manifested during the interwar decades of the 20th century. The Frankfurt School’s analysis of the persistent roots – and therefore the perennial nature – of what it describes as the ‘authoritarian personality’ remains influential in the analysis of authoritarian populism in the contemporary world, as evidenced by several recent studies. Yet the tendency in these studies is to reference the final formulation of the category, as expressed in Theodor Adorno and co-thinkers’ The Authoritarian Personality, as if this were a theoretical readymade that can be unproblematically inserted into a measured assessment of the threat to democracy posed by current authoritarian trends. It is high time that the theoretical commitments and political stakes in the category of the authoritarian personality are re-evaluated, in light of the evolution of the Frankfurt School. In this paper, I review the classical theories of the authoritarian personality, arguing that two quite different versions of the theory – one characterological, the other psychodynamic – can be extracted from Frankfurt School research.
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DOI 10.1177/07255136211005957
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Escape From Freedom.Erich Fromm - 1941 - Science and Society 6 (2):187-190.
Eclipse of Reason.Max Horkheimer - 1948 - Philosophy 23 (87):368-369.

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