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Blind Boy Apollo
and the All-White Astronauts

New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. (Zizek)

Saturday, September 6

self-esteem and right-wing authoritarianism

too much at stake
ground beneath me shake
and the news is breaking...


shock the monkey ~ peter gabriel

NOTE: What follows, is more collage than essay -- perhaps even more so than in the usual case. Others have said it better than I might have, so I'm (mostly) just arranging extant bits and pieces here. However, and as usual, my aim is to paint a larger picture.

A couple-three weeks ago I downloaded the Audible version of Conservatives Without Conscience by John Dean. I have to say, I wasn't expecting much. I once saw Dean on some friends' TV during the Watergate hearings back in 1973, but soon I had to go home, milk the goats, drink a six-pack and smoke some righteous weed. Some Republican guy, was all I knew. Some kind of maverick conservative -- though I hesitate to use that adjective these latter days.

Boy, was I wrong! The book opened up a whole new universe of material that's highly germane to the mission (if such there be) of Mystic Bourgeoisie.

Dean had originally planned to write the book with Barry Goldwater, who was a close friend. The title is meant to echo Goldwater's autobiographical Conscience of a Conservative. I was struck by another book title echo, however: Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us. That may seem far fetched at first, but if you read Dean's book you'll quickly see that psychopathy is not at all far from his central theme of pathological consciencelessness -- or what I like to think of as the collective unconscience.

Here's what Library Journal (July, 2006) had to say about Conservatives Without Conscience...

In a book that will likely bring the full force of the Republican Party, the Bush White House, and Christian conservatives down on his head, Dean (former counsel to President Nixon) argues that some leaders of the Republican Party and of the conservative movement generally are authoritarian personalities without conscience. Having planned to coauthor a book with Barry Goldwater, Dean continued after Goldwater's death to read works such as T.W. Adorno and others' The Authoritarian Personality, Stanley Milgram's Obedience to Authority, and Bob Altemeyer's updates to such earlier research. Critics will contend that Dean is not qualified to discuss such complex material, but he successfully summarizes sophisticated social psychological and political science research for the average reader. Essentially, Altemeyer has identified people whose high scores on a battery of questions qualify them as "Double High, Right Wing Authoritarians," which means that they are highly dogmatic and excessively deferential to authority and admit that "moral issues of right and wrong behavior ... are irrelevant to them." Dean applies these theories to many VIPs on the Far Right and, in a final chapter, provides examples of the harmful effects wrought by "conservatives without conscience," e.g., Gingrich, DeLay, Frist, and Cheney and, by implication, the President.... Very highly recommended.

Altemeyer is an eye opener. Was for me, anyway. Here's the table of contents for The Authoritarian Specter (1996)...

    Introduction: Twenty Stories
  1. Previous Research on Right-Wing Authoritarianism
  2. Studying Authoritarianism: Research Methodology and Methodology Research
  3. The Personal Origins of Right-Wing Authoritarianism
  4. The Cognitive Behavior of Authoritarians
  5. Inconsistency and Blindness in the Authoritarian Mind
  6. Authoritarianism and Religion
  7. Sex and the Single Authoritarian
  8. Dogmatism
  9. Left-Wing Authoritarianism
  10. The Effects of Hate Literature
  11. The Authoritarianism of Legislators in North America
  12. Conclusion: A Few Last Words on the Subject
  13. Notes
The Harvard University Press catalog description reads in part...
The bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, the emergence of militias and skinheads, the rise of the religious right, the attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics, the backlash against equal rights movements, the increase in poverty... these, according to Bob Altemeyer, are all versions of one story -- the authoritarian personality in action. But aren't authoritarians Nazi types, kooks, the Klan? These are just the extreme examples, he argues. The Authoritarian Specter shows that many ordinary people today are psychologically disposed to embrace antidemocratic, fascist policies.
Unfortunately, The Authoritarian Specter costs 45 bucks on Amazon. But happily, after digging around a bit, I found that Altemeyer has written a new book, The Authoritarians (2006), and has made the whole thing available free on the web. The Acknowledgments begin...
If it turns out you do not like this book, blame John Dean. You never would have heard of my research if he had not recently plowed through my studies, trying to understand, first, various people he knew in the Nixon White House, and then some leading figures of the Republican Party of 2004. John Dean is quite a guy.
Here's the table of contents for The Authoritarians...
  1. Who Are the Authoritarian Followers?
  2. The Roots of Authoritarian Aggression, and Authoritarianism Itself
  3. How Authoritarian Followers Think
  4. Authoritarian Followers and Religious Fundamentalism
  5. Authoritarian Leaders
  6. Authoritarianism and Politics
  7. What's To Be Done?

I'd quote more, but this is already getting long, and you can go read more for yourself. Oh yeah, and there's also this: Why Do Religious Fundamentalists Tend to be Prejudiced? (Robert Altemeyer, The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 13(1), pp.17–28, Copyright© 2003. PDF).

Dean also talks about Social Dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression by Jim Sidanius and Felicia Pratto. This is heady stuff -- and heavy going. But it's richly suggestive along many dimensions. Here's a sample from p. 45 -- I have unpacked several acronyms in brackets.

... the social dominance model also posits the existence of a much more subtle form of asymmetry, labeled ideological asymmetry. ...our theory assumes that a host of HE [hierarchy-enhancing] legitimizing ideologies, such as racism, sexism, classism, and meritocracy, are driven by one's acceptance of and desire for group-based social hierarchy (i.e., SDO [social dominance orientation]). Not only is one's desire for group-based social dominance related to one's social ideologies, but both of these factors help drive group-relevant social policies. Those holding HE social ideologies are also those who are most likely to support social policies perceived to increase the degree of group-based social inequality (e.g., punitive social welfare legislation). In addition, these are also the same individuals who are most likely to oppose those social policies perceived to decrease the degree of group-based social inequality (e.g., affirmative action, protective discrimination). However, the ideological asymmetry hypothesis suggests that the degree to which HE and HA [hierarchy-attenuating] social ideologies and social policies are related to and driven by group dominance values will systematically vary as a function of one's position within the group-based, hierarchical social structure. Everything else being equal, the social attitudes and policy preferences of dominants are more strongly driven by social dominance values than is the case among subordinates.

If all you take away from a quick scan of that passage are two basic elements -- dominance and hierarchy -- they're all you really need to grasp the balance of this post. Which is to say: how the forgoing ideas percolate and cross-pollinate with themes that have already been explored on this blog. So here we go...

The following lists Maslow's writings on "dominance." These are taken from "Abraham H. Maslow: a Bibliography: Professional biography," in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 1970; 10; 98. For more on why this is relevant here, see my August 2005 Mystic B post, Manifest Destiny III.

  • 1936 - The role of dominance in the social and sexual behavior of infra-human primates I: Observations at Vilas Park Zoo. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 48, 261-277.
  • 1936 - Part II: An experimental determination of the dominance behavior syndrome. (With Sydney Flanzbaum). Journal of Genetic Psychology, 48, 278-309. Reprinted in W. Dennis (Ed.), Readings in general psychology. Prentice-Hall, 1949.
  • 1937 - Dominance-feeling, behavior and status. Psychological Review, 44, 404-429.
  • 1939 - Dominance-feeling, personality and social behavior Journal of Social Psychology, 10, 3-39.
  • 1940 - Dominance-quality and social behavior in infra-human primates. Journal of Social Psychology, 11, 313-324.
  • 1940 - A test for dominance-feeling (self-esteem) in college women. Journal of Social Psychology, 12, 255-270.
  • 1942 - Self-esteem (dominance-feeling) and sexuality in women. Journal of Social Psychology, 16, 259-294. Reprinted in M. DeMartino (Ed.), Sexual behavior and personality characteristics. Citadel Press, 1963. Re-printed H. M. Ruitenbeek (Ed.), Psychoanalysis and female sexuality. College and University Press, 1966.
  • 1960 - Some parallels between the dominance and sexual behavior of monkeys and the fantasies of patients in psychotherapy. (With H. Rand & S. Newman). Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 131, 202-212. Re-printed in M. DeMartino (Ed.), Sexual behavior and personality characteristics. Citadel Press, 1963. Reprinted in W. Bennis, et al, Interpersonal dynamics. (2nd Ed.) Dorsey, 1968.

The essential thing to notice here is Maslow's equation of dominance and self-esteem. Surprise, surprise!

The 1942 paper, "Self-esteem (dominance-feeling) and sexuality in women," begins...

This paper is one of a series presenting the results of a broadly comparative investigation of the dominance or self-esteem syndrome in animals and in humans, studied simultaneously from a biological and a cultural point of view. It was found, in the preliminary studies with monkeys and apes, that there was a remarkably close relationship between dominance and sexuality, so close indeed that we are now inclined to consider sexuality as a sub-pattern in the total dominance syndrome in these animals.

In view of the evidence presented in this paper, we can fairly say that the same conclusions hold true for the dominance syndrome in humans...

We can fairly say, can we? Well, thank you, Dr. Maslow, for explaining what you really meant to go in the green band of your fanciful Hierarchy of Needs:

"Dominance Feeling"

The following gloss is from "DIALOGUE. (discussion of Abraham H. Maslow's management theory)" in the Academy of Management Review, October 1, 2000.

Most management theorists are not aware that Maslow was a significant contributor to the primatology research of the 1930s. He was a major figure in that era's focus on the features of dominance hierarchies and was the first to propose the existence of a "dominance drive." Since all animals have this drive, Maslow argued, what enabled one individual to dominate another was its attitude of confidence or superiority. In monkeys and apes, this confidence was demonstrated though an assumption of dominance that was backed up by fighting ability (Maslow & Flanzbaum, 1936: 303-305); in humans, it was reflected in "dominance-feeling" -- that is, one's sense of self-esteem (Maslow, 1942). In either case, both the more and the less dominant accepted the superiority of the more dominant.
These musings by and about the so-called "Humanistic" psychologist Abraham Maslow seem highly relevant and contemporary in the wake of recent events at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Try this one on for a real "peak experience" you can share with your pals in the Esalen hot tubs!

Shock the Monkey

In the hands of the state, terror is usually directed toward the suppression of any organized and symbolic activities of subordinates perceived as posing concrete or symbolic threats to the continued power of dominants. Because states are disproportionately controlled by dominants, it is natural to expect that state terror will be directed disproportionately against subordinates rather than dominants.... Official terror is the legally sanctioned and publicly displayed violence and the threat of violence perpetrated by the state's security forces and the justice system.

Social Dominance, p. 206

It was Abraham Maslow who gave the Esalen actors a vocabulary and psychology to express how such potentialities might be "actualized." Hence Maslow’s notions of the self-actualized person and the peak experience.

from an interview with Jeffrey J. Kripal
author of Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion