Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Politics of Authoritarianism and a Democracy in Peril

"Authoritarianism is a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority. It is opposed to individualism and democracy. In politics, an authoritarian government is one in which political power is concentrated in a leader or leaders ... who possess exclusive, unaccountable, and arbitrary power." - Wikipedia
I was given a link to a free book on the internet, The Authoritarians, written by Bob Altemeyer, an authority (pardon the pun) on the subject. He had been contacted by John Dean, author of Conservatives Without Conscience, who had used Altemeyer's vast body of work, while researching his book.
Dean, Goldwater [the late Barry Goldwater who was supposed to have co-authored Dean's book] and others with solid Republican credentials had been alarmed by the capture of the Grand Old Party by the Religious Right and its seemingly amoral leaders.
Inspired, Altemeyer decided to try his hand at publishing his own work, based on his years researching the subject. And what's interesting is that he tackles it not from the perspective of the authoritarian leader, but the people who allow that leader to have so much control.

Stephen Harper only gained complete power, because we relinquished ours.
Authoritarianism is something authoritarian followers and authoritarian leaders cook up between themselves. It happens when the followers submit too much to the leaders, trust them too much, and give them too much leeway to do whatever they want--which often is something undemocratic, tyrannical and brutal. In my day, authoritarian fascist and authoritarian communist dictatorships posed the biggest threats to democracies, and eventually lost to them in wars both hot and cold. But authoritarianism itself has not disappeared, and I'm going to present the case in this book that the greatest threat to American democracy today arises from a militant authoritarianism that has become a cancer upon the nation.
That cancer has hit Canada, so it's important to read Altemeyer's book, to gain a better understanding of what is happening here, and hopefully learn what we can do to stop the disease. Simply getting rid of Harper won't be enough, although it's certainly a step in the right direction.


The Politics of Authoritarianism: "I've Never Seen Anything Like It"

Democracy in Crisis: Governing Under a Cloud


  1. It's a fantastic book. The last chapter talks about what we can do to stop this.

    One of the things he mentioned was we must find some common ground, or share a joint activity, with a neocon and gain some trust with the poor creature before we talk about what's wrong with HarperLand.

  2. Emily, I don't think it's going to do anyone else any good if you and I read books on the subject, because we already know.
    I applaud you for using your blog and Facebook to try to reach others. I know I joked about bumper stickers or something with the Mark Twain quote on it, but something, somehow, has to reach other people or we're just preaching to the choir.
    I never thought I'd find myself agreeing with Barry Goldwater, but you never know what will happen until it happens, eh?

  3. It's true. I just try to approach the subject from every angle. I was at the Liberal nomination meeting for Kingston and the Islands on the weekend, and I was pleased to hear so many people using the term neoconservative.

    That was the first time.

    Before this whenever I mentioned it people's eyes would glaze over.

    I'm trying to hammer the message that same way the neocons do, so it becomes part of the Canadian psyche.

  4. Rabbi Michael Lerner suggests similar in his book The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right

    He says attacking their beliefs only makes them stronger.