Friday, April 6, 2018

Introduction to my series on authoritarianism

Back in the spring of 2016, during the US presidential campaign, I started writing a series of posts about the authoritarianism of Donald Trump and his followers. One set of posts described Erich Fromm’s analysis of the authoritarian character and its causes, with the last in the set intended to show how Trump and the movement he led fit the bill.

That last post grew to an unmanageable length over the summer of that year as I added more links and details to each section. I was very concerned at the time to make a solid enough case for Trumpism’s authoritarianism to convince even skeptics. Fromm’s major works on the subject focused primarily (though not exclusively) on Hitler and Nazism, so I expected significant pushback on the idea.

In retrospect, the concern was obviously misplaced – the evidence provided of Trump’s authoritarianism every day since the inauguration is so abundant that only a dishonest observer would fail to acknowledge the reality. In any event, I put the series aside for the most part in the late summer and early fall of 2016, (over-)confident in Clinton’s eventual victory and believing my time would be better spent documenting Trump’s and Trumpism’s daily affronts to decency and democracy.

Since the election, and particularly given the glut of books and articles tending to advance a fairly superficial view of authoritarianism and its causes, I’ve returned to the series, which draws on ideas I’ve been discussing here for several years.

In this series of posts, I plan to talk about

• the psychological roots of authoritarianism in childhood experience
• the relationship between authoritarianism and capitalism
• the ideology, growth, and tactics of authoritarian movements in the US and Europe
• authoritarianism and identity
• the sources and methods of resistance to authoritarianism in the past and present
• and a variety of other topics and issues related to authoritarianism.

I’ll discuss and review books, articles, and films that shed light on the subject. And I’ll analyze political developments through the lens of what I see as the best ideas about authoritarianism.

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