Are you a fascist? : Pass Theodor Adorno’s authoritarian personality test created to fight fascism (1947)

A man of diverse accomplishments, Theodor Adorno is perhaps best known as the epitome of the exiled mid-century European intellectual. After his Jewish background drove him out of Nazi Germany, he spent fifteen years in England and the United States. Despite his geographical distance from the turmoil of the continent – and even after the end of World War II – it is understandable that he remained very concerned about the nature not only of Hitler himself, but of all those who confronted him. supported. This led to studies such as his 1947 essay “Wagner, Nietzsche and Hitler” as well as (in collaboration with Berkeley scholars Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel Levinson and Nevitt Sanford) the 1950 book authoritarian personality.

authoritarian personalityThe best-known tool for diagnosing the holder’s personal and social condition is a quantitative system called “California F-scale” – the F stands for fascism – which produces a score based on a subject’s response to a set of propositions. “To create a personality test that actually reveals latent authoritarianism, researchers had to abandon the idea that there is a strong link between anti-Semitism and authoritarianism,” writes Annalee Newitz of Ars Technica. “Although their experiences with the Holocaust suggested a causal link between hatred of Jews and the rise of fascism, it turned out that people with authoritarian tendencies were more accurately described as ethnocentric.”

These so-called authoritarians too, as research by Adorno and his collaborators found, “tended to mistrust science and disliked the idea of ​​using imagination to solve problems. problems. They preferred to stick to the proven traditional methods of organizing society. Other tendencies included “superstition, aggression, cynicism, conservatism, and an inordinate interest in the private sex lives of others.” All of these results informed an F-scale test that included the statements below. For each statement, participants had to select one of the following options: “Strongly disagree”, “Somewhat disagree”, “Somewhat disagree”, “Somewhat agree”, “Agree” or “Somewhat OK “.

  1. Obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues children should learn.
  2. A person with bad manners, bad habits and breeding can hardly expect to get along with decent people.
  3. If people talked less and worked more, everyone would be better off.
  4. The businessman and the manufacturer are much more important to society than the artist and the teacher.
  5. Science has its place, but there are many important things that can never be understood by the human mind.
  6. Every person should have complete faith in a supernatural power which he obeys without question to the decisions.
  7. Young people sometimes have rebellious ideas, but as they grow up they have to overcome them and settle down.
  8. What this country needs most, more than laws and political programs, are a few courageous, tireless and dedicated leaders in whom the people can trust.
  9. No sane, normal, decent person could ever think of hurting a close friend or relative.
  10. No one has ever learned anything really important except through suffering.
  11. What young people need most is strict discipline, unwavering determination and the will to work and fight for their families and their country.
  12. An insult to our honor must always be punished.
  13. Sexual crimes, such as rape and child molestation, deserve more than just imprisonment; such criminals should be publicly whipped, or worse.
  14. There is nothing lower than a person who does not feel great love, gratitude and respect for his parents.
  15. Most of our social problems would be solved if we could somehow get rid of the immoral, twisted, weak-minded people.
  16. Homosexuals are no better than criminals and must be severely punished.
  17. When a person has a problem or a worry, it is better for him not to think about it, but to occupy himself with happier things.
  18. These days, more and more people are getting involved in matters that should remain personal and private.
  19. Some people are born with a desire to jump from heights.
  20. People can be divided into two distinct classes: the weak and the strong.
  21. One day it will probably be shown that astrology can explain many things.
  22. Wars and social unrest may one day end in an earthquake or a flood that destroys the whole world.
  23. No weakness or difficulty can hold us back if we have enough willpower.
  24. It is better to use some pre-war authorities in Germany to maintain order and avoid chaos.
  25. Most people don’t realize how our lives are controlled by conspiracies hatched in secret places.
  26. Human nature being what it is, there will always be wars and conflicts.
  27. Familiarity breeds contempt.
  28. Nowadays, when so many different people move around and mix so much, a person must protect themselves especially carefully against infection or disease.
  29. The wild sex life of the ancient Greeks and Romans was tame to some of the activities of this country, even in places where people least expected it.
  30. The true American way of life is disappearing so fast that force may be needed to preserve it.

You can take the test yourself here. But don’t take it too seriously: the F scale “has been heavily criticized by many psychologists for being a better indicator of conservatism, an old-fashioned view, and a tendency to say ‘yes’ to n ‘anything rather than as a measure of authoritarianism’, write Ferdinand A. Gul and John J. Ray in their 1989 article “Pitfalls in Using the F-Scale to Measure Authoritarianism in Accounting Research” . That aside, any reasonably intelligent subject can easily understand the patterns of the test itself. Nonetheless, as Gizmodo’s Esther Inglis-Arkell writes, it offers an opportunity to wonder if “you’re superstitious, conformist, or anything else horrible that will make you go out one morning and annex something” — no less of a concern now. , it seems, than it was in Adorno’s day.

Related content:

An animated introduction to Theodor Adorno and his critique of modern capitalism

Theodor Adorno’s radical critique of Joan Baez and the music of the Vietnam War protest movement

Listen to the avant-garde musical compositions of Theodor Adorno

Theodor Adorno’s philosophy of punctuation

Toni Morrison lists the 10 steps that lead countries to fascism (1995)

Umberto Eco lists the 14 common characteristics of fascism

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcaststs about cities, language and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter city ​​books, the book The City Without a State: A Walk through 21st Century Los Angeles and the video series The city in cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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