The Study of Man: New Light on ‘The Authoritarian Personality’

Glazer, Nathan. "The Study of Man: New Light on 'The Authoritarian Personality.'" Commentary, 1954.

Excerpt: The Authoritarian Personality, published in 1950 as part of the Studies in Prejudice series sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, stands as one of the most ambitious efforts of modern American social science. In the 990 pages, 500,000 words, and 100 tables of The Authoritarian Personality, four senior authors (T. W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel J. Levinson, and R. Nevitt Sanford) and three collaborators analyzed the results of a large-scale research project on anti-Semitism and group prejudice (“ethnocentrism”) conducted at the University of California in Berkeley. The project had studied more than 2,000 individuals, mostly college students but also sizeable numbers of middle-class adults, prisoners, patients undergoing psychiatric treatment, labor-union members, and some other working-class people. The social scientists tried to demonstrate from this material that anti-Semitism and ethnocentrism were more than “opinions”: they were rather facets of a definite personality type. The roots of this “authoritarian personality” were to be explained by the concepts of psychoanalysis; but its existence, the authors believed, could be demonstrated simply by the use of questionnaires.