This is part 3 of a 5 part series

Theodore Adorno – The Authoritarian Personality

The following is a series of questions from Adorno’s Authoritarian personality test, you can take it here : There are limitations with tests of this nature. Validity: not the least is that answering questions in a ‘lab setting’ or in your own home does not amount to the same thing as actual beliefs and behaviours. Does this measure ‘authoritarian personalities’ or something else? Bear in mind also it was devised in the US in the 1950’s. ‘Authority’ is one of Jonathan Haidt’s 6 moral foundations, and thus according to his theory is of particular importance for political emotion and discourse. It links with Lakoff’s ‘strict father’ metaphor, of which more later.

To test your nascent authoritarianism you might want to reflect on the degree to which you agree with the following.

  1. Obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues children should learn.
  2. A person who has bad manners, habits, and breeding can hardly expect to get along with decent people.
  3. If people would talk less and work more, everybody would be better off.
  4. The businessman and the manufacturer are much more important to society than the artist and the professor.
  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 some supernatural power whose decisions he obeys without question.
  7. Young people sometimes get rebellious ideas, but as they grow up they ought to get over them and settle down.
  8. What this country needs most, more than laws and political programs, is a few courageous, tireless, devoted leaders in whom the people can put their faith.
  9. No sane, normal, decent person could ever think of hurting a close friend or relative.
  10. Nobody ever learned anything really important except through suffering.
  11. What the youth needs most is strict discipline, rugged determination, and the will to work and fight for family and country.
  12. An insult to our honor should always be punished.
  13. Sex crimes, such as rape and attacks on children, deserve more than mere imprisonment; such criminals ought to be publicly whipped, or worse.
  14. There is hardly anything lower than a person who does not feel a 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, crooked, and feebleminded people.
  16. Homosexuals are hardly better than criminals and ought to be severely punished.
  17. When a person has a problem or worry, it is best for him not to think about it, but to keep busy with more cheerful things.
  18. Nowadays more and more people are prying into matters that should remain personal and private.
  19. Some people are born with an urge to jump from high places.
  20. People can be divided into two distinct classes: the weak and the strong.
  21. Someday it will probably be shown that astrology can explain a lot of things.
  22. Wars and social troubles may someday be ended by an earthquake or flood that will destroy the whole world.
  23. No weakness or difficulty can hold us back if we have enough will power.
  24. It is best to use some prewar authorities in Germany to keep order and prevent chaos. [You’ll have to pretend it is 1946 when you answer this one.]
  25. Most people don’t realize how much our lives are controlled by plots hatched in secret places.
  1. Human nature being what it is, there will always be war and conflict.
  2. Familiarity breeds contempt.
  3. Nowadays when so many different kinds of people move around and mix together so much, a person has to protect himself especially carefully against catching an infection or disease from them.
  4. The wild sex life of the old Greeks and Romans was tame compared to some of the goings-on in this country, even in places where people might least expect it.
  5. The true American (British) way of life is disappearing so fast that force may be necessary to preserve it.

Personality variables said to be associated with this are:

Personality Variable Questions measuring variable
Conventionalism: Rigid adherence to conventional, middle-class values. 1, 2, 3, 4
Authoritarian Submission: Submissive, uncritical attitude toward idealized moral authorities of the ingroup. 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Authoritarian Aggression: Tendency to be on the lookout for, and to condemn, reject, and punish people who violate conventional values. 2, 3, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16
Anti-intraception: Opposition to the subjective, the imaginative, the tender-minded. 3, 4, 17, 18
Superstition and Stereotypy: The belief in mystical determinants of the individual’s fate; the disposition to think in rigid categories. 5, 6, 19, 20, 21, 22
Power and “Toughness”: Preoccupation with the dominance-submission, strong-weak, leader-follower dimension; identification with power figures; overemphasis upon the conventionalized attributes of the ego; exaggerated assertion of strength and toughness. 8, 11, 12, 20, 23, 24, 25, 30
Destructiveness and Cynicism: Generalized hostility, vilification of the human. 26, 27
Projectivity: The disposition to believe that wild and dangerous things go on in the world; the projection outwards of unconscious emotional impulses. 18, 22, 25, 28, 29
Sex: Exaggerated concern with sexual “goings-on.” 13, 16, 29


Do you recognise yourself or anyone else? If this value system is adopted by what Graham Scambler calls the ‘Focused Autonomous Reflexive’ we might have a potent fascist leader in the making.

See following piece on Umberto Eco’s Ur-Fascism