How does this formulation strike you? Authoritarianism features three traits according to our analysis of Altemeyer's factor analysis of his data.
- Aggression, which may be thought of as our animal nature, at least many animals exhibit aggression--the carnivores in particular.
- Obedience, which may be thought of as more or less good sense where a stable society requires a strong dose of individual obedience. This is only good sense for logical minds.
- Conventionalism, which may be thought of as birds of a feather flock together, or a basic herding instinct. Or it might be thought of as our conscience, our ability to empathize with others, do right by our families, friends and neighbors.
Now comes an obvious insight. The highlighted word pairs in the listings above have a further meaning.
|Obedience||Cooperative Hierarchy and Logic||Ego|
|Conventionalism||Parenting And Altruism||Super Ego|
Although Freud may be out of date, his basic contribution to understanding the human psyche was not only right, but now appears to reflect our basic instincts inherited from jungle/savanna times. At least this coherency adds consilience to the causes of human of violence. Add to that the results of Zimbardo's Prison Experiment that foretold Abu Ghraib, and the case becomes tight indeed. For more on how this model fits modern times, see Five Pillars. Milgram and Altemeyer add to the picture. For its most extreme dimension see Stout, Babiak and Hare and Frank.
The Id is responsible for our basic drives such as food, sex, and aggressive impulses. It is amoral and egocentric, ruled by the pleasure-pain principle; it is without a sense of time; completely illogical; primarily sexual; infantile in its emotional development; will not take 'no' for an answer. Social behavior like this is sociopathic.
The Ego is the mediator between the id and the superego; trying to ensure that the needs of both the id and the superego are met. It is said to operate on a reality principle, meaning it deals with the id and the superego; allowing them to express their desires, drives and morals in realistic and socially appropriate ways. It is said that the ego stands for reason and caution, developing with age. Traits for cooperation operate this way. The diplomat made-simple looks for ways to generate non-partisanship and cooperation.
The Super-Ego acts as the conscience, maintaining our sense of morality and the prohibition of taboos. This is where parenting children to be peaceful people comes in.
The mosaic that is humanity seems to clarify with this piece of hard-won insight. Nature, unchecked, begets Sociopathic violence with Altemeyer tying Freud's construct of the psyche into our genetic heritage. Nature also begets nurture and therein lies Hope, along with the conventionalism that bedevils conventional solutions to violence. To be sure, this simplification is just that, but it does have an advantage. It keeps our thinking out of the weeds and enables us to move on in search of principles one can use. Humans are not infinitely variable; we do indeed fall into classes of behavior that are not clean cut. This goes with the turf of social science, even at its best.
If the fit doesn't seem perfect, maybe it isn't, for at least two reasons: 1) our language is limited by the perspectives from which it arose. A psychologist may use one set of terms for behaviors s/he sees while a geneticist will select quite another set related more to behavioral origins than to their expressions. 2) Most of us have hang-ups and all hang-ups have denial in common. So our usual first impulse is to disbelieve. And that will be the end of it if we are not self-aware. But for those who have already explored the beauty of the inner self, this construction might seem to be mere common sense.
If not, there may be a problem we all need to hear about. A comment box for dialogue is provided below.
Posted by RoadToPeace on Wednesday, November 07, 2007.