Dr. Samir Gandesha will workshop his draft paper, “From the Authoritarian to the Neoliberal Personality.”
How is it possible to account for this strange and profoundly troubling conjunction of deepening socio-economic inequality and the growing rise of authoritarian populism and ethno-nationalist extremism? Aside from isolated and sporadic instances, why have citizens not been convincingly mobilized within civil society to transform an order characterized not only by growing inequality but also by the catastrophic environmental destructiveness of a social order that places its own continued, long-term viability in question? I first discuss some of the central features of the concept of the “authoritarian personality,” and then proceed to outline some of the substantive criticisms of the study itself as well as some of its underlying psychological and sociological assumptions: the study’s reliance on the now questionable concept of “state capitalism” and the study’s reliance on a normative Freudian understanding of the process ego formation through the conflict with the father. If these two criticisms can be convincingly addressed, then perhaps it may be possible to develop the idea of a “neo-liberal personality” which might, in turn, enable us to sketch a provisional answer to the question I posed at the outset: namely how can we understand the conjunction of staggering inequality with the rise of authoritarian populist movements rather than social movements that seek a structural transformation of the conditions of such social inequality?
Dr. Gandesha specializes in modern European thought and culture, with a particular emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries.
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