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You are here: Platypus /Remarks on “The Authoritarian Personality” by Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, Sanford.

Remarks on “The Authoritarian Personality” by Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, Sanford.

T.W. Adorno

Platypus Review #91 | November 2016

A. The Place of the Study in today’s Research

In order to bring into relief the purpose and scope of the study it seems appropriate to denote its relation to other current research into prejudice. We shall try to achieve this through an examination of the specific differences between our work and that of others. To be sure, these differences are partly due to extraneous and more or less accidental circumstances such as the set-up out of which the study grew, the composition of the senior staff who was particularly interested in the socio-psychological aspects of the project, and others. However, these circumstances were not naively taken for granted. Though we had to content ourselves with the resources available, we nevertheless tried to formulate our tasks in a way which permitted the best possible use of the material, i.e., treatment of problems we deemed crucial while little attention was focused on them in the literature known to us. This intention led not only to planning in the sense of a division of labor, but also to a critical evaluation of other approaches.

It should be mentioned here that there is one study which shows a considerable affinity to our own undertaking, in regard to general interest as well as to the methods employed: Eugene Hartley’s Problems in Prejudice.[1] His project was started without our knowing about it, and when the report reached us, the final write-up of our results had already been far advanced. As to the coincidence between Hartley’s and our own findings concerning the prejudiced personality, we may regard it as a substantial corroboration of the adequacy of the underlying concepts. However, the two studies are too different in scope, method, and theory to involve problems of duplication.

Cover of the Authoritarian Personality (1950).

Cover of the Authoritarian Personality (1950).

(1) The subjective focus

Our probing into prejudice is devoted to subjective aspects. We are not analyzing objective social forces which produce and reproduce bigotry, such as economic and historical determinants. Even short-term factors like propaganda do not enter the picture per se, though a number of major hypotheses stem from propaganda analyses carried out by the Institute of Social Research.[i][2] All the stimuli enhancing prejudice, and even the entire cultural climate—imbued with minority stereotypes as it is—are regarded as presuppositions. Their effect upon our subjects is not followed up; we remain, so to say, in the realm of “reactions,” not of stimuli.

We are convinced that the ultimate source of prejudice has to be sought in social factors which are incomparably stronger than the “psyche” of any one individual involved. This assumption is corroborated by the results of the study itself, insofar as it shows that conformity to values implicitly promoted by the “objective spirit” of today’s American society is one of the major traits of our high-scoring subjects.[3] Thus we fully realize that limiting the study to subjective aspects is not without its dangers. Our detailed analysis of subjective patterns does not mean that, in our opinion, prejudice can be explained in such terms. On the contrary, we regard the analysis of objective social forces which engender prejudice as the most pressing issue in contemporary research into anti-minority bias. The relative negligence with which this task is treated throughout American research is due to its “democratic bias,” to the idea that socially valid scientific findings can be gained only by sampling a vast number of people on whose opinions and attitudes depends what is going to happen—just as success or failure of a commodity offered on the market supposedly depends on the mentality of the buyer. Methodologically, a not insignificant result of our study is the suspicion that the aforementioned assumption does no longer hold true. Our high-scoring subjects do not seem to behave as autonomous units whose decisions are important for their own fate as well as that of society, but rather are submissive centers of reactions, looking for the conventional “thing to do,” and riding what they consider “the wave of the future.” This observation seems to fall in line with the economic tendency towards gradual disappearance of the free market and the adaptation of man to the slowly emerging new condition. Research following the conventional patterns of investigation into public opinion may easily reach the point where the orthodox concept of what people feel, want, and do, proves to be obsolete.

Insofar as economic problems are at all taken into consideration, our study remains on the level of ideology. We register, and to a certain extent interpret, our subjects’ overt opinions on specific economic matters, including crucial ones such as free enterprise, state control and organized labor. However, the inferences drawn from this material do not permit safe conclusions concerning the true operative economic forces that foster prejudice today. They pertain to the pattern of thinking rather than to the actual effect essential economic laws and trends may have on the dynamics of prejudice and its political equivalents.

Our own standpoint regarding economic determinism is explained in Chapter I;[4] some additional remarks follow later in the present chapter. Here, we content ourselves with a few words about what might be called the lack of historical perspective in our study. This lack is not only due to the specific American situation which, contrary to Europe, is not burdened with an age-old tradition of anti-semitism. There are other, less superficial considerations. Although the idea of the “eternal Jew” is rarely absent in contemporary anti-semitic literature, it must be doubted that modern anti-semitism is a “historical” phenomenon in the strict sense of the word, i.e., that it derives from a specific anti-semitic tradition. Its historical roots are rather to be found in the general trend towards ever-increasing “integration” of the individual into the social totality and, economically, the increasing sacrifices that civilization demands of its supposed beneficiaries. There is no unbroken historical continuity between older forms of anti-semitism and the present totalitarian brand. The often observed phony aspects of modern anti-semitism (of. Sartre[5]), the frequent indices that even our high-scoring subjects are hardly ever fully convinced, permit the assumption that modern anti-semitism feeds to a great extent on an artificial pseudo-tradition arbitrarily summoned by its promoters and blindly adhered to by their rank and file. In all its irrationality, anti-semitism used to be somehow in accord with certain basically incongruous tenets of society, above all the Christian belief in the Devil. This historical basis has been completely dissolved by modern enlightenment. Joshua Trachtenberg’s extremely valuable study “The Devil and the Jews” clearly reveals—in terms of concrete historical motivation—the complete incompatibility of the medieval and the contemporary version of Jew-baiting.[6] Their ultimate roots—social repression and the sadistic impulse it engenders—are identical, though in a quasi a-historical, invariable way; however, there is no authentic continuity in regard to historical content of anti-Jewish ideology as well as primary reactions. In a world which completely dispenses with the Devil, it is impossible to construct an immediate connection between religious anathema pronounced against the Jew and today’s administrative planning of the liquidation of “inferior races.” What happens is, rather, that unmitigated social pressure is used to remobilize the traces of old and sometimes half-forgotten prejudices and stereotypes. But these traces remain incompatible with the stage of rationality society has reached today. Modern anti-semitic ideology is the antidote against the sufferings entailed by rational civilization rather than the immediate expression of either this civilization or the kind of irrationality boasted by the anti-semite. This inconsistency enhances violence instead of mitigating it. Those who are incapable of believing in their own cause, i.e., the adepts of technology who supply themselves with demonological notions from the attic of their intellectual household, must constantly prove to themselves the truth of their gospel through the reality and irreversibility of their deeds.

A truly historical analysis of modern anti-semitism could not be limited to its own intrinsic history, to the “age-old persecution of the Jews.” It would have to point to the fake element involved in its present form—an element which was probably also contained in its earlier forms but which, in a country where historical memories hardly go beyond the threshold of the capitalist era, excludes any real impact of tradition. The decisive objective aspect of present-day anti-semitism is the fact that cannot possibly be attributed to spontaneous impulses of the population. It is a carefully pondered, rationalistically concocted doctrine, promoted from above, that utilizes powerful socio-psychological dispositions in the masses. The difference between modern anti-semitism and anonymous historical trends is just this rationalism in the irrational. It has been brought into relief by Paul Massing’s analysis of pre-Hitlerian anti-semitism since the era of Bismarck, “Rehearsal for Destruction”:[7] the anti-semitic “movements” to which Nazis pointed as proof of their tradition in the grass-roots, were switched on and off by leaders of the German Empire, depending on the ever changing conditions of internal power politics. The history of anti-semitism is not its “own” history, but the political and social history of the world in which it fulfills a pernicious function.

(2) No survey of prejudice

The study is not a survey of anti-semitic or otherwise prejudiced attitudes. Nevertheless, certain generalizations regarding such attitudes may be drawn from its results. On the whole, the aim of our work may be summarized as follows. We tried to analyze the type of person—in many respects characteristic of our time—whose general psychological disposition makes him a potential follower of totalitarian movements and bigoted ideologies. On the other hand, we were interested in the type of person that could be expected to militarily oppose such movements. The focal point of our research is the differentiation between “highs” and “lows”; the actual presence or absence of prejudice was a matter of secondary importance for us, though “high” and “low” mentality was originally defined in these terms. The general conception of this relationship may be epitomised by the contention that practically all prejudiced persons are “high” while there are numerous “highs” who, for one reason or another, are not overtly prejudiced (or at least not anti-semitic) but who would probably be susceptible to fascist propaganda should a totalitarian movement gain momentum. As far as the timeliness of “highs” and “lows” is concerned, our finding that the “highs” conform more thoroughly to the prevailing cultural climate and are—at least superficially—better adjusted than the “lows,” seems to indicate that, measured by standards of the status quo, they are also more characteristic of the present historical situation.


Excerpt from the Authoritarian Personality (1950)

These brief considerations already show that the results of our study are in marked contrast to polls on anti-semitism such as the one conducted by FORTUNE MAGAZINE,[8] or those of the Gallup Institute.[9] Here again, involuntary limitations coincide with our conscious intentions. In this connection, the impossibility to study a well-balanced, truly representative sample—an impossibility which is partly due to the complexity of our basic research instrument—should be mentioned. Nevertheless, even the peculiar composition of the sample has to be attributed to the guiding interest that made us look for “key groups” rather than the average since the latter will hardly be decisive as to whether or not fascism is to rule the country. Furthermore, our intentions could obviously not be served by poll methods. Susceptibility, i.e., potential attitudes, cannot be approached as though they were clear-cut, drastic issues. If a person whether he is going to vote for Roosevelt or Dewey, his answer will be considered—within a certain margin—indicative of what he will actually do. However, if we ask the same person whether he is an anti-semite, we can hardly count on the reliability of his answer. There may be controversies about the meaning of the term anti-semitism; or, official American ideology may prevent him from expressing prejudice, if asked forthright, even though he may feel very strongly about it. Moreover, this prejudice may be pre-conscious or even unconscious. Of course, all these qualifications are equally if not even more valid in regard to susceptibility. It goes without saying that questions such as: “Would you eventually join a fascist movement if you were certain that it has powerful backing and strong popular support?” cannot be expected to yield reliable information. All aspects of anti-minority prejudice are so affect-laden, so deeply involved with irrational urges and mechanisms, that a rational approach must necessarily remain superficial and fallacious. The problem of the “high” personality would not be solved if the investigation stayed on the opinional level, no matter how much more tangible and measurable such results would seem to be. The larger amount of opinional material gathered in our study was never considered self-sufficient but was always evaluated in the framework of our general approach. The “dynamic” questions frequently resulted from the opinional information. What we might have lost in terms of certainty in regard to problems such as “How many per-cent of the American middle classes are anti-semitic?” was gained by answers to the question of “What type, or types of people, quantitatively relevant, may be regarded—with safe generalization—as prospective fascist followers?” We did not aim at surface classification but rather at the more limited though more meaningful generalizations concerning the essential traits of the “fascist character.” In this connection it should be sanctioned that particularly in areas of political and economic ideology the distinction between “highs” and “lows” had to be partly relativized as a surface dichotomy. It had to give way to the construction of an over-all pattern of the characteristic American mentality of today which—through the general American cultural climate—is imbued with “high” elements that do not fall within the limits of “highness” and “lowness” as defined in our study. This particular insight should, as we believe, be given most serious attention by the agencies who make it their task to defend American democracy.

(3) Relation to psychoanalysis

The fundamental problem of whether and to what extent prejudice can be approached with psychological methods in general, and depth-psychology in particular, will be discussed more systematically later. However, mention should be made here of the relation of our research to other psychoanalytic investigations in this field (Fenichel, Simmel, and many others[10]), that have exercized [sic] considerable influence on our method. Our whole study, though its subject-matter falls into the area of social psychology, is in full harmony with psychoanalysis in its more orthodox, Freudian version. On theoretical grounds, our group opposed the attempts to “sociologize” psychoanalysis through the softening of basic concepts, e.g., the unconscious, infantile sexuality, the psychological dynamism of the monad, by looking for environmental influences which would have to be registered in terms of the ego rather than the unconscious.[ii] If, as is inevitable because of the complexity of our study, environmental psychological factors play an important role, the answers gathered on the level of external “influence” are howgere [sic] regarded as ultimate explanations of personality traits; they are merely stages in the search for such explanations and require more thorough psychoanalytic interpretation. Wherever we seem to remain within the boundaries of more conventional social psychology, this is not due to any “revisionist” bias on our part but to the unavoidable methodological limitations of our study. We take psychoanalysis too seriously to play around with it in an investigation which, at its best, can devote but a few individual interviews to the cases which have been selected for more detailed scrutiny. Although the data collected in these interviews might prove to be meaningful, we could not possibly claim that we actually analyzed our subjects. In this respect, the collective study of psychoanalytic cases carried through by the research department of the American Jewish Committee will be of considerable supplementary value.

Nevertheless, our guiding sociological interest, while by no means affecting our attitude in the field of psychology as such, at least prevents us from behaving naively as psychologists. Ideas such as “prejudice personality” or the “fascist character” are meaningful only if we can be certain that they are quantitatively relevant, and that the interconnection between certain highly specific attitudes and broad personality traits—the major theme of our research—can be observed fairly regularly. We have to do justice to the social aspect of our problem at least in so far as our psychological categories and findings can be proven to be socially relevant, i.e., quantifiable; our concept of the fascist character can become productive only if and in so far as we succeed in demonstrating that it is truly a “type,” that the traits, attitudes and opinions which we regard as being linked together by deep necessity, actually obey this necessity. The only evidence is the regular association of these traits throughout our sample. Thus, in the clinical sections of the interviews, the scoring procedure is to establish statistical reliability in those areas of the investigation which come closest to the psychological center of the individual.

The relation of our project to psychoanalytic procedures may be understood accordingly. Those of our guiding hypotheses which are truly psychological, i.e., those behind the F-scale, the projective items of the questionnaire, and the interview schedule [iii], definitely belong to psychoanalysis. However, the method to which they are subject falls in line with academic social research. Our study may, therefore, be called a first, preliminary attempt to integrate depth-psychology and statistical generalization. The goal of such an integration would be twofold. On the one hand, it would be free psychoanalysis from the—as we feel—unjustified onus of premature generalization, of “jumping to conclusions”; on the other hand, indisputable quantitative methods would be applied to problems which are neither trivialities nor something between true psychological insight and popular notions, but rather categories that are usually considered to be beyond verification in terms of productive scientific reliability.

(4) No community” or action” research

In his “Methodological Errors in the Study of Anti-semitism”[iv] Shlomo Bergman said—for purely logical reasons—that there is no reason for assuming that a man who physically assaults Jews is more anti-semitic than one who declaims against them at street-corners: he is merely more violent. Similarly, the disaster which results from an anti-Jewish act in no way reflects the degree of anti-semitism which inspires it. The firing of a synagogue, for instance, may be far more tragic than the circulation of a pamphlet, but this does not prove that its instigator is more anti-semitic. He may equally well be inspired by mere mob hysteria or opportunist ambition. Yet in the majority of modern treatments of the subject, degrees of violence and disaster are blithely identified with degrees of anti-semitism. We must teach ourselves to realize that every act from which Jews suffer is not necessarily and automatically anti-semitic.

These critical remarks should be strongly emphasized. Not only do we have to carefully avoid a short circuit between theory and practice which could easily lead us to fight symptoms and neglect essentials, but the interconnection between anti-semitic manifestations and the problem of discrimination as it has arisen from the powerful example of Hitler-Germany, is highly dubious. There was no immediate relationship between spontaneous anti-semitic outbreaks and the extermination policy of the Nazis. Spontaneous anti-Jewish demonstrations in the Third Reich were, without exception, manipulated, switched on and off. Districts which had a strong traditional link with anti-semitism, as e.g., Oberhessen, never made any particular show under Hitler; Frankonia, on the other hand, with no such tradition, became notorious because of a few exceptionally violent leaders. Gregor Strasser,[11] the most efficient organizer of the Nazi party, stated shortly before the seizure of power, that the time of Radau-Anto-semitismus[12] was over—an utterance which gave spurious comfort to many Jews. Under totalitarian rule, anti-semitism is no longer a matter of primary hostilities on the part of the people and of truly spontaneous actions. It is an administrative measure which uses existing prejudices and, to an even higher degree, psychological dispositions. Naturally, hoodlums who molest Jews on a beach are ideal stormtroop material, but the triumph of anti-semitism does not depend on them. The problems of alienation as stressed in our discussion of the political and economic interview material, and also envisaged in Nathan Glazer’s article on the alienation of modern man[v],[13] affects the very structure of anti-semitic attitudes. What matters today is not so much that people might hate the Jews sufficiently to start a pogrom, but that they might endorse a movement which includes anti-semitism in its platform. It is much more important to ascertain the type of people who might be willing to join movements or back governments that plan to exterminate the Jews, than to probe for the specific cause of anti-semitic troubles in a given area. The real issue is totalitarian anti-semitism and not more or less incidental outbreaks. The latter may be symptomatic of trends, and it is certainly good and useful to study them and to try to remedy their alleged causes. However, it would be quite illusionary to assume that such undertakings—be they theoretical or practical—could really hield [sic] insight into the nature and scope of the threat, or that “cures” (even successful ones) could seriously affect the anti-semitic potential. We may go so far as to say that totalitarian anti-semitism is, so to say, alienated from the prejudice of its own adherents; actually, prejudice enters the picture only as an appendage to something incomparably more comprehensive. Without disparaging the community studies now favored on account of their concreteness and the quick return they might bring, we believe to be justified in giving our own study a completely different emphasis, that of “cultural anthropology.” We hypothesize that contemporary anti-semitism can be fought adequately either politically or with long-range educational measures, but not with short-term, on-the-spot actions and the by now mythological institution of “intercultural relations.” Viewed pragmatically, our findings have to be evaluated mainly in terms of a long-range educational program which seeks to affect the broad and basic anthropological conditions that favor the rise of fascism in this country. This emphasis may look academic and defeatist to those who expect everything from manifestations of the good will. It is our opinion, however, that the objective situation necessitates a somewhat reserved attitude vis-à-vis such manifestations.

B. Position of our Study in regard to some major theories.

In a discussion of the major theories of anti-semitism and our own theoretical standpoint, the problem of our specific definition of anti-semitism must necessarily arise. This question frequently functions as a means of methodologically cloaked sabotage of any inquiry which really probes into the matter. After Auschwitz it is ludicrous to ask for a definition of anti-semitism. We ought to know as much as a Nazi knew what was meant by “Jew.” Specifically, and on a more or less technical level, anti-semitism has been defined in the discussion of the AS-scale. In broader terms, this book is an answer and isolated definitions are hardly necessary.

Regarding the problem of causation, we might say that we subscribe to neither a monistic nor a pluralistic theory. It would be absurd to select one single, isolated source of anti-semitism, as, e.g., envy, frustration, a.s.o., and to attribute any and all anti-semitic phenomena to this cause. It would be less absurd, though certainly rather superficial, to enumerate a number of factors and to claim that they all, relatively independent from each other, play a role in producing the prejudiced personality. Most of these factors were arbitrarily isolated in scientific procedures, and only later on became hypostatized as separate determinants. The impossibility to treat any one of them separately is evidence of their objective interrelatedness. One cannot speak of projectivity without speaking of aggressiveness; one cannot discuss aggressiveness without mentioning frustration; one cannot analyze frustration without coming to what is popularly known as envy; and one cannot speak of envy without envisaging acquisitiveness and the social attitude it regularly accompanies, and so on and so forth. We have used the term syndrome to denote the all-compromising interconnection among these factors and in the attempt to do justice to the ever re-rucurring [sic] impossibility to isolate the various factors by means other than arbitrary definitions. Our hypothesis of what causes anti-semitism is the following: It is due to the total structure of our society or, to put it more sweepingly, to every basically coercive society. This totality manifests itself in numerous aspects, all of which are comprised in it and appear as particular “causes” only to the kind of thinking which, naively following the pattern of natural sciences, forgets that all social facts bear the imprint of the system in which they appear and which can never be explained satisfactorily by atomistic enumeration of various causes. It goes without saying that one and the same aspect of a social totality, e.g. the religious aspect of prejudice, assumes different weight art different times in different places.

Excerpt from the Authoritarian Personality (1950)

Excerpt from the Authoritarian Personality (1950)

(1) Attitude towards economic explanations

We have stated repeatedly our basic agreement with the economic theory which sees in anti-semitism an essentially social rather than psychological phenomenon that has to be understood economically to the degree which society itself is constituted through economy, i.e., through the process of self-maintenance of the human species and the disparities this process has brought about. However, as we pointed out in Chapter I,[14] which discussed the psychological emphasis of our investigation, we do not believe that economic motivation suffices to explain the existence or absence of prejudice in any particular person. We called attention to the instance in which people had to face economic disadvantages because of their bias, and we pointed out that fascism, in Germany, meant economic ruin for large sectors of its followers long before the war was lost[vi], but apparently without shattering their loyalty. Of course, it may be argued that even in these cases plain economic greed prevailed; that these people were willing to make temporary sacrifices in the hope for ultimate compensation, particularly through a German conquest of Europe, and that the expropriation of the Jews with whatever little gain it brought to the masses, was but a cog in the machinery of universal greediness. Much can be said in favor of this line of reasoning, but it still seems to be rather dogmatic to assume a clear-cut economic motivation, even if it refers to some distant future, as being primarily operative in the anti-semitic individual. A casual glance at any fascist already shows that his attitude does not seem to reflect the rationality involved in economic motives. He is more bent on the destruction of the Jews and possibly also their property, than on the seizure of the latter. The motive of envy most frequently stressed in popular attempts to link economic and psychological determinants, hardly held good in Europe where the position of the Jewish middleman declined as a result of the monopolistic expansion of industry. It has even less basis in reality in the great urban American centers with their huge Jewish proletariat. On the whole, the traditional stereotype that all Jews are rich seems to be highly indifferent to the evidence of its fallacy.

The apparent contradiction between our acceptance of a basically economic theory of anti-semitism and our admittance of the inadequacy of economic motivation as a means to fully understand anti-semitic attitudes and behaviors, affords us the opportunity to formulate our viewpoint.

The answer to the problem is suggested in our previous statement that the principle of social totality accounts for prejudice. It is in the sense of this totality rather than isolated motivations and tangible interests, that we speak of the economic fundaments [sic] of anti-semitism. This does not only apply to the fact that social inequality and pressure depend in the last analysis on economic differentiation. We go beyond that. The structure of the economic system affects [sic] all human relationships and even the innermost composition of the individual. Thus, the all-pervading trait of social “alienation” largely reflects the nature of a commodity economy in which man appears as producer and consumer of goods and not as the subject of his society. We need hardly stress the affect [sic] of economic phenomena such as competitiveness or the particular brand of collectivization concomitant with today’s heavy concentration of capital, on human actions and, as it were, the total being of humans as such. As a matter of fact, the impact of the economic structure as a whole may even blind the individual to his own economic motive as well as to the insight into actions contrary to his economic interest. Individual psychology is largely an agency through which economic laws become operative in attitude and behaviors without the individual's being aware of it. Thus, in the competitive society of 19th century liberalism, the functioning of the market system was mediated through subjective urges and wants which knew nothing of the fact that their fulfillment largely depended on the functioning of the whole and only to a very small degree on individual initiative per se. Indeed, if each individual had been fully aware of his being but a cog in the total machinery, and of his inability to actually determine his fate, the system would hardly have worked at all. Blindness to objective laws and, ultimately, repression of insights that disavow the harmony between society and individual, are themselves the outcome of the economic system. People are inevitably as irrational as the world in which they live. Thus, psychology, i.e. the realm of irrational determination of attitudes and behavior, is not so much opposed to economic causation as it is the outcome of economic irrationality which is itself an intrinsic element of the socio-economic totality in which we live. People are not always guided by their clear-cut economic interests, and it would be foolishly rationalistic to look for such a motivation. But even when acting against those interests, people reflect tendencies brought about by the economic process as a whole. The construction of this relationship is not merely speculative; we do not postulate a pre-established harmony between the total economic process and individual psychology. We hypothesize, however, that the apparent break between the two spheres, as expressed by economically irrational behaviors, is in turth [sic] due to economic conditions which deny fulfillment to innumerable individuals and permit the “integration” of the individual only insofar as he reacts passively, as it were, and renounces—together with his subjective autonomy—his looking strictly after himself. To return to the envy theory: Envy is certainly an aspect of prejudice, but people are not anti-semitic because they are envious of Jews. They are envious as such because of constant social pressure and the blatant contradiction between today’s economic potentialities and their own deeply unsatisfactory existence. Eventually, their envy is directed against the Jews, or any other suitable minority group, following the line of least resistance. This, at least, seems to us to be implied in our findings regarding the “functional character” of prejudice. The more our society tends to become “integral,” i.e. a thoroughly organized totality, the more increases the pressure it exercises upon comparatively impotent individual. And it is exactly this process which enhances psychological defense mechanisms which are bound up with prejudice. It may be quite possible that even the most horrifying manifestation of discrimination, the Nazi policy of “genocide,” is deeply connected with the economic fact that today’s form of economic organization proves incapable of reproducing the population living under such conditions. However, this need not necessarily have been a conscious objective determinant in the minds of the Nazi hierarchy, although it may have played a greater role in their thinking than—for ideological reasons—they cared to admit. One may well assume that the fear of being superfluous looms large in contemporary anti-semitism of other countries too. The idea expressed in the treatment of Jews in concentration camps and death factories, that they were mere objects of manipulation, living corpses, virtual “cakes of soap,” may easily have been the projection of the prejudiced person’s dim awareness of his own social situation, an awareness which he could suppress successfully only if he could prove to himself and others that it is the other fellow who could be dispensed with.

All this is, of course, purely theoretical and cannot actually be proven through our work. It rather denotes a trend of ideas which led us to psychological investigations without giving up the economic theory of prejudice. To find out how objective economic laws operate, not so much through the individual's economic “motivations” than through his unconscious make-up, would require extensive and carefully planned specific research. We venture to suggest, however, that the solution to the problem would provide us with the true scientific explanation of the nature of contemporary prejudice. Our study has at least provided considerable raw material and a number of hypotheses for such an undertaking. In this connection, we may mention the concept of group solidarity or, as a “high-scoring” man called it, loyalty, which plays an extremely important role in the over-all personality pattern of prejudiced people. We have a fair knowledge of the psychological etiology of group loyalty, its dependence on the “authoritarian” solution of the Oedipus complex, and also know enough about the economic function of this kind of loyalty. By subordinating the individual's own overt economic interests to those of the group with which he identifies himself, loyalty favors class interests which are much more decisive for the working of objective economic laws than are the particular interests of the individual. At the same time, this identification helps to rationalize individual frustrations in as much as it envisages the advantage of the group of which the individual considers himself a member. It is the realm of ideology in which unconscious psychological processes seem to transform objective, and therefore opaque, “unconscious” economic laws into individual patterns of behavior.

(2) Attitude towards the sociological approach.

In this connection the term “sociological” denotes theories which try to explain the phenomenon of prejudice by means of general categories which refer to humans as social beings and derive laws from more or less formal structures of their living together. Here go, e.g., explanations which terminate in the distinction between in- and out-group, social stability and mobility, closed and open forms of social organization, a.s.o. Such explanations seem to come quite close to our own approach. They do justice to the essentially social, supra-individualistic nature of prejudice; they consider the concept of social totality rather than atomistic economic causes; they seem to provide links between objective (societal) and subjective aspects of prejudice.

It is just this surface resemblance which makes it necessary for us to explain the difference between our specific attitude and the sociological approach. We do not deny that the concepts emphasized by the sociological approach play an important role in prejudice. There is ample evidence that the in-group out-group distinction is heavily libidinized by anti-semites; that the actually or professedly conservative exponents of anti-semitism resent Jewish “mobility” (often associated with their urbanization) as a threat to what they regard as a stable, tradition-bound order; that certain social groups such as exclusive clubs are almost invariably imbued with race-hatred. However, we do not believe that these formal social concepts, which are largely abstractions from the content of social and psychological dynamics, are causes of prejudice. Such an assumption frequently leads to a neutralization of scientific issues permitting phenomena which are intrinsically related to concrete property and power relationships, to appear as being due to the existence of organized society as such. In spite of the emphasis on “social factors,” current sociological explanations thus assume an air of “naturalness” which makes prejudice seem harmless—a necessary evil of organized society—and perennial. This implication is furthered by the fact that society as we know it has actually been associated with discriminatory traits so that the latter may easily be interpreted as invariants of social organization rather than the consequence of exploitation and repression. It is as if the sociological approach would hypostatize the congealed effect of material social forces and make them, in turn, responsible for tendencies of which they themselves are mere results. This leads to a superficial common sense attitude that can neither realize the seriousness of the threat which, in the end, is itself “anti-social,” nor conceive the idea of a social change through which this threat may disappear.

No matter how “sensible” the sociological explanations may appear, one aspect reveals their inadequacy: the alleged self-evidence of their major categories. Historical experience has conditioned thinking to such an extent that a thesis such as “the in-group is hostile to the out-group,” or—expressed psychologically—“the stranger is always hated,” seems obvious and self-explanatory. Quite apart from the fact that the problem of whether there must be in- and out-groups in organized society is being dodged by the self-sufficient observation that wherever this division occurred there also was discrimination; the supposed naturalness of hostility is dubious. A naive person, not trained by the sociological apparatus, may well ask: “Why is the stranger hated?” As an answer he will either get a blank or the repetition that this is so, that it is natural, or explanations which, as soon as they do not take the phenomenon for granted, lose the air of self-evidence and are, therefore, not popular at all. The naivety of such questioning should not be discouraged. Even on a surface level the hatred of the stranger is not unambiguous. Literature is full of accounts of the erotic spell cast by strange women, by the “Mädchen aus der Fremde”;[15] the uncommon, novel is often painted as incomparably more attractive than the routine of the world to which one is used, of the “in-group”; in numerous primitive societies the stranger is by no means regarded with plain hostility but with awe and positive affection. There is reason to believe that this pertains not only to individuals but also to larger groups such as the Germans and the Jews. The sociological approach would necessarily have to account for the here-involved ambiguity. At the very moment it would embark on such an explanation, the self-evidence of “hostility” would disappear. If the statement that the stranger is the enemy would be supplemented by the explanation, “… because he is uncanny,” the problem would merely be shifted but not solved. One would have to ask: “What is uncanny, and which mechanisms are behind the experience of the uncanny?” Freud offered the answer that the uncanny is not what we experience as “strange” in an absolute sense, but rather what is only too familiar to us, what we had to repress in ourselves, and to what we, therefore, object if we find it in others.[16] One may well assume that even on a socio-economic level equally dialectical patterns may underlie in-group out-group relations. Thus, it has been suggested[vii] that the typical in-group objection–that the Jews are non-productive–is ultimately due to the inarticulate consciousness of the in-group that it is itself unproductive, that it appropriates the labor of others. As soon as analysis is forced into the direction of such considerations, the conceptual framework of the sociological approach falls to pieces; it has to give way to entirely different concepts. The construct of in-group and out-group may in the end prove to be but a diluted and formalized expression of class-relationships.

Of course, the “integrative” aspect of the sociological approach gets lost in the process of reasoning, and the problems are so to speak returned to the traditional disciplines of economics and psychology. At first glance this seems to contradict our own basic assumption that prejudice is determined by the total socio-economic system. However, our assumption does not imply that this totality is consistent in itself. On the contrary, its intrinsically antagonistic character is the very reason for irrational outlets, discrimination. The essence of this totality is to maintain itself through the self-interest of those it compromises, but to simultaneously hamper and endanger this self-interest constantly and incessantly. It may be called a self-contradictory totality; it certainly does not include harmony between the whole and the particular. The break between them is naively expressed by the division of scientific labor into disciplines such as economics and psychology; the naivety of the division, namely, the concept that there is economy on the one hand, and individuals upon whom it works on the other, has to be overcome by the insight into the ultimate identity of the operative forces in both spheres. Per contra, however, the division expresses the truth that in our society neither the total nor the individual can be identified forthwith; they have to be understood as being opposed to each other while still being aspects of the same whole. The sociological approach forgets all too easily that the alienation of different branches of social science is adequate to reality insofar as it does justice to social alienation as such. It is, therefore, more appropriate to pursue analysis within a given branch of science until the results become transparent with regard to social totality, than to introduce concepts derived from this totality in an all-too-easy way. In view of such methodological considerations our inquiry has been kept within the limits of specialization.

(3)Attitude towards the religious thesis

The religious explanation of anti-semitism affords an opportunity to clarify our approach in regard to other, particularistic explanations, no matter how much truth the latter may contain. In its older form, the religious thesis derives anti-semitism from the opposition of Christianity to Judaism, and especially from the traditional idea of Jewish responsibility for the crucifixion of Christ. Pragmatically, this assumption leads to extreme emphasis on “Sunday school anti-semitism” and the expectation that reform of religious instruction—which is no doubt highly desirable—can achieve decisive improvement. The indisputable fact of religious indifference, corroborated also by our study, forbids any such straight-forward religious explanation, even though it may seem adequate in certain backward agrarian countries with fanatically religious populations. Nevertheless, the tenacity of a number of motives of religious anti-semitism, which so to say survived religion itself, makes it impossible to altogether discount the religious aspect of persecution. The religious thesis has been reformulated accordingly. For instance, although Maurice Samual [Samuel], in his Great Hatred[17] still treats anti-semitism as a specifically Christian phenomenon, he no longer links it to the dogma but rather to a constant rebellion of what Kierkegaard would have called official Christianity against the Christian spirit: resistance of untamed barbarian nature against the sacrifices exacted by the religion of love. According to Samual [Samuel], Jew-hatred is basically Christ-hatred. What one does not dare do to the values one is forced to embrace oneself, is done to “other” values which are, nonetheless, essentially identical with one’s own values, that is to say, as closely akin as are the innermost doctrines of the two great monotheistic religions. The Jewishness of Jesus becomes all-important in this context. This, it may be noted, falls in line with a theory which starts from completely different assumptions: the psychological deduction of anti-semitism in Freud’s “Moses and Monotheism.”[18] Also, Samuel’s affinity to the “Unbehagen in der Kultur”[19] can hardly be overlooked.

We do not reject this trend of thinking. On the contrary, many of our results seem to corroborate Samuel’s “speculations.” This does not so much pertain to overt religious attitudes than to insights obtained on the personality level. The conflict of surface conventionality and underlying rebelliousness is intimately related to opposition against Christian humanism. The destructive urges so clearly evidenced throughout the TAT material show the “barbarian,” pagan mood as well as its deflection from the own world to the “other.” The projective nature of the equation Jew-hatred—Christ-hatred is obvious, and projectivity proved to be an all-pervasive element of the “high-scoring” personality’s character structure. There is hardly any trait of the “high” syndrome which contradicts Samuel’s construct.

What should be emphasized, however, is the fact that these traits manifest themselves on a much broader plane than suggested by the religious thesis. The latter is at fault insofar as it reduces a number of correct and significant observations to an arbitrarily selected “factor” which seems convincing because it represents fairly adequately certain tendencies of the totality of the social process, but which cannot possibly be regarded as ultimately responsible for the phenomena in question. Relative to anti-semitism, the historical process of Christianization is but one aspect of civilization, and the undercurrent of “rebellion of raw nature” is not limited to the Jewish-Christian tradition but overshadows all civilization up to now. It is truly “Unbehagen in der Kultur.” Rebellion against civilization is due to the fact that the latter incessantly imposes all kinds of material and psychological sacrifices. They are supposed to be “rational” because they are expected to guarantee the self-maintenance of the whole and the security of the individual, but they fail to do this. The fury against civilization, concentrated in a pure form, as it were, in anti-semitism, stems from the feeling of being cheated. Because of the unfulfilled promise to redeem man from barbarism, civilization time and again unleashes barbarian instincts. The rebel against civilization is stimulated to boundless outbreaks of wrath because the power that oppresses the barbarian in him is itself barbarian. He wants to live in a chaotic world and even destroy everything, rather than live in a culture which he knows to be but a system guaranteeing the control of those in command. Because he could not live otherwise, because “his” world would otherwise fall to pieces, his latent fury against his oppressors–who are stronger than he is–is transferred and directed against the very idea of the good which has been polluted by this civilization. This displacement also permits him to follow the line of least resistance and to persecute those who are weak anyway. Samuel has sensed this structure. He failed, however, to relate it to basic social forces and, instead, limits it to the ideological range of religious acceptance and rejection. The concreteness he thus gains, his capacity to point to one particular, tangible “reason” for anti-semitism, is spurious. Christianism is involved in anti-semitism insofar as it is involved in the totality of civilization. However, the idea that the imagery of Christ is still so powerful that reaction formation to it can be the sole explanation of totalitarian hatred, is arbitrary and cannot stand closer scrutiny. If it were true, the pressure of Christianism would have to equal the pressure of latent anti-Christianism. Obviously this is not true. Countries with age-old Christian traditions, as e.g. the Latin ones, or countries where, in the wake of Calvinism, religion profoundly moulded [sic] secular life, so far proved to be more immune to the anti-semitic virus than Germany, where Christianization never quite succeeded, and where unsublimated pagan trends survived throughout the ages. Anti-Christianity is but an auxiliary force of anti-semitism. To play it up as the root of the problem is a dangerous fallacy because it offers easy comfort to the Jews who, when persecuted, try to make themselves and others believe that the attack is equally directed against Protestants and Catholics. Pragmatically, this ideology often smells of an attempt to secure help from ruling groups through an identification which has but little basis in reality.

(4) Attitude towards the existential” theory.

In Chapter I, we mentioned the highly suggestive study “Portrait of the Anti-Semite” by Jean-Paul Sartre[viii].[20] Of all philosophical discussions of the problem known to us, this study comes closest to our own interpretation of the anti-semite. Nevertheless, we differ sharply with Mr. Sartre in regard to some of the basic philosophical concepts. The amazing thing is that Sartre’s statements, which became known to us only after we had already started to formulate our final results, coincide with our own interpretation down to exceedingly concrete details, the kind of details which, as a rule, can be expected only from empirical investigations. Though his terminology is completely different from our own, the nucleus of insight is almost the same. We contend ourselves with a few examples. Sartre’s insist[e]nce that the emotional involvement of the anti-semite is “not provoked by experience”[21] is the equivalent to our thesis that the “high-scoring” person is incapable of making any real experience and that anti-semitism no less than other elements of pseudo-conservative ideology serves as a substitute for such experiences. Sartre, too, realizes that the anti-semites never “quite believe it,”[22] that they waver between delusion and whatever experience they may still be able to make. “Do not think that anti-semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of these answers”[23] (the usual stereotypes of the Jews as cheats and trouble shooters). What we call “anti-intraceptiveness”[24] is formulated by Sartre as follows: “He (the anti-semite) has chosen to be all outside, never to examine his conscious, never to be anything but the very fear he strikes in others.”[25] Sado-masochistic conformism and hatred against the intellectual and anything that is different: “He considers himself an average man, modestly average, and in the last analysis a mediocre person.”[26] Seeking subterfuge in sham collectivity: “... one cannot be anti-semitic alone. This sentence “I hate the Jews” is a sentence which is said in chorus; by saying it one connects oneself with a tradition and a community.”[27] Our over-all construct of the fascist character: “We begin to understand that anti-semitism is not simply an “opinion” about the Jews and that it involves the entire personality of the anti-semite.”[28] Another statement made by Sartre pertains to a concept that has crept up in the Institute of Social Research’s analysis of the fascist agitator: The agitator conceives of the Jew as doing evil for evil’s sake, i.e. quite irrationally: “... a metaphysical principle which forces him to do evil under all circumstances, though in doing so he destroys himself. This principle, as we might expect, is magical.”[29] The afore-mentioned tendency of the anti-semite to turn against the “ideal” and to attack the victim instead of the oppression, concomitant with spiteful adherence to the existent, is also identified by Sartre: “The anti-semite is afraid of discovering that the world is badly made.”[30] Underneath the “high’s” positive outlook looms its opposite: “His emphasis is on destruction.”[31]

Sartre’s own capacity for experience and the tradition of French “psychology,” as defined by the great novelists from Stendhal and Flaubert to Proust (the latter gave some extraordinary analyses of anti-semitic twists, c.f. the sections of his work which are devoted to the Dreyfus affair), seem to be so strong that they render powerless the ideological elements of the philosophy he subscribes to. The main tenet of this philosophy is the idea of “decision”: that the value of man depends on his free decision and, ultimately, his ability to face fate without veils and illusions. It induces Sartre to interpret anti-semitism merely in terms of individuality although he knows, of course, that anti-semitism is concomitant with specific social and political attitudes. “No external factor can induce anti-semitism in the anti-semite. It is an attitude totally and freely self-chosen.”[32] While the emphasis on the over-all structure of the anti-semitism individuality is most productive, it is nevertheless impossible to isolate this individuality, to treat it as an absolute, and to blind oneself to its functioning as an agency of social repression. However, closer scrutiny of Sartre’s apparently individualistic concept of the anti-semite shows that even the Kierkegaardian assertion of the “self-chosen” attitude of the anti-semite contains an element of truth. Our own thesis of the secondary nature of the anti-semite’s negative transference, of the “functional” character of anti-semitism, points into the very same direction. Time and again, the observation has been made that individual anti-semitism is switched on and off, just as the “spontaneous actions” against the Jews were produced and called off in the Third Reich. The insight into this aspect of anti-semitism should somehow modify Sartre’s assumption that anti-semitism is “a passion and at the same time a concept of the world.”[33] Whereas there can be no doubt about the emotional basis of anti-semitism: repressed libido transformed into destructiveness, this libido is nevertheless primarily “free floating,” as the psychoanalysts would call it. The transference to the specific object involves the ego. The very fact that anti-semitism is not a mere attitude but a pseudo-rational ideology whose inherent untruth is never quite hidden to the fascist personality, necessitates the kind of ego involvement which Sartre interprets with the aid of the existentialist idea of “free choice.” The truth behind this concept is that the “weak ego” needs the anti-semitic ideology for purposes of self-maintenance, however spurious the latter may be. This is implied in Sartre’s remark that adherence to an arbitrary hate ideology gives the subject “a semblance of existence.” He who professes violently to hate the Jews or, as Sartre has it, who “cannot abide the English,”[34] therewith appears to himself as “somebody,” a strong, independent person, characterized by specific distinguishing traits, a rugged individual with whom one has to reckon. This obvious and extreme reaction formation to ego weakness is void of any true substance because it is not a primary expression but a defense mechanism in the strictest sense of the term. It is not accidental that Sartre takes a positive attitude towards psychoanalysis when he discusses the anti-semite’s ambivalence towards the image of the Jewess[ix]. Most of the experiences to which he refers in existentialist language can be expressed in psychoanalytic language without the fallacy of a short-circuit between metaphysical conceptions which can never be applied directly to empirical findings and intuitions of a purely psychological substance. Something analogous can be said in regard to the social aspect of Sartre’s theory. His statement: “... the anti-semite has chosen to resort to the spirit of synthesis as a means of understanding the world. It is the spirit of synthesis which allows him to see himself as forming an indissoluble unity with France as a whole…”[35] actually amounts to our own construction that anti-semitism has the function of penetrating an otherwise opaque, alienated social reality. In our categories, the element of choice, stressed so heavily by Sartre, would be interpreted as implying that the paranoid system to which the anti-semites stick desperately and collectively, actually serves the purpose of constructing a pseudo-reality which, being a “closed system” of decisions, cannot be refuted and thus offers a considerable degree of intellectual security. To quote Sartre: “But how can one choose to reason falsely? Because one feels the nostalgia of impermeability.”[36]

Finally, the main characteristic of the fascist character, the ambivalence between authoritarian submissiveness and destructive rebelliousness, is traced by Sartre at the end of his study. He knows that the fascist character structure entails the need to commit excesses if they bear the imprint of social approval, an attitude which is, by the way, psychologically identical with the externalization of the super-ego as we have discussed it in various contexts.

(5) General remarks on the psychological theory of anti-semitism.

Herbert Aptheker[ix][37] bases his critique of Gunnar Myrdal’s “An American Dilemma”[38] on the latter’s viewpoint that the problem of the American Negro is a problem “in the heart of the American,” that “social trends have their main significance for the Negro’s status because of what is in white people’s minds.”[39] The gist of Aptheker’s argument is that the Negro problem is abstracted from its socio-economic conditions as soon as it is treated as being essentially of a psychological nature, its edge is taken away. Aptheker accumulates sufficient evidence for his contention, both in regard to certain aspects of Myrdal’s work and, particularly, in regard to its effect upon public opinion, as if the problem of anti-Negro discrimination could be solved through a change of mind on the part of the people and without presupposing essential changes in social conditions.

Our own approach is predominantly psychological insofar as it goes beyond the ideological level and is concerned with motivating forces. Yet, we do not contend that anti-semitism is primarily a matter of the “Gentile frame of mind.” To clarify this apparent inconsistency as well as our position in regard to the “psychological theory” of anti-semitism, the following may be said.

We distinguish between anti-semitism as an objective social phenomenon, and the anti-semite as a peculiar type of individuality similar to Sartre’s exposé which, for good reasons, is called “Portrait of the Anti-Semite” rather than “Psychology of Anti-Semitism.” This kind of personality is accessible to psychological analysis. Not the least among the reasons which decided us to focus our investigation on susceptibility rather than overt adherence to the anti-semitic credo is the hope that we may thus arrive at a clear picture of the personality type and the subjective preconditions for the fascist “journey,” although the decision, whether such a person will actually join a movement, cannot be made solely on psychological grounds but involves objective factors that make themselves felt to the individual through [the] changing political and economic situations he has to face. It would be quite impossible to reduce the objective phenomenon of present-day anti-semitism with its age-old background and all social and economic implications, to the mentality of those who, to speak with Sartre, have to make their decision in regard to this issue. Today, each and every man is faced with a tremendous bulk of objectively existing prejudices, discriminations and articulate anti-semitic attitudes. The accumulated power of this objective complex is so great and apparently so far beyond individual powers of resistance that one might indeed ask, why are people not anti-semitic, [sic] instead of asking why certain kinds of people are anti-semitic. Thus, it would be naive to base a prognosis of anti-semitism, this truly “social” disease, on the diagnosis of the individual patients. Even their personal attitude, not to mention the prospect of fascism itself, inasmuch as it may involve this attitude only to a minor extent, can be explained through their specific mentality. This fact makes it appropriate to to approach the problem through a socio-psychological inquiry such as ours. It measures and qualitatively determines potential reactions which can be expected to occur should the situation change because of severe economic disorders or the growing social “respectability” of anti-semitism. It shows, moreover, how and to which degree the objective social forces making for anti-semitism work upon the individual not only from outside but actually within it, and permits the assumption that the “high-scoring” persion is dangerously indicative of the spirit of the time insofar as he is representative of large sectors of the population today. This insight is of great importance. It should put a check on any illusions defense agencies might harbor concerning anti-semitism as an evil brought upon the innocent minds of the population from without by way of tricky propaganda—a naivety comparable only to that which failed to acknowledge the seriousness of the anti-semitic threat in Germany because it seemed to be so completely out of proportion to the general state of enlightenment reached in that country. However, our aim is not the “psychology of anti-semitism”; this we deem impossible. We can only reach some extrapolations from certain anthropological trends of culture and, of course, substantiate some ideas regarding the kind of subjective resistance against fascism we may hope for. It goes without saying that we consider the human factor but one among other elements in the socio-economic process which engender fascism.

This somehow affects our psychological approach. It should be made clear here that we do not, so to speak, sociologize psychology. All concepts and hypotheses taken over from the Freudian school refer to the dynamics of personality. However, we do not use the specific psychoanalytic theories of anti-semitism, such as Freud’s construction of a repetitive pattern of the killing of the father of the primary horde (Urhorde), the killing of the Egyptian Moses, and the killing of Christ, or the explanation of anti-semitism through the castration complex and the “uncanniness of circumcision” (developed by Freud and Fenichel). Such theses tend to reduce anti-semitism genetically to psychological events, almost, one might say, to isolated “traumata,” by means of a somewhat dogmatic analogy between individual etiology and social causation. This naivety gives constructs, which treat phenomena of the objective spirit as well as those of social reality as if they were neuroses and could be understood in terms of some primary experience, a touch of the apocryphal and screwy. Moreover, to explain anti-semitism exclusively as a guilt and castration complex does too much honor to the anti-semite’s emotional experience: It interprets Jew-hatred as [something] much more specific, “genuine,” and substantial than it actually is. The anti-semitic personality shows certain neurotic or, to quote Ernst Simmel,[40] psychotic traits but these traits cannot possible be understood as derivatives of original experiences with the Jews. To look for such experiences brings analysis dangerously close to wild methological [sic] phantasies. If the psychology of the anti-semite were carried to the extreme, it would finally have to reach a point at which external, social repression and the intra-subjective mechanisms of psychological repression coincide. This analysis would no doubt involve castration fear and guilt feelings based on the imaginary murder of the father, [and] it is equally true that these complexes feed on historical and mythological memories. It is, nevertheless, irresponsible to treat highly dubious historical events, such as the death of Moses—who was probably a collective condensation rather than an individual—as literal empirical reality from which social attitudes and psychological complexes can be derived. We are indebted to the Freud who developed the theory of the unconscious and of repression, of the Id, the ego and the superego—not Freud the anthropologist.


Excerpt from the Authoritarian Personality (1950).

Whereas this qualification of the psychoanalytic approach is concerned with archaic origins, another refers to its last phase—one might almost say, the end of anti-semitic psychology. The “high-scoring” personality’s inability to “make experiences his acceptance (both rigid and exchangeable) of given ideological patterns, the weakness of his own self-integrative power—all this has been brought out in our study. The linking of traits which may be called failure of individuation, may well provide the ultimate definition of the “high” syndrome. This indicates a historical tendency which affects not so much individual psychology than the locus of psychology as such. It is the decay of individuality brought about by the decline of free competition and market economy. If the individual, in the sense of an equilibrium between ego, superego, and Id, can no longer be regarded as the characteristic form of today’s human beings, psychology may begin to become absolescent [sic] inasmuch as individual actions can no longer be explained adequately in terms of the individual’s own psychological household. It is not accidental that Freud’s theory was conceived during the second part of the nineteenth century, when individuality as a social category was on its height. It is also not accidental that the classical transference neuroses on which Freud developed his theory, seem to die away and are gradually replaced by narcissistic conflicts the treatment of which has inspired the revisionist schools. If the individual can no longer maintain himself by emphasizing his independence and strength, if he can succeed only by giving himself up to collective powers, the classical psychoanalytic interplay of the ego, the superego and the Id is seriously affected and the old definition of the reality principle through the crystallization of a strong ego does no longer hold true [sic]. Although we cannot go into these changes and the way they may affect the conceptual framework of psychoanalysis, we may at least venture the hypothesis that the psychology of the contemporary anti-semite in a way presupposes the end of psychology itself; for this reason it cannot be adequately described psychologically. What we are facing here is not the old Jew-hatred as a distinct emotional power. It is the readiness of certain types of man to mechanically accept given ideological patterns, “tickets,” which also contain anti-semitic slogans but which are no longer inspired by anti-semitic reactions per se [x]. This readiness is the subjective counterpart to the objective transformation of anti-semitism into a purely administrative device. One may say that our time of totalitarian anti-semitism and genocide does no longer know “spontaneous” anti-semitism, and it is possible that the very absence of an authentic and specific emotional basis makes it so merciless (cf. the era of the counter-reformation in which religious persecution and witch-hunting was especially cruel because the religious teachings in whose name persecution took place had no longer any substance). It may be a function of our study to point out the limitations of psychological determinants in modern man and their replacement by omnipotent social adjustment which, psychologically viewed, is retrogressive and, at the same time, comes close to the behaviorists’ concept of man as a bundle of conditioned reflexes. The “high” syndrome has to be viewed in the light of this total retrogression. To achieve social adjustment, the “high-scoring” person renounces the very idea of his own individuality, a tendency that comes close to Sartre’s assertion that the anti-semite is afraid “of himself, of his conscious, his freedom, of his instincts, of his responsibilities, of solitude, of change, of society and the world; of everything except the Jews.”[41] The last statement expresses the ultimate unreality of Jew-hatred as such. This unreality provides us with the hope that anti-semitism itself may disappear with the disappearance of the “psychology of the anti-semite.”

Today, men tend to become transformed into “social agencies” and to lose the qualities of independence and resistance which used to define the old concept of the individual. The traditional dichotomy between objective social forces and individuals, which we maintain methodologically, thus loses some of its substance. The more people become “socialized,” i.e. moulded through total adaptation to the social structure, the more findings—pertinent to the essence of society as such—can be gathered from the study of this society’s members. Pre-established harmony between an integral society and those it comprises lessens the importance of a distinction between the analysis of objective (stimuli) and subjective reactions. While causal priority still pertains to objective structural elements, this priority does no longer force [sic] the social scientist to take his departure from the objective “sphere of production.” If our society is really on its way to become one and a whole, leaving less and less loopholes for the individual and tolerating less and less non-social, individual realms of existence, it does not makes so much difference whether a beginning is made with the analysis of economic forces or with man. All ways lead to the same center since social dynamics pertain to institutions no less than to persons; the latter are actually the product of these dynamics. This is the hypothesis behind our assertion that the mechanisms to which individuals are incessantly subject from without, are to be found in the depth of these same individuals.

In view of the very nature of the fascist threat much can be said in favor of the subjective approach. Modern society is a mass society. This does not merely refer to the tremendous quantitative increase of the world population during the industrial era. There are also qualitative connotations. The whole pattern of present-day culture is moulded in such a way that it takes care of the masses by “integrating” them into standardized forms of life which are built after the model of industrial mass production, and by actually or vicariously satisfying their wants and needs. Today’s huge increase of social control over the masses equals the pressure potentially exercised by the masses over the social structure. Populations are treated en masse because they are no longer “masses” in the old sense of the term. They are manipulated as objects of all kinds of social organizations, including their own, because their being mere objects has become problematic since they reached—through technical civilization—a stage of enlightenment which would enable them to become true subjects if the control mechanisms would be superseded at any point. Even repression in its most ruthless form had to reckon with the oppressed masses. As Otto Kirchheimer pointed out, Nazi economics and politics did not simply represent the interests of the ruling group; they maintained traits of compromise. The masses are incessantly moulded from above, they must be moulded, if they are to be kept at bay. The overwhelming machinery of propaganda and cultural industry evidences the necessity of this apparatus for the perpetuation of a set-up the potentialities of which have outgrown the status quo. Since this potential is also the potential of effective resistance against the fascist trend, it is imperative to study the mentality of those who are at the receiver’s end of today’s social dynamics. We must study them not only because they reflect these dynamics, but above all because they are the latter’s intrinsic anti-thesis.|P

Adorno’s endnotes

[i] Here belong concepts such as the idea of pseudo-personalization, the substitution of means for ends, hostility against mere images, the functional change of religious concepts, the “cult of the existent” and many others.

[ii] Cf. T.W. Adorno, “Social Science and Sociological Tendencies in Psychoanalysis,” paper read at the bi-annual meeting of the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Society, April 1946.

[iii] Of course, the TAT is also a purely psychological instrument. On account of the subjects’ more associational and less rational reactions it reaches even deeper into the unconscious than the clinical and genetic sections of the interviews. However, the particular nature of the Murray instrument allowed us to apply it without explicitly formulating hypotheses as was done, e.g., with regard to the questionnaire. Naturally, we had quite clear-cut ideas about its relation to the other media. [Editor’s note: The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) was developed by Henry A. Murray and Christiana Morgan in 1934 at the Harvard Psychological Clinic. As the Berkeley Group described it in the first chapter of the AP study, "The Thematic Apperception Test is a well-known projective technique in which the subject is presented with a series of dramatic pictures and asked to tell a story about each of them. The material he produces can, when interpreted, reveal a great deal about his underlying wishes, conflicts, and mechanisms of defense. The technique was modified slightly to suit the present purposes (17–18)." Adorno et al. chose 25% of the highest scoring and 25% of the lowest scoring subjects on the Ethnocentric scale undergo the test. For a detailed explanation on how the TAT was administered and the conclusions that were reached, see Chapter 14 in the AP study, "The Thematic Apperception Test in the Study of Prejudiced and Unprejudiced Individuals," written by Betty Aron (489–544)].

[iv] Jewish Social Studies, [Vol.] V, Nr. 1, p. 43 ff.

[v] Commentary, Vol. III, Nr. 4, p. 378 ff.

[vi] It may be recalled that major anti-semitic actions of the Nazis, before the actual extermination policy was decided upon, often served as cloaks for economic measures which were highly detrimental to the “little man,” e.g., the notorious “Auskämmungsaktion” [“selective exclusion campaign”—Ed.] against the “Kleinbetriebe” [“small businesses”—Ed.].

[vii] Cf. Max Horkheimer and T.W. Adorno: “Elemente des Antisemitismus” in: Dialektik der Aufklärung, Amsterdam 1947.

[viii] Partisan Review, Vol. XIII, No. 2., p. 63 ff.

[ix] The Negro People in America.

[x] Cf. Max Horkheimer and T. W. Adorno, “Elemente des Antisemitismus,” l.c. [sic].



[1] See Eugene Hartley, Problems in Prejudice. (New York: King's Crown Press, 1946). For this study, Hartley conducted a series of psychological investigations on the nature of prejudice. The focus groups were made up of students from eight different colleges in the US. Each participant was asked to rate their tolerance of 49 different types of people, where three types were of fictitious origins. Overall, Hartley reached two main conclusions, which Adorno has indicated above as being close to the findings in his group's study: 1) That prejudiced attitudes such as "anti-Semitic" or "anti-Negro" cannot be regarded as specific phenomena, but are sentiments that arise from a generalized intolerant personality, and 2) that the amount of prejudice someone harbors does not necessarily correlate with how prone they might be to violently acting upon their beliefs. Further, Hartley had all the subjects write short biographies about themselves. From these, he found that those who exhibited intolerant traits also showed an unwillingness to accept responsibility for their thoughts and actions. They tended to readily conform to conventional mores, and were insecure with their social position and status. One reason Adorno and the Berkeley Group may have not heard of Hartley's study sooner could be because Problems in Prejudice was a delayed publication. Although Hartley completed his investigations in 1939, the findings were not published until 1946 due to circumstances caused by the war.

[2] It is not clear exactly which study Adorno is referencing. The Institute of Social Researchti carried out multiple analyses on the production and effects of propaganda. He is most likely referring to the fifth volume in the “Studies in Prejudice” series, Prophets of Deceit, by Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman. That research project closely investigated the propaganda techniques of radio addresses and pamphlets produced by small anti-Semitic groups in America between the years of 1933 and 1941. See Nobert Guterman and Leo Lowenthal, Prophets of Deceit (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1949).

[3]Adorno is here referring to subjects that score high on the study’s prejudice indices.

[4] The authors divide the first chapter of AP into three sections: A) Problem, B) Methodology, and C) Procedures in the Collection of Data. Here Adorno is referring to paragraphs in section A where they make theoretical claims on how socio-economic forces should not be considered the principle factor in governing peoples' ideologies. As their research revealed, it turns out that those with the same economic status differed widely in their political opinions. They typically held irrational views which were even unfavorable to their own well-being. "It is becoming increasingly plain that people very frequently do not behave in such a way as to further their material interests, even when it is clear to them what these interests are." Adorno et al. posited that people tend to think in terms of "group identification," where decisions are made to support the "in-group" they see themselves as part of rather than through rational considerations. Given that fascist regimes depend on appealing to emotional needs—often the "most primitive and irrational wishes and fears," as the authors of the study put it—rational interests are all the more obscured by a society that enables unreflective tendencies. Hence, the Berkeley group believed that a thorough study into peoples' deep-seeded psychological traits was needed in order to even begin combating authoritarianism. The doctrine of "economic determinism" had its blindspots and could not account for this subjective phenomenon. See Adorno et al., The Authoritarian Personality (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950), 8–10.

[5] See Jean-Paul Sartre, "Portrait of the Anti-Semite" in Partisan Review, Vol. XIII, No. 2. (Spring 1946): 163–178. Available online at <>.

[6] See Joshua Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jew and its Relation to Modern Antisemitism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1943).

[7] See Paul W. Massing, Rehearsal for Destruction: A Study of Political Anti-Semitism in Imperial Germany (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1949). This book was the fourth volume in the “Studies in Prejudice” series.

[8] Adorno does not cite the details of the particular polls he refers to above, nor are they mentioned in the AP itself. The survey is most likely referring to an extended questionnaire Fortune conducted in February 1946. It was set out to discover the state of anti-semitism in the U.S. after the war. Fortune found that although “competent authorities agree that in the U.S. anti-Jewish feeling reached new heights [as the] war approached,” it came to a “whopping” halt after the fall of Hitler. Only 8.8% of the adult population considered themselves as conscious anti-Semites in 1946. Typically the most anti-Semitic groups were the rich (13.5%) and those who were strongly “anti-British” (13.5%). African Americans were found to be the least anti-semitic, with only 2.3% having a negative opinion of the Jews. See Editors (with the help of Dr. H. Scudder Mekeel), “The Fortune Survey” Fortune, February 1946.

[9] Adorno does not cite the details of the particular polls her refers to above, nor are they mentioned in the AP itself. Between 1935, when the Gallup Institute was founded, and 1950, there were a number of questionnaires about the American public's opinion of Jewish people and Germany under Hitler's rule. Several from the late 1930s could be relevant to Adorno's remarks on the subject. For instance, in August of 1937, the Gallup Institute asked, "Do you think anti-Jewish feeling is increasing or decreasing in this country?" No clear opinion, however, could be discerned from the results: Out of 2933 respondents, 29.25% said increasing, 23.39% said decreasing, 24.45% said about the same, and 22.91% had no opinion. In April of 1938, there was an ambivalent response to the Jews' fate under the Third Reich. Upon being asked the question "Do you think persecution of the Jews in Europe has been their own fault?" 10.90% responded entirely, 53.99% partly, and 35.11% not at all (with 2834 respondents). A similar question followed this one in November of the same year, asking "Do you approve or disapprove of Nazi's treatment...of Jews in Germany?" Out of 3121 answers, only 5.58% approved and 6.22% had no opinion; 88.21% disapproved. The Gallup poll also asked in April 1938, "Do you think there is to be a widespread campaign against the Jews in this country?" Out of 3123 respondents, 16.39% answered yes, 70.77% no, and 12.84% no opinion. The follow-up question, "Would you support this campaign?" received responses from 2946 people; 11.74% answered yes, and 88.26% no. These same two questions above were asked again in March 1939 with slightly varied answers. Out of 1581 respondents, 19.73% people thought there would be a widespread campaign against Jews in the US, where 66.16% did not and 14.10% had no opinion; 11.82% said they would support it, where 81.37% would not, and 6.80% had no opinion. Finally, the March 1939 survey also asked "Do you think anti-Jewish feeling is increasing or decreasing in this country?" Out of 1540 respondents, 45.26% thought the sentiment was increasing, 16.62% decreasing, 16.62 no change, and 21.49 no opinion. When asked "How strongly do you feel about this?" out of 1459 respondents, 10.69% answered strongly yes, 8.43% mildly yes, 54.63% strongly no, and 26.25% mildly no.

[10] See Ernst Simmel ed., Anti-Semitism: A Social Disease (New York: International Universities Press, 1946). In particular, see Chapter 2, "Elements of Psychoanalysis Theory of Anti-Semitism" by Otto Fenichel (11—32) and Chapter 3, "Anti-Semitism and Mass Psychology" by Ernst Simmel (33–78). Relevantly, Adorno himself authored Chapter 7, titled "Anti-Semitism and Fascist Propaganda” (125–137).

[11] Gregor Strasser (1892–1934), along with his brother Otto Strasser, were regarded as some of the most "efficient organizers" of the Nazi Party (NSDAP). Gregor Strasser joined in 1920 and became a prominent member shortly thereafter. He was imprisoned in 1924 for helping lead the unsuccessful Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. Due largely to Strasser's organizational influence, the NSDAP grew from 27,000 in 1925 to more than 800,000 by 1931. In 1932, when Hitler declined the offer from Hindenburg to be vice-chancellor, Strasser quit the party out of growing disagreements between the two figures. He was eventually killed by Nazi soldiers under Hitler's orders on what has become known as the Night of the Long Knives.

[12] “hoodlum-anti-semitism”—Editor’s translation.

[13] See Nathan Glazer, "The Study of Man: The Alienation of Modern Man" Commentary (April 1, 1947). Available online at <>.

[14] Please refer to the Editor's note 3 above, where it is explained why the Berkeley group directed the AP study towards the subjective factors of political opinions and prejudice rather than economic motives.

[15] A reference to the Friedrich Schiller’s 1796 poem, “Mädchen aus der Fremde.” The title roughly translates to “The Maiden From a Foreign Land.”

[16] For more on how Freud defines the uncanny, see Sigmund Freud, "The ‘Uncanny’” (1919) in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud,

Volume XVII (1917–1919): An Infantile Neurosis and Other Works (London: Hogarth Press, 1956–74), 217–252.

[17] See Maurice Samuel, The Great Hatred (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1940).

[18] See Sigmund Freud, “Moses and Monotheism,” in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XXIII (1937–1939: Moses and Monotheism, An Outline of Psycho-Analysis and Other Works (London: Hogarth Press, 1964), 3–137.

[19] That translates to what has become known as “Civilization and Its Discontents.”

[20] See Sartre, "Portrait of the Anti-Semite," 163–178. Available online at <>. This essay was extended and published as the book Anti-Semite and Jew in 1946. The first section of Sartre's piece was written in 1944, after Paris was liberated. It was then first published in Les Temps Modernes in December 1945, followed by the Partisan Review in the 1946 spring issue. All of the Editor's citations refer to the page numbers in the Partisan Review publication.

[21] Ibid., 165.

[22] This phrase is not written in Sartre's text, so it is safe to assume that Adorno inserted the quotation marks to stylistically express an idiom rather than citing a quote.

[23] Ibid., 167.

[24] In Chapter 7 of The Authoritarian Personality, Adorno et al. describe the term “anti-intraception as follows: “lntraception is a term introduced by [Henry A.] Murray to stand for ‘the dominance of feelings, fantasies, speculations, aspirations—an imaginative, subjective human outlook.’ The opposite of intraception is extraception, ‘a term that describes the tendency to be determined by concrete, clearly observable, physical conditions (tangible, objective facts).’ The relations of interception/extraception to ego weakness and to prejudice are probably highly complex, and this is not the place to consider them in detail. It seems fairly clear, however, that anti-intraception, an attitude of impatience with and opposition to the subjective and tender-minded, might well be a mark of the weak ego. The extremely anti-intraceptive individual is afraid of thinking about human phenomena because he might, as it were, think the wrong thoughts; he is afraid of genuine feeling because his emotions might get out of control. Out of touch with large areas of his own inner life, he is afraid of what might be revealed if he, or others, should look closely at himself.” See Adorno et al, “The Measurement of Implicit Antidemocratic Trends,” in The Authoritarian Personality (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950), 235.

[25] Ibid., 168. The parenthetical statement "the anti-semite" is Adorno's own intervention in the Sartre quote.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid. There is a small punctuation error: Adorno failed to include a colon after "sentence."

[28] Ibid., 170. Sartre did not hyphenate the word "anti-Semite" in the original text.

[29] Ibid., 171. The phrase "to do evil" is italicized in Sartre's original text.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid., 172.

[32] Ibid., 166.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid., 177.

[35] Ibid., 170. Sartre did not hyphenate the word "anti-Semite" in the original text.

[36] Ibid., 166.

[37] See Herbert Aptheker, The Negro People in America: A Critique of Gunnar Myrdal's "An American Dilemma” (New York: International Publishers, 1946).

[38] See Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1944).

[39] Ibid., 998.

[40] See Ernst Simmel, "Anti-Semitism and Mass Psychology,” Anti-Semitism: A Social Disease (New York: International Universities Press, 1946): 33–78.

[41] See Sartre, "Portrait of the Anti-Semite," 177. Available online at <>.

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