Like many other psychologists he is only interested or at least feels competent only in describing a phenomenon. He does not venture to say anything about the possible genesis of that which he describes. This is where the California Study Group ventured forth—and drew considerable criticism. Applying their own psychodynamic insights (along with a dose of Marx), Adorno and his associates sought to discover and say something about the origins of authoritarianism – and perhaps Rokeach’s closed mind. It would be fascinating to know if the extreme Liberal comes from a home and society that in any way parallels that of the right-wing ideologue.
Another major point of possible criticism can be offered that involves not just Rokeach, but virtually all of those following up on the California Study. This criticism concerns a basic way to view the world that is not so easily corrected. It involves a subtle bias, implicit in Rokeach’s work and work of many other social psychologists, which is based on the Aristotelian/scientific assumption regarding the value of rationality and logical consistency of systems—a value that is aligned with open-ended and tolerant belief systems. Unlike Fromm, and possibly Adorno, Rokeach is unappreciative of the possible validity of irrational, paradoxical forms of logic or illogic. Frequently. two contradictory beliefs, especially in emotionally charged (ethical, political, racial) situations, must be held in paradoxical tension, if the most adequate solution or use of the beliefs is to be achieved.
Premature resolution or “closure” of contradiction is not a sign of open-mindedness. It is a sign of authoritarianism. Furthermore, in terms of communication, knowledge can often be only expressed in terms of paradox. As Lao-tse has stated: “Words that are strictly true seem to be paradoxical.” The critiques of paradox offered by linguists are often justified. The “truth” described by Lao-tse is often no more than a misunderstanding of terms – a semantic difficulty – or may be a semantic maneuver for the sake of dramatics. Nevertheless, a wholesale invalidation of paradox will eliminate some of the most profound and inspirational poetic, literary, philosophical and theological statements made by human beings.
The closedminded individual is precisely the one who cannot deal with these abstractions and ambiguities. Fromm (l956, p. 79) pointed out that paradox, at least in certain cultural contexts, can serve to increase the tendency towards tolerance and the transformation of society: Since one’s ”right truth” can be arrived at subjectively, i.e. non-logically, and two “rights” can coexist paradoxically, two contradictory belief-disbelief systems are mutually acceptable. Furthermore, the major concern is with “acting right” since the emphasis is not on “thinking right” which is always relative.
Hence, there is a pervasive ethical, revolutionary concern when the focus is on acting rather than just thinking “right.”. Such a proposal, however, is not without problems. Paradoxical modes of thought, while potentially leading to openmindedness, are not easily sustained, nor made applicable, by the conceiving individual. One can easily fall into a subjectivism, hence into an emotionality and fanaticism. This is the essence of authoritarianism.