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Eric Hoffer

A third significant portrait was drawn by Eric Hoffer in his book, The True Believer. Hoffer pictured the fanatic in contemporary society – the individual who will readily accept any cause, and, if necessary, sacrifice his life for the cause and the beliefs constructed in connection with the cause. Hoffer does not maintain that all causes. or mass movements are identical, but only that these movements share certain essential characteristics· which give them a family likeness. All mass movements generate in their adherents a proclivity for united action; they all, irrespective of the doctrine that is preached and the program that is perfected, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance; they are all capable of releasing a powerful flow of activity in particular departments of life; they all demand a blind faith and a single­hearted allegiance, i.e.:

“All movements, however different in doctrine and aspiration, draw their early adherents from the same types of humanity; they all appeal to the same types of mind.”

These “types” are the individuals who: {l) try to recover a lost faith in themselves by seeking a transcendent faith; (2) find nothing meaningful in their own life, hence, have a critical, yet dependent, preoccupation with other people’s lives; (3) hold an intense fear that life is slipping away from them; and (4) need a substitute for individual hope, being a member of a society imbued with the idea of progress and concerned with the future. Mass movements are usually accused of doping the member with the hope of the future in lieu of enjoyment in the present. However, to the frustrated individual, the present is irremediably spoiled. Comforts and pleasures cannot alter this situation. Consequently, real hope can only arise in the prospects of the future.

The Authoritarian Personality

A fourth study, conducted by the University of California Institute of Social Research, stands as the most significant and influential among the many which have been reported. While the three previously mentioned authors, Fromm, Sartre, and Hoffer, based their hypotheses upon subjective observation and speculation, the University of California group based its conclusions upon empirical data and operationally controlled experimentation. This empirical study credited primarily to Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswick, Levinson, and Sanford was instigated in an attempt to demonstrate that an individual’s attitudes toward minority groups are inter­related, forming a consistent pattern and that these attitudes are an expression of basic character trends which, considered as a: whole, may be termed the “Authoritarian Personality.”

One phase of their work was based on a series of scales. constructed to measure attitudes dealing with three broad areas of social concern, i.e. ethnocentrism, anti-Semitism, and anti-democratic trends. The authors guided themselves in the construction of these seal.es by the definite assumption that the economic, political, and social views of an individual form a coherent and describable pattern. In constructing these scales, the University of California’s investigative team relied on an analysis of the probable content and organization of the attitudes in question.

They prepared questions on anti-Semitic sentiment which they felt bore on the leading ideas: {1} The “offensiveness” of Jews, (2) the “threatening” character of the Jews, ( 3) the need to segregate the Jew in regards to employment, education, residence:, etc., ( 4) the Jew’s “intrusiveness”, i.e. his tendency to over-imitate and assimilate, and (5) an antithetical view, the Jew’s “seclusiveness,” i.e. his refusal to assimilate to the ways of the wider community. The scale consisted or five sub-parts, each of which dealt with one of the views just described. In form the scales were of the type first presented by Rensis Likert.

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