Thu Jul 14th, 2016 at 08:05:58 PM EST
Authoritarianism and the Logic of Intolerant Nationalism
My previous diary focused on the socioeconomic roots of the current populist tremors. As polling data shows, that explanation is not sufficient. Today I found an article that delineates the psychological sources of the authoritarian backlash.
When and Why Nationalism Beats Globalism - And how moral psychology can help explain and reduce tensions between the two -
Jonathan Haidt - The American Interest
I'll show how globalization and rising prosperity have changed the values and behavior of the urban elite, leading them to talk and act in ways that unwittingly activate authoritarian tendencies in a subset of the nationalists. I'll show why immigration has been so central in nearly all right-wing populist movements. It's not just the spark, it's the explosive material, and those who dismiss anti-immigrant sentiment as mere racism have missed several important aspects of moral psychology related to the general human need to live in a stable and coherent moral order.
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
Chapter One: The Rise of the Globalists
... as they industrialize, they move away from "traditional values" in which religion, ritual, and deference to authorities are important, and toward "secular rational" values that are more open to change, progress, and social engineering based on rational considerations. Second, as they grow wealthier and more citizens move into the service sector, nations move away from "survival values" emphasizing the economic and physical security found in one's family, tribe, and other parochial groups, toward "self-expression" or "emancipative values" that emphasize individual rights and protections
... As societies become more prosperous and safe, they generally become more open and tolerant. Combined with vastly greater access to the food, movies, and consumer products of other cultures brought to us by globalization and the internet, this openness leads almost inevitably to the rise of a cosmopolitan attitude, usually most visible in the young urban elite. Local ties weaken, parochialism becomes a dirty word, and people begin to think of their fellow human beings as fellow "citizens of the world"... Cosmopolitans embrace diversity and welcome immigration, often turning those topics into litmus tests for moral respectability. ... Parochialism is bad and universalism is good.
A feasible explanation for the urban-rural divide. Hard to be cosmopolitan if the world around you is withering. That doesn't mean there are no authoritarian city dwellers and no hillbilly liberals but it accounts for the significant percentage gap between the areas. It also explains why tribalism goes up when times get tough, e.g. prisons are usually neatly segregated and erstwhile multiethnic Iraq has turned to ethnic cleansing as a stabilizing tool.
Chapter Two: Globalists and Nationalists Grow Further Apart on Immigration
... There is nothing necessarily racist or base about this arrangement or social contract. Having a shared sense of identity, norms, and history generally promotes trust. Having no such shared sense leads to the condition that the sociologist Émile Durkheim described as "anomie" or normlessness. Societies with high trust, or high social capital, produce many beneficial outcomes for their citizens
... [Positive sentiment toward immigrants,... and desire for Britain to leave the EU] Residents of Inner London are extreme outliers on both dimensions when compared to other cities and regions of the UK, and even when compared to residents of outer London.
But if you are a European nationalist, watching the nightly news may have felt like watching the spread of the Zika virus, ...
By the summer of 2015 the nationalist side was already at the boiling point, shouting "enough is enough, close the tap," when the globalists proclaimed, "let us open the floodgates, it's the compassionate thing to do, and if you oppose us you are a racist." Might that not provoke even fairly reasonable people to rage? Might that not make many of them more receptive to arguments, ideas, and political parties that lean toward the illiberal side of nationalism and that were considered taboo just a few years earlier?
One of the worst things about the refugee debates last year was the black-or-white thinking and rhetoric. Refugees were either deemed evil uncivilized hordes or innocent angels sent to us to cure us of our selfishness. The most visible media images were applauding volunteers who gave teddy bears to refugee children, and images of burning refugee shelters. It seemed like social distrust was amplified in a back and forth manner like on a swing set.
Chapter Three: Muslim Immigration Triggers the Authoritarian Alarm
they hate people whom they perceive as having values that are incompatible with their own, or who (they believe) engage in behaviors they find abhorrent, or whom they perceive to be a threat to something they hold dear. These moral concerns may be out of touch with reality, and they are routinely amplified by demagogues. But if we want to understand the recent rise of right-wing populist movements, then "racism" can't be the stopping point; it must be the beginning of the inquiry.
...authoritarianism is not a stable personality trait. It is rather a psychological predisposition to become intolerant when the person perceives a certain kind of threat. ... The answer [...] is what she calls "normative threat," which basically means a threat to the integrity of the moral order (as they perceive it). It is the perception that "we" are coming apart:
The experience or perception of disobedience to group authorities or authorities unworthy of respect, nonconformity to group norms or norms proving questionable, lack of consensus in group values and beliefs and, in general, diversity and freedom `run amok' should activate the predisposition and increase the manifestation of these characteristic attitudes and behaviors.
So authoritarians are not being selfish. They are not trying to protect their wallets or even their families. They are trying to protect their group or society.
Well, self-interest vs selfishness. It's a rather semantic debate. But the motive becomes clearer.
... But when Stenner gave them a news story suggesting that Americans are becoming more morally diverse, the button got pushed, the "authoritarian dynamic" kicked in, and they became more racist and intolerant.
... Status quo conservatives are not natural allies of authoritarians, who often favor radical change and are willing to take big risks to implement untested policies. This is why so many Republicans--and nearly all conservative intellectuals--oppose Donald Trump ...But status quo conservatives can be drawn into alliance with authoritarians when they perceive that progressives have subverted the country's traditions... Brexit can seem less radical than the prospect of absorption into the "ever closer union" of the EU. ...
T]he increasing license allowed by those evolving cultures generates the very conditions guaranteed to goad latent authoritarians to sudden and intense, perhaps violent, and almost certainly unexpected, expressions of intolerance. ... The kind of intolerance that springs from aberrant individual psychology, rather than the disinterested absorption of pervasive cultural norms, is bound to be more passionate and irrational, less predictable, less amenable to persuasion, and more aggravated than educated by the cultural promotion of tolerance
Writing in 2004, Stenner predicted that "intolerance is not a thing of the past, it is very much a thing of the future."
There have been two recently publicized cases here where muslim males refused to shake a female teacher's hand out of religious reasons. This is likely a boiling point for a lot of people who have been taught it's common courtesy to shake hands. And thinking with your culture bias and thinking about your wallet goes hand in hand. One probably begets the other, see for example the zoning wars or the social spending wars. Also, isn't it ironic? Tolerance and diversity create room for ... intolerance! 'That's just how we roll!'
Chapter Four: What Now?
... When immigrants seem eager to embrace the language, values, and customs of their new land, it affirms nationalists' sense of pride that their nation is good, valuable, and attractive to foreigners. But whenever a country has historically high levels of immigration, from countries with very different moralities, and without a strong and successful assimilationist program, it is virtually certain that there will be an authoritarian counter-reaction, and you can expect many status quo conservatives to support it.
... If this argument is correct, then it leads to a clear set of policy prescriptions for globalists. First and foremost: Think carefully about the way your country handles immigration and try to manage it in a way that is less likely to provoke an authoritarian reaction. Pay attention to three key variables: the percentage of foreign-born residents at any given time, the degree of moral difference of each incoming group, and the degree of assimilation being achieved by each group's children.
Ultimately, nothing inspires greater tolerance from the intolerant than an abundance of common and unifying beliefs, practices, rituals, institutions, and processes. And regrettably, nothing is more certain to provoke increased expression of their latent predispositions than the likes of "multicultural education," bilingual policies, and nonassimilation.
Hindsight is 20-20 but yes, Blair could have called for a delay of free movement after the Eastern EU expansion like other EU countries did. And Merkel sure could have done something to help refugees without blowing up Dublin, Schengen and the German asylum system. It was confusing to see how she -just a short time before those events- denounced multiculturalism and then proceeded to practically boost just that. Now she's preaching tolerance for pork. It's quite a shit show. Thankfully the AfD guys are busy with internal strife and their poll numbers are going down. But you can't count on the right-wing populists to be stupid forever. I'm feeling queasy and I agree this short era could be a turning point for western democracy.