Personality & Individual Differences, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 271-272, 1985.
AUTHORITARIANISM OF THE LEFT REVISITED
J. J. RAY
School of Sociology, University of New South Wales, P.O. Box 1, Kensington, NSW 2033, Australia.
(Received 9 May 1984)
Summary -- Eysenck and Shils observed that, in political life, authoritarianism seems roughly equally likely on the political Left and Right. There have however been difficulties in measuring authoritarianism of the Left. The Ray Humanistic Radicalism (HR) scale expresses classically liberal and humanist sentiments and yet has shown high positive correlations with the Adorno Fascism (F) and Dogmatism (D) scales. It appears to show that liberalism can be Fascist. The correlations could however be an acquiescence artefact. The HR Scale was therefore administered to a random sample of 99 Australians together with a balanced F scale (BF scale). Scores on the BF scale did thus have acquiescence experimentally controlled against. The positive F-scale items were again found to correlate positively with the HR scale but the BF scale as a whole showed no significant correlation. As Eysenck predicted then, social attitudes were found to be two-dimensional, with liberalism orthogonal to authoritarianism rather than opposed to it. It was quite possible for people to accept the liberal sentiments of the HR scale and the aggressive sentiments of the F scale simultaneously.
Since Eysenck (1954) and Shils (1954) noted that in political life Leftists are roughly as likely as Rightists to evince authoritarian behaviour, there has been some search for attitudes of an authoritarian kind among Leftists. This search has had such doubtful success that Stone (1980) has voiced the view that authoritarianism of the Left is 'mythical'. Stone, however, does ignore much of the evidence (Ray, 1983). One scale with a claim to measuring authoritarian attitudes of a Leftist sort is the Ray Humanistic Radicalism (HR) scale. This scale has been shown among Army conscripts to correlate highly positively with both the Adorno Fascism (F) and Rokeach Dogmatism (D) scales and yet expresses classically liberal and humanist sentiments (Ray, 1972a). Such an unusual scale surely requires close examination.
A problem with the HR scale is its one-way wording. Could not its correlations with the F and D scales (also both one-way worded) be merely an acquiescence artefact? Might not high scorers on all three scales be largely those who will agree with any platitudinous sentiment whatsoever? Ray (1974) examined this possibility and rejected this explanation of the results. He derived a measure of acquiescence from a balanced Ethnocentrism scale (administered together with the other three scales) simply by adding all Ethnocentrism items regardless of meaning, i.e. without doing any reverse-scoring. Partialling out this measure of acquiescence has little effect on the correlations originally observed for the HR scale. This procedure of Ray (1974) does however assume that acquiescence to E (Ethnocentrism) items will be a good estimate of acquiescence to HR scale items and this might not be so. Acquiescence scores from different scales are not typically highly correlated (Vagt and Wendt, 1978). Experimental control for acquiescence (i.e. use of balanced scales) would be preferable.
When the initial data on the HR scale were collected (in 1968), there was no such thing as a successful balanced F scale (Christie, Havel and & Seidenberg, 1956). Acquiescence could not therefore be controlled for experimentally. Since then, however, a balanced F scale (BF) with satisfactory correlations between its halves has become available (Ray, 1972b). The present study therefore employed the short form (Ray, 1979) of this scale (the BF scale) rather than the original F scale. Statistical control for acquiescence (with its attendant dubious assumptions) is thus rendered unnecessary.
The 14-item BF scale and the 15-item HR scale were included in a questionnaire administered to a random doorstep sample of 99 people from the metropolitan area of Sydney, Australia. Other findings from this survey have already been reported elsewhere (Ray, 1984) -- where fuller methodological details may also be found.
The BF scale showed a reliability (alpha) of 0.69 and a correlation between its positive and negative halves (rPN) of -0.37 before reverse-scoring. This was considered adequate in a short balanced scale.
The HR scale was found with this sample to have five items that showed negligible correlations with their scale total. When these were removed from consideration, a 10-item scale with a reliability (a) of 0.58 remained. It correlated 0.10 with the BF scale. Although the correlation was in the expected direction, it was, of course, non-significant. Better sampling and better control for acquiescence would seem to have completely erased the relationship reported earlier in Ray (1974).
The questionnaire did, however, contain the items of several other authoritarianism scales (Ray, 1984) so these were also examined for anomalous relationships with the BF scale. Two from the Attitude to Authority (AA) scale (Ray, 1971) were found that were scored Leftist anti-authoritarian and which yet correlated positively with the BF scale. When these were combined with selected items from the HR scale a 'revised' HR scale of 10 items with a reliability (alpha) of 0.57 was formed.
It correlated 0.39 with a scale made up of the positive items only from the BF scale (i.e. with original, unreversed 'F' items) and 0.16 with the full BF scale. Even this scale, then, showed no significant correlation with F scale scores when acquiescence was controlled for.
Although the positive correlation between the HR scale and original F scale items was replicated on the present sample, it was shown that, with acquiescence controlled for, the true relationship between sentiments characteristic of the HR scale and sentiments characteristic of the F scale was one of orthogonality.
The non-relationship found here is, however, more easily explainable in theoretical terms than is the original spurious positive correlation. In fact what was found was very much what Eysenck (1954) had originally predicted. Political attitudes were found to be two dimensional, with authoritarians (in the F scale sense) being just as likely to be liberal as anti-liberal. Half of those who subscribed to the humanist and liberal sentiments of the HR scale also subscribed to the hostile and repressive sentiments of the F scale. Being a humanistic liberal is no guarantee that one will also reject authoritarian practices. It has been shown that the structure of political attitudes does indeed mirror the structure of political behaviour so long ago described by Eysenck (1954) and Shils (1954).
Christie R., Havel J. and Seidenberg B. (1956) Is the F scale irreversible? J. abnorm. soc. Psychol. 56, 141-158.
Eysenck H. J. (1954) The Psychology of Politics. Routledge, London.
Ray, J.J. (1971) An "Attitude to Authority" scale. Australian Psychologist, 6, 31-50.
Ray, J.J. (1972) Militarism and psychopathology: A reply to Eckhardt & Newcombe J. Conflict Resolution, 16, 357-362.
Ray, J.J. (1972) A new balanced F scale -- And its relation to social class. Australian Psychologist 7, 155-166.
Ray, J.J. (1974) Authoritarian humanism. Ch. 42 in Ray, J.J. (Ed.)
Conservatism as heresy Sydney: A.N.Z. Book Co.
Ray, J.J. (1983). Half of all authoritarians are Left-wing: A reply to Eysenck and Stone. Political Psychology, 4, 139-144.
Ray, J.J. (1984). Half of all racists are Left-wing. Political Psychology, 5, 227-236.
Shils E. A. (1954) Authoritarianism Right and Left. In Studies in the Scope and Method of "The Authoritarian Personality" (Edited by Christie R. and Jahoda M.). Free Press, Glencoe, Ill.
Stone W. F. (1980) The myth of Left-wing authoritarianism. Political Psychology 2, 3-19.
Vagt G. and Wendt W. (1978) Akquieszenz und die Validtaet von Fragebogenskalen. Psychologische Beitraege 20, 428-439.
1. While the research above shows that the idealistic Leftist ideology expressed in the HR scale is unrelated to the old-fashioned attitudes embodied in the F scale, results from other research show that Leftist and Rightist attitudes in general are far from unrelated -- they are in opposition to one-another. Thus, while the above findings show that a two dimensional description of the political attitude domain is possible, the political attitude domain in general is stubbornly one-dimensional!
2. Bearing in mind that the F scale is principally a measure of old-fashioned attitudes, another accurate way of describing the above findings would be to say that idealistic Leftists are just as likely as conservatives to display old-fashioned thinking!
3. The items of the original HR scale are given below:
The Humanistic Radicalism (HR) Scale Items.
1. Human beings are more important than efficiency.
2. The thing children need most is lots of love and affection.
3. Human life is sacred.
4. There is seldom any reason to hurt people's feelings.
5. Dictatorships are totally wrong.
6. Some of the most lovable things about certain people are their little faults and foibles.
7. A bit of disorganisation sometimes does you good.
8. If the Army allowed more room for individuality it might be a better institution.
9. All men are equal.
10. The government should provide more help for the disabled.
11. People should be guided more by their feelings and less by the rules.
12. On some things it is impossible to make up your mind for days on end.
13. In the Army soldiers should not obey an order if it is obviously morally wrong.
14. Patriotism is just a glorified name for national selfishness.
15. Individual freedom is a basic human right.
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