Journal of Conflict Resolution, 1972, 16 (3), 357-361.

MILITARISM AND PSYCHOPATHOLOGY: A reply to Eckhardt and Newcombe


School of Sociology, University of New South Wales

I cannot at present reply fully to Eckhardt and Newcombe's "Comments on Ray's `Militarism, Authoritarianism, Neuroticism and Antisocial Behavior" (1972), because of the twin circumstances of a near publication deadline and the fact that most of the references given by Eckhardt and Newcombe in support of their case are in fact to papers written by Eckhardt himself -- either alone or in collaboration with others. These papers are mostly to be found only in very obscure sources. Periodicals such as The Journal of Contemporary Revolutions and Peace Research Reviews do not appear to be taken by any Australian library and as a consequence I have simply not been able to sight them. Nonetheless I think that there are some useful comments that I can make here.

Eckhardt and Newcombe (1972) claim that militarism is associated with psychopathology. I claim that militarists are, if anything, better adjusted than normal. This disagreement between us does include (but is not solely to be explained by) a disagreement about definition. I define militarism quite simply as liking or admiration for the armed forces and things associated with them. Eckhardt defines militarism as the sum of four factors: (1) belief in military deterrence; (2) conservative nationalism; (3) lack of peace responsibility; and (4) anti-Communism. I would claim that these factors measure just what they say they do and nothing more. What I call militarism in my work is obviously in this sense a fifth factor. If we want to advance our understanding at all, then it seems important to examine each of the factors separately. In the 1967 study quoted in Eckhardt and Newcombe (1969, pp. 210-11), they apparently did carry out such an examination. From this examination we learn two interesting facts that do appear to justify separate treatment of the four factors: (1) It is in fact only the "lack of peace responsibility" factor which correlates with psychopathology; (2) "The (Eckhardt) militarism scale was not significantly correlated with authoritarianism as measured by the F scale, but authoritarianism was found to be positively correlated (.60) with the military deterrence factor."

Note what this latter quote implies. If one factor of the Eckhardt scale was highly positively related to authoritarianism but the scale overall was not so related, then at least one of the other factors in the Eckhardt scale must have been negatively related to authoritarianism. To get an overall orthogonality, there must have been a negative correlation coefficient to cancel out the positive coefficient. We are asked then to believe that in the Eckhardt et al. (1967) sample high F-scale scorers either rejected conservative nationalism, were pro-Communist, or showed a high degree of peace responsibility. All three seem quite unlikely, to say the least, but the only one that does not seem to be an outright impossibility is the last-mentioned -- i.e., people who worry about peace are authoritarian. Perhaps in fact an observer of peace-demonstrator violence would not find the correlation at all implausible. The trouble is of course that Eckhardt et al. are trying to assert the opposite. They are trying to equate lack of peace responsibility with militarism, authoritarianism, and conservatism. They have obviously been less than frank in interpreting their own results. My suggestion again is that their militarism scale is a bad one and is hopelessly multidimensional. Their "lack of peace responsibility" factor would appear in fact to measure not militarism but rather some sort of "authoritarianism of the left." Rejection of a pro-"peace responsibility" statement indicates not militarism but rather rejection of left-wing authoritarianism. Authoritarianism of the left does exist. Table 1 lists the 15 items of a "humanistic radicalism" scale written by myself to embody the sorts of sentiment often expressed by student orators and other left-wing agitators. When administered to 404 Australian Army conscripts on their first day in camp (the October 1968 intake at Singleton), this scale showed a reliability of .65 (coefficient "alpha'") and correlated .474 with F-scale authoritarianism and .266 with D-scale dogmatism. Acquiescence was statistically controlled by partial correlation and did not materially alter these results.

At any event it seems that results obtained with the Eckhardt militarism scale must be treated with great caution. To the extent that he uses this scale in his other work, that work must be questioned. Note however that even if we accept the "peace responsibility" factor at face value, this does not alter the fact that Eckhardt's own results show that there are at least three senses of "militarism" in which militarists are not characterized by psychopathology. If my deductions above are correct and we discard the "peace responsibility" factor, there is no sense in which the militarist is sick. At the very least Eckhardt should reanalyze all his post-1967 data with the four factors treated as separate variables.

One reference given by Eckhardt and Newcombe (1972) that I was able to obtain was Eckhardt and Alcock (1970). This paper reports a factor analysis of a battery of mixed attitude and personality items. The general conclusion is that militarism, nationalism, and conservatism go together with misanthropy and neuroticism, etc. This seems clearly opposite to my finding that militarism goes with social adaptability (Ray, 1972a). I suspect that the problem lies in Eckhardt's use of factor- analysis. Although it may be useful in formulating hypotheses, it is a very poor way of examining theories. This is largely because it is only after we have our factor picture that we decide what each of our variables is to be called. This can be a very subjective and arbitrary decision. Anyone who has actually done factor analyses will know what strange collocations of items may be found loading on the one factor. What a factor means is often debatable. One example of this is the factor analysis of Beswick and Hills' (1969) Australian ethnocentrism scale. In a pre-publication version of this paper the third factor was identified as measuring "authoritarianism." Later a certain colleague pointed out that all the items loading highly on that factor included the word "Australia" or "Australian." In the published version of the paper the name of this factor was changed to "Australian chauvinism." Now I would like to submit that there is some conceptual difference between authoritarianism and Australian chauvinism and if we cannot clearly decide whether a set of items measures one or the other, then that is a fair criticism of the items' ability to measure either of them. The labelling of Eckhardt's factors must be similarly arbitrary. Without having seen the items and factor loadings on which Eckhardt based his factor names, what about relabelling "misanthropy" as "interpersonal caution" and "neuroticism" as "sensitivity"? This certainly questions the "psychopathology" label -- to say nothing of the value-loading -- and yet there is nothing in the factor-analytic procedure which enables us to decide objectively between the alternatives.

A more objective research procedure than the factor-analytic one used by Eckhardt and Alcock (1970) would be to take ordinary clinical indices of psychopathology validated on actual hospital samples and correlate these on general population samples with ideology measures. Martin and Ray (1972) have done this, and found that it was anti-authoritarians who were psychopathological. Elms (1970) also appears to have done this and found that extreme rightwingers were psychologically normal.

Criticisms made above of Eckhardt's factor analyses also apply of course to other people's factor analyses -- such as the one by Rokeach which he quotes. The reference to Kohlberg is also tendentious. Kohlberg's "scale" is an arbitrary construction based on stages of development that Kohlberg sees in some children. One stage is only more moral than another because Kohlberg thinks it is. What do we do with people who say, "There is no such thing as right and wrong"? (I have evidence yet to be written up which shows that left-wing activists characteristically say this.) There are grounds for arguing both that such people are morally highly developed and that they are completely amoral. Kohlberg's work can therefore scarcely do the job that Eckhardt thinks it can. For what it is worth, Hampden-Turner and Whitten (1971) used Kohlberg's scales to show that left-wingers are not characteristically morally highly developed but are in fact composed of a mixture of high idealists and cynical opportunists.

I think that Eckhardt and Newcombe somewhat miss the point of my second study and I welcome the opportunity to clear this up. Adorno et al. (1950) tell us that a person who admires authority is both submissive to his superiors and aggressive towards others. This does at first sight seem paradigmatic of the military situation. What I have shown is that only the first of these is true. Since very little overt aggression is permissible in a civilized society and since aggression is widely condemned, it is a matter of no small interest to learn that the behavior of the authoritarian is not maladjusted in this way. If he is in fact a danger to a peaceful society, it is not because he is characterized by aggressive behavior. Conversely I think we could say with some truth that many peace demonstrators are in fact aggressive people -- though they might be very slow to acknowledge it. The man who throws rocks and petrol bombs in the cause of peace is surely a classical case of Freudian denial and projection. Perhaps today in fact anti-aggression is one of the few mantles in which real aggressiveness can plausibly be cloaked. Compare here Eysenck's (1954) report that Communists are characterized by covert aggression and Fascists by overt aggression.

Note the item-overlap between the attitude to authority and the militarism scales and the .83 correlation between them; what we can conclude for authoritarianism above, we can also conclude for militarism. Militarists are not such because they are aggressive people.

In Ray (1972a) I spoke of a discrepancy between authoritarian attitudes and authoritarian behavior being revealed in my second study because I took it that to express approval of the Army etc. was to express approval of aggression. I do concede that this is a debatable inference. Readers may be interested to know that the attitude to authority and balanced authoritarianism scales (the latter is a balanced version of the F scale, see Ray, 1972c) were included in Study II of Ray (1972b) and showed correlations of .178 and .254 respectively with acceptance of aggression. Only the latter is significant. Empirically then there is little connection between attitudes expressing acceptance of aggression and attitudes expressing authoritarianism.

I would characterize Eckhardt and Newcombe's (1972) confidence in the generalizability of correlations from group to group as overly optimistic. I still count their use of 46 people at a Quaker seminar for a study of militarism as symptomatic of the general carelessness in Eckhardt's approach. As just one example of the many that might be given to show how relationships may be specific to sample type, take the relation between the F scale and political choice. In Ray (1972c) it is reported (Study II) that when given to a student sample, the balanced F scale predicted voting with a correlation of .26 (p <.05). When the balanced F scale was given to a door-to-door sample (Study III), the correlation dropped to a non-significant .097. If Eckhardt wants to talk about militarism, he must at some point study militarists. Militaristic tendencies in nonmilitaristic groups may be suggestive but it must be taken into account that correlations with militarism there observed arise largely because of response variations ranging between "disagree" and "strongly disagree." With responses so clustered the possibility of real discriminating power must be as small as the likelihood of "set" artifacts is large.

One further point in Eckhardt and Newcombe (1972) that I would like to discuss concerns their brief and sweeping dismissal of the third study in Ray (1972a) -- the study on which I personally place greatest reliance for justifying the conclusions of that article. I did not find therein that "more authoritarian and militaristic conscripts were better adjusted to a military situation." The social adaptability scale had almost no reference to military life. Out of 18 items, 16 referred to the conscript's life before he was enlisted. It is a measure of general social adaptability, not adaptability to a military situation. Militarists are better socially adjusted in general. If Eckhardt's summary of my findings is so misleading, one wonders about his summaries of other people's findings.

In conclusion then, I can only regret my inability to survey all the evidence that Eckhardt and Newcombe quote. I would simply submit however that if the work I have not seen is as methodologically flawed as that which I have seen, the results of Ray (1972a) must be accepted as the best evidence currently available on the nature of militarism. We cannot simply accept conflicting findings in the literature. We must endeavour to ascertain and understand why they conflict. I have endeavored to show that findings which conflict with mine may do so because of their inadequate methodological precautions.



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 disorganization 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.


Adorno, T. W., et al. The Authoritarian Personality. New York: Harper, 1950.

Beswick, D. C., and M. D. Hills. An Australian ethnocentrism scale. Australian Journal of Psychology, 1969, 21: 211-26.

Eckhardt, W., and N. Z. Alcock. Ideology and personality in war/peace attitudes. Journal of Social Psychology, 1970, 81: 105-16.

Eckhardt, W., and A. G. Newcombe. Militarism, personality, and other social attitudes. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 1969, 13: 210-19.

Eckhardt, W., and A. G. Newcombe. Comments on Ray's "Militarism, Authoritarianism, neuroticism, and antisocial behavior," Journal of Conflict Resolution, 1972, 16 (3, Sept.): 353-55.

Eckhardt, W., et al. Militarism in our culture today. Journal of Human Relations, 1967, 15: 532-37.

Elms, A. C. Those little old ladies in tennis shoes are no nuttier than anybody else: it turns out. Psychology Today, 1970, 3: 27ff.

Eysenck, H. J. The Psychology of Politics. London: Routledge, 1954.

Hampden-Turner, C., and P. Whitten. Morals left and right, Psychology Today, 1971, 4: 39ff.

Martin, J., and J. J. Ray. Anti-authoritarianism: an indicator of pathology, Australian Journal of Psychology, 1972, 24: 13-18.

Ray, J.J. (1972a) Militarism, authoritarianism, neuroticism and anti-social behavior. Journal of Conflict Resolution 16, 319-340.

Ray, J.J.(1972b) Acceptance of aggression and Australian voting preference. Australian Quarterly 44, 64-70.

Ray, J.J. (1972c) A new balanced F scale -- And its relation to social class. Australian Psychologist 7, 155-166.

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