remember avi tuschman‘s Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us that i posted about a couple of months ago? and remember how i said that, in large part, he based his theory on what causes the differences between liberals and conservatives on results from what’s known as right-wing authoritarianism (rwa) studies, while at the same time he failed to take into account studies on left-wing authoritarianism?

in case you don’t remember, i said in that previous post:

“i’m sorry, but i can’t help but think that authoritarianism — including personality types that favor authoritarianism — also occurs on the left. a ten-second google search shows me that left-wing authoritarianism has both been researched and found to exist — something which tuschman, unfortunately, doesn’t mention in the book.”

the first two papers i found on left-wing authoritarianism were: The Presence of Left-Wing Authoritarianism in Western Europe and Its Relationship with Conservative Ideology and Left-wing authoritarianism is not a myth, but a worrisome reality. Evidence from 13 Eastern European countries. (more about both of them in the previous post.)

avi responded [my emphasis]:

“The three components of RWA that Altemeyer came up with (including submission and aggression) are NOT the same ones that I use in my analysis, although I did mention his thinking in one place in Ch. 4 where I describe how he developed the test. My own breakdown of the content on his test (shown in the chart above, without the words ‘submission’ or ‘aggression’) is a fresh analysis, and the clusters I’ve described are much more in-line with the underlying statistical factors that emerged from a meta-analysis of 88 studies on multiple political-orientation tests given around the world (including RWA).”

in the book, avi suggests that the political sentiments measured by the right-wing authoritarianism test can be broken down into three broad categories which he defines, and how you feel about the issues related to these categories predicts whether you are liberal or conservative. his three categories (which i described in the previous post) are:

“- Tribalism. Tribalism breaks down into ethnocentrism (vs. the opposite force, xenophilia, which means an attraction to other groups), religiosity (vs. secularism), and different levels of tolerance toward nonreproductive sexuality.

“- Tolerance of Inequality. There are two opposing moral worldviews toward inequality; one is based on the principle of egalitarianism, and the other is based on hierarchy.

“- Perceptions of Human Nature. Some people see human nature as more cooperative, while others see it as more competitive.”

and according to avi, as he claimed in the comment i quoted above, these three categories of his are “in-line” with this meta-analysis of eighty-eight studies conducted “around the world”. here’s what he says about that meta-analysis in the book [from chapter 5 – links and emphases added by me]:

“This breakdown of political ideology coincides very well with independent research conducted by a multidisciplinary team from Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and the University of Maryland, College Park. These professors carried out a meta-analysis of studies on political orientation in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and New Zealand. The eighty-eight studies they evaluated covered nearly twenty-three thousand individuals who took various types of political tests between 1958 and 2002. These tests included the F-scale, RWA, several other political-conservatism scales, economic-conservatism scales, self-reported ideological positions, issue opinions, and voting records.

“After analyzing all of the data, the team concluded that the ‘two relatively stable, core dimensions that seem to capture the most meaningful and enduring differences between liberal and conservative ideologies’ are: (1) ‘attitudes toward social change versus tradition’ and (2) ‘attitudes toward inequality.’ The analysis showed that, although these two factors are ‘often related to one another,’ they are ‘obviously distinguishable.’

“The meta-study’s first dimension clearly corresponds to the grey cluster (tribalism) in figure 10 [see fig. 10 here – h.chick]. The second dimension [avi’s “tolerance of inequality” – h.chick] is the same as the black cluster. What about the white cluster? The debate over the nature of human nature is the ancient subject of political philosophy, which stretches back for millennia. The problem of human nature has also been studied extensively in its own right by political psychologists and evolutionary biologists, who have made valuable discoveries about this core political topic. Moreover, the white cluster overlaps substantially with both the grey and the black clusters; we’ll explore the relationship between them later on.”

ok. so what about this meta-study of these eighty-eight studies conducted around the world? i looked it up:

Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition [pdf]

here’s what the authors of the paper had to say about the eighty-eight studies at which they looked [pg. 14]:

“The data for our review come from 38 journal articles, 1 monograph, 7 chapters from books or annual volumes, and 2 conference papers involving 88 different samples studied between 1958 and 2002. Some of the original data are derived from archival sources, including speeches and interviews given by politicians and opinions and verdicts rendered by judges, whereas others are taken from experimental, field, or survey studies. The total number of research participants and individual cases is 22,818 (see Table 1). The data come from 12 different countries, with 59 of the samples (or 67% of the total) coming from the United States. The remaining samples were studied in England (n=8), New Zealand (4), Australia (3), Poland (3), Sweden (2), Germany (2), Scotland (2), Israel (2), Italy (1), Canada (1), and South Africa (1). Sixty percent of the samples are exclusively composed of college or university student populations, but they account for only 37% of the total number of research participants included in our review. The remaining samples include family members, high school students, student teachers, adult extension students, nonstudent adults, professionals, politicians, judges, political activists, and religious ministers.

jost - table 1


apart from israel and poland, all of the countries here are in western europe or are offshoots of western europe (the u.s.a., for example). and the ONE south african study was conducted on white afrikaaner students [pg. 363 in article]. 20,863 out of the 22,818 total number of participants — a full 91% of the total — were from anglo nations (australia, canada, england, new zealand, scotland, united states)!! this meta-study is NOT cross-cultural by any stretch of the imagination. where’s eastern europe (where left-wing authoritarianism has actually been found)? where’s asia (where only 4.3+ billion people live)? where’s latin america?

this is not a meta-analysis of studies conducted “around the world.” this is a meta-analysis of studies conducted on mostly w.e.i.r.d. individuals in the anglo world. which is interesting, but might not tell us much about the rest of the world.

in his comment to the previous post, avi also said:

“There are many places in the book that discuss political extremism on the left. However, the chapter that describes what you’ve referred to as left-wing authoritarianism is Ch. 22, ‘The Altruism That Isn’t: Self-Deception among People and Politicians.’ This chapter explains why extreme left-wing regimes have authoritarian properties. Although when I use the word authoritarian in this context, I’m referring to the structure of left-wing dictatorships. Explaining why these leaders and their regimes violate the egalitarian ideologies that they supposedly espouse is a fascinating question that deserves its own chapter. Leaders (especially dictators) can of course have different interests than followers, even when they ostensibly share an ideology. So measuring tolerance toward inequality in public opinion is different than explaining how dictators behave.

in chapter 22, avi says:

“The Self-Deception of Leaders on the Extreme Left

“Extreme left-wing ideologies typically espouse radical egalitarianism. Yet in practice, Communist governments are famous for their authoritarian dictators. The hierarchy of Communist regimes presents an especially glaring moral hypocrisy. But this hierarchy has a function, which is to serve the self-interest of the dictator; without the protection of hierarchy, the leader wouldn’t be able to remain on *top*.

“In order to maintain popular support, however, left-wing dictators must continue towing a leftist ideology that exalts egalitarianism. Doing so successfully is easier with self-deception. After all, leftist revolutionary leaders would not command so much self-sacrifice from their followers if the followers suspected that their leaders had nefarious plans to sabotage the party’s ideals once in power….”

avi claims that sometimes (oftentimes!) left-wing leaders hijack their movements once they get into power and use their positions at the top for their own ends. sure. that’s pretty obvious. but then he suggests that the leaders need to deceive their followers about things like equality in their new society in order to maintain their position — i.e. the leaders have to pretend that they’re not at the top of any sort of hierarchy, but really just one among equals in society:

“Dictators of the extreme left often try to present a ‘first among equals’ image to obscure the fact that they sit on top of a steep hierarchy. To convince others (and perhaps themselves) that they are merely *primus inter pares*, these leaders are fond of wearing modest clothes. Some wear simple army fatigues. Others, such as Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez, were also known for donning tracksuits.

“Leftist dictators occasionally use titles to brandish their supposed anti-hierarchical credentials. Colonel Gaddafi’s official title was ‘Brotherly Leader’ of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Rather than taking titles such as president, prime minister, or king, some Communist leaders have assumed the role of ‘chairman’ or ‘secretary,’ suggesting a first-among-equals status on a council.”

but then avi has a hard time explaining this:

“The egalitarian ideal, however, belies a much more hierarchical reality. Indeed, leader worship pervades the cultures of extreme-leftist regimes. Vietnam’s Marxist-Leninist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh is referred to simply as ‘Uncle Hồ.’ Yet an almost god-like personality cult has sprung up around him in the Communist country. Hundreds of people constantly line up to pay homage to his embalmed body at a mausoleum in Hanoi. And an image of Ho Chi Minh appears on every denomination of đồng banknotes circulating in Vietnam.”

the reason he has a hard time explaining this is, i think, because he overlooks the existence of left-wing authoritarianism. the most parsimonious explanation for why many left-wing movements in places like venezuela and vietnam and russia wind up with authoritarian leaders is not (only) that the leaders hijack the movements and subsequently lie to their peoples, but rather because left-wingers in these non-western places are left-wing authoritarians themselves. they want strong leaders — or strong governments, anyway — that will take care of everyone.

but avi hasn’t considered that many left-wingers in some populations might have authoritarian traits, because he’s only looked at studies of authoritarianism in the west — primarily in the anglo world — and, yes, most left wingers in the west don’t seem to have authoritarian traits. only extreme leftists in the west — members of communist/stalinist parties — seem to exhibit such traits (at least according to studies so far). on the other hand, left wingers in eastern europe DO exhibit authoritarian traits — see for example Left-wing authoritarianism is not a myth, but a worrisome reality. Evidence from 13 Eastern European countries.

who knows? researchers might find more left-wing authoritarianism in other parts of the world, too — if they bother looking.

previously: our political nature and authoritarianism

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