Lifting the Lid on Authoritarian Personalities

The resurgence of authoritarianism around the world has researchers worried about the future of democracy and about freedom of thought in the universities. What is the support base for authoritarian populism? Can these ideas spread beyond fringe groups? Geoff Boucher recently joined researchers from around the world, including many Deakin academics, at a Deakin University forum to urgently address these questions.

The New Right, also known as the “Alt-Right,” or, more simply, neo-fascism, is different to classical 1930s fascism. Nonetheless, ideas developed in the 1930s can be very useful today, as a starting point for explaining and disrupting anti-democratic movements. For instance, Frankfurt School Critical Theory evolved as a research program that directly addressed the problem of fascism.

The discovery of the “authoritarian personality,” which came out of this work, is a significant contribution to understanding the support base for authoritarian populism today. Take, for example, a recent article in Politico Magazine, “The One Weird Trait that Predicts Whether You’re a Trump Supporter”. This article showed that authoritarian personality traits are a better predictor than party allegiance, class, race or gender. But there are a lot of variations in authoritarian personality research, and it is important to make sense of this diversity and figure out what is most effective.

Geoff’s papers for this forum looked at classical and contemporary variants of authoritarian personality research. One paper has been submitted to Thesis Eleven and the other to the Berlin Journal of Critical Theory.


Dr Geoff Boucher is an Associate Professor in Writing and Literature at Deakin University. He is the author of a number of books on continental philosophy, including The Charmed Circle of Ideology (2008), The Times Will Suit Them: Postmodern conservatism in Australia (2008) and (with Matthew Sharpe) Zizek and Politics (2010). His most recent books are Understanding Marxism (2012) and Adorno Reframed (2012).


*Featured Image (Cover) by Dan Calderwood on Unsplash