Intrinsic Crisis of Democracy: Fromm's Authoritarian Personality Theory Revisit

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:30
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Tomohiro UOZUMI, The University of Tokyo, Japan
The Nazi-era was often called as crisis of democracy. But we do not have to forget the fact, before Nazi-era, it was “Weimar Republic”. “Weimar-constitution” was famous for its democratic contents, and “Weimar-culture” was called one of the most established culture in 20th century. Then, Weimar was one of the most democratic countries in that time. So it sounds strange “from Weimar to Hitler”. But this presentation shows Hitler got power precisely because he came after Weimar. In democracy, there is element that destroys democracy itself.

“Myth is already enlightenment, and enlightenment reverts to mythology.” This thesis by Adrno-Horkheimer(1947) express that reason has violence in its nature. We can say similar thesis also to democracy. Namely, democracy has in its nature self-destroying element. Then this presentation revisits discussion of Erich Fromm’s Authoritarian Personality. He, as a member of frankfurter school, also shared the same motif with the thesis. When country is modernized and democratized, it also increases danger of the authoritarianism. Fromm had done empirical German workers research in 1920s and found many people had authoritarian personality. Authoritarian personality people change their attitude depending on situation. They voluntarily obey to the upper class but show excessively aggressiveness to the lower class or minorities.  Fromm explained this problem was not limited to Nazi-Germany but fundamentally rooted in modernity. In the process of modernization, we disenchanted the world, and we got freedom from old tradition, norm and community. But it also caused anomy or loneliness. Then, people come to want absolute authority. The widespread of authoritarian personality happened precisely because Weimar was actually modernized democratic country.The interesting thing is, Fromm's theory was so popular in post-war Japan also as explnation for the totalitarianism in Japan. Then this discussion about authoritarianism was suitable for re-thinking about democracy and modernity.