Political Psychology, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1988, Pp. 693-699.

(With a post-publication addendum following the original article)


John J. Ray (1)

In his critique of my paper Eckhardt correctly identifies me as an anarchocapitalist but assumes that I vote conservative. I, in fact, vote for nobody. Eckhardt goes on to mention a number of studies which in his view support the authoritarian personality theory of Adorno et al. (1950). I systematically examine each such study and show why it is inadequate to the task Eckhardt asks of it. Problems in defining "conservatism" are then examined. It is pointed out that only conservatives defend authoritarianism but both Leftists and Rightists are equally likely to behave in authoritarian ways.

KEY WORDS: authoritarianism, racism, anarchocapitalism, Rightism, Leftism.

I am amused that Eckhardt (1988) starts out identifying me (correctly) as an anarchocapitalist but then goes on to assume that I vote for conservative political candidates. He sure knows how to hurt a guy! In Australia it is compulsory by law to vote, and I am at present being prosecuted by the Australian Federal government because of my refusal to do so. I would have thought that a good dictionary would have told Eckhardt that anarchists do not vote! It is true, however, that I have at times supported some of what are generally seen as conservative causes (such as preventing war by deterrence and supporting free markets). No anarchist, however, could have a favorable attitude toward authority, as Eckhardt claims I do. Authoritarianism is the anarchist's anathema. In fact, all of the 50 or more papers I have written on authoritarianism have as their underlying theme the message that authoritarianism, because of its frequency and "normality," is far more of a problem than is generally recognized.

When I see Eckhardt's accusation that I have a favorable attitude toward racism, however, I am simply saddened. The truth is that I support the judicial dictum that each case must be judged on its individual merits. I do, however, know why Eckhardt so accuses me. It seems to me that Eckhardt and many like him are so anxious to condemn racism that they fail to understand it. I, on the other hand, devote myself to trying to understand it. Although they are commonly confused, to understand is not to condone and, unless we do understand, our claim to being scientists is a very thin one. I am not satisfied that abusing racists represents an understanding of them. The work by Adorno et al. (1950) does seem to me to be little more than abuse -- albeit very sophisticated abuse. I have, however, set out my views on that many times before (e.g., Ray, 1973, 1980, 1984a; Ray and Lovejoy, 1983, 1986).

When I turn to the substance of the defense that Eckhardt mounts for the Adorno et al. (1950) work, I am also saddened by the obviously very limited reading that he has done on his topic. He, in effect, asks me to rehash ancient history. He says that Adorno et al. (1950) provided validation for their scales "through interviews, projective tests, and known groups." Yet over 30 years ago it was shown that these procedures were very suspect, with interviewers (for instance) knowing in advance the scale scores of the people they were interviewing [see Christie and Jahoda (1954) and, more recently McKinney (1973)]. I would have thought that these two books alone show the Adorno et al. work to be no proof of anything.

Eckhardt, however, thinks otherwise and refers to the Adorno et al. findings that high F-scorers vote conservative, go to a mainstream church, and prefer business careers. He asks how this fits with my contention that the F scale is mainly an index of old-fashioned orientation. Before answering this it must be remembered that most of the people surveyed by Adorno et al. were undergoing some form of tertiary education. The responses found were, in other words, mostly the responses of college students. I would say, then, that Adorno et al. showed that in the 1940s old-fashioned students voted conservative, went to conservative churches, and respected business. This suggests that what was old-fashioned at that time also tended to be conservative.

The same may not be true today. With the innovations of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in mind, it may soon be old-fashioned to favor a paternalist State. It may be becoming old-fashioned to be liberal. It should be noted at this juncture that the movement toward a reduced role for government in the economy and in society generally (long advocated by anarchocapitalists) is not the sole province of conservatives. In Australia and New Zealand it is socialist (Labor) governments that are deregulating and beginning to sell off State property. Communist governments (the USSR and China) are also, of course, moving in that direction. Liberalism as we once knew it may well become very rare and old-fashioned indeed! Where liberalism may have been the "new wave" to students of the 40s, 5Os, and 60s, the "new wave" to the students of the 90s looks set to be an opposition to government generally that should be very congenial to those who have long promoted such ideas (anarchocapitalists and libertarians).

Eckhardt also seems to want me to explain why San Quentin convicts were more old-fashioned than other groups. The fact that the "other groups" were students in the main does I think of itself almost answer this. Education introduces people to a broader range of possibilities and whatever is new. Education works against one being old-fashioned. It makes you review things instead of just accepting them. So criminals (who are generally very poorly educated) [see Ray (1984b)] should be much more old-fashioned than students. The finding is good support for my account of what the F scale measures.

The finding is also good support for my contention that the F scale is a very strange measure of attitude to authority. On other, more straightforward, measures of attitude to authority, prisoners are very anti-authority (Ray, 1984b). On reflection, if criminals are not anti-authority, who would be? Yet Adorno et al. claimed them to be very pro-authority. If that is the criterion-groups validation that Eckhardt had in mind, then it certainly does not show the F scale as a valid predictor of authority-related behavior. Quite the reverse. An interpretation of the F scale as measuring old-fashioned outlook does, however, clear up such oddities. A fuller discussion of the relationship between criminality and authoritarianism can be found elsewhere (Ray, 1984b) if any reader should find the above brief discussion rather glib. Eckhardt asks me in effect to summarize in one brief paper what I have already devoted many papers to, so some compression of the discussion has to be attempted.

Eckhardt's suggestion that high F scorers are conformists does not, I believe, pose any difficulties for my account of things. Conformity may be more a thing of the past nowadays. There will surely always be some conformity but greater individualism does seem to be something of a catchcry these days. If so, it would be something that anarchocapitalists would applaud. We would like conformity to be old-fashioned.

Eckhardt's claim that authoritarians are punitive, however, simply shows that he is not up-to-date with the literature. My recent summary of the evidence for that claim (Ray, 1985a) may be of assistance. The study cited by Eckhardt in support of his contention (Elms and Milgram, 1966) has already been dissected in some detail elsewhere (Ray, 1976) so does not really need any further comment here. It may be interesting to report here, however, that a careful reading of the "Results" section of that study reveals findings which are quite the opposite of what Adorno et al. would predict. The study reveals that it is rebels, not conformists, who have had oppressive fathers.

Eckhardt also continues to rely on Adorno et al. for evidence about the relationship between conservatism and racism. As it happens, however, this is not a great problem. The many subsequent studies of student ideology also generally show such a relationship. It would be surprising if they did not. Both liberalism and anti-racism are normative parts of college culture so any student who has been socialized into the college culture should be both liberal and anti-racist. In college, the two are forced to go together.

The same, however, is not at all true among the population at large. General population studies (e.g., Ray and Lovejoy, 1986; Ray and Furnham, 1984; Sniderman et al., 1984) show little or no relationship between the two variables. The association is found only among the highly educated.

The only study using general population sampling and scales of known reliability that did find a notable association between racism and conservatism would appear to be that by Weigel and Howes (1985). Curious at the anomaly, I wrote to one of the authors of the study and obtained a copy of the "conservatism" scale used. It turned out to be almost a Leftist caricature of what conservatives believe. Most of the items turned out in fact to be expressing something perhaps best described as "Jingoism" (old-fashioned and exaggerated racial or national pride). It is little wonder that such a scale predicted racism but it tells us nothing useful about contemporary conservatism.

Eckhardt seems to have difficulty in understanding why Fascists should be more old-fashioned than Communists. A little of the history of the 1930s may help here. A very large element in Hitler's propaganda was an appeal to a romanticized agrarian past -- an appeal that has startling resonances in the environmentalist movement today. Hitler sought to find in the past the sources of racial virtue. You cannot get much more old-fashioned than that. The catchword of the Communists was, on the other hand, "new." "New" became almost a euphemism for "Leftist." There is still today in Sydney (Australia) a "New Theatre" which was at least at one time fairly closely associated with Australian Communists. Nowadays, of course, communism seems old and stale even to most Leftists but it was not always so. Eckhardt makes the mistake of looking at the antiquity of the ideology instead of its content.

Eckhardt goes on to quote studies showing that high scorers on the F scale tend to vote for conservative politicians. If I am not mistaken, all the studies cited are surveys of students. As already pointed out, a high F scale score among students may simply reflect failure to assimilate to the (liberal) college culture so a rejection of liberalism among such students is no surprise. Education functions to instruct people in the latest and greatest that a culture has to offer. So, where education is tied to liberalism, conservatism will tend to become identified with what is not the latest and greatest. Scales of old-fashioned orientation such as the F scale will therefore pick out people less attuned to the prevailing educational milieu -- which in the United States at the moment tends to mean those less attuned to liberalism. Among the general population, however, things are again much different. Summaries of that evidence can be found in Hanson (1975) and Ray (1983). The average F scores of those who vote for Leftist and Rightist political candidates and parties tend to differ very little in the general population. It is not at all rare for people who support candidates such as George McGovern to have high F scores.

All of Eckhardt's defenses of the F scale and the Adorno et al. work have therefore now been shown here to be based on a superficial knowledge of the literature.

Eckhardt's final comment on my paper before he goes on to a (very sound and honest) discussion of the politics of psychologists expresses some confusion about just what it means to be old-fashioned. I think he has a point. I should have made an earlier attempt to define both "old-fashioned" and "conservative." The first is, in fact, very easy. How about: "Feeling most at home with beliefs and values characteristic of the past?" It is the definition of conservatism which gives me (and others) the problem.

It might once have been reasonably heuristic to define conservatism as "preference for the status quo" but that would nowadays be little more than a Leftist caricature of conservatism. For a start, conservatives have always believed in "progress" and that belief today puts them at some odds with environmentalists. Who is it who defends the status quo? Surely it is the environmentalist, not the conservative! Winding back welfare also tends to be conservative, yet defending the status quo would surely require them to defend welfare. I have, once again, already discussed such problems at greater length elsewhere (Ray, 1981-1982) so I will here simply give the conclusion I arrived at then: Conservatives are people who are wary about the good intentions of others. They have a pessimistic view of human nature. There are still problems in this account of things but that would he the topic for another paper. All we need to see here is that there is no conceptual commonality between conservatism and old-fashioned orientation and that any relationship between the two should therefore be contingent. At times it will be old-fashioned to be conservative and at times it will be old-fashioned to be liberal. From the 1940s to the 1970s it was probably old-fashioned to be conservative. Times could change.

Eckhardt goes on to ask why allegiance to the values of the 1920s should make you anti-communist -- referring to the fact that the F scale tends to be negatively associated with Leftism in its various forms. Communism was quite fashionable in the 1920s, Eckhardt asserts. He is quite right. It was trendy among the intellectuals in particular. Pflaum (1964), however, collected "popular myths and superstitions" in the 1920s. He did not collect what was new vogue. He probably collected what was already old-fashioned in the 1920s. This is in harmony with Hartmann's (1977) characterization of the F scale as a measure of "Victorian" values. Nonetheless, it must be conceded that Pflaum could have found some Leftist beliefs to be popular at the time. That does not really matter. Eckhardt's belief that the F scale is negatively associated with Leftism among the general population is simply not in accord with the evidence -- as pointed out earlier (Ray, 1983).

Eckhardt's final thrust at me is to quote what I said in an earlier paper about authoritarianism being a part of conservatism and endeavoring to show that I say something different now. I am pleased to explain. As I have shown at greater length elsewhere (Ray, 1985b), there is a strange disjunction between attitudes and behavior. Both Leftists and Rightists seem equally likely to engage in authoritarian behavior but only the Rightists will defend their behaving in that way. Leftists simply deny all authoritarian motivations. This seems to me to be a prime Freudian symptom of an underlying adjustment problem but such a judgment would at this stage be only a speculation. It does seem, however, that Rightists are more in touch with their own motivations. So, if we are talking about attitudes, authoritarianism and conservatism are intimately associated. If we are talking about behavior, they are not.


(1) University of N.S.W., Australia.


Adorno, T. W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D. J., and Sanford, R. N. (1950). The Authoritarian Personality, Harper, New York.

Christie, R., and Jahoda, M. (1954). Studies in the Scope and Method of "The Authoritarian Personality," Free Press, Glencoe, Ill.

Eckhardt, W. (1988). Comments on Ray's "Why the F scale predicts racism: A critical review." Polit. Psychol. 9: 681-691.

Elms, A. C., and Milgram, S. (1966). Personality characteristics associated with obedience and defiance toward authoritative command. J. Exp. Res. Personal. i: 282-289.

Hanson, D. J. (1975). Authoritarianism as a variable in political research. II Politico 40: 700-705.

Hartmann, P. (1977). A perspective on the study of social attitudes. Eur. 1. Social Psychol. 7: 85-96.

McKinney, D. W. (1973). The Authoritarian Personality Studies, Mouton, The Hague.

Pflaum, J. (1964). Development and evaluation of equivalent forms of the F scale. Psychological Rep. 15: 663-669.

Ray, J.J. (1973) Conservatism, authoritarianism and related variables: A review and an empirical study. Ch. 2 in: G.D. Wilson (Ed.) The psychology of conservatism London: Academic Press.

Ray, J.J. (1976) Do authoritarians hold authoritarian attitudes? Human Relations, 29, 307-325.

Ray, J.J. (1980) Authoritarianism in California 30 years later -- with some cross-cultural comparisons. Journal of Social Psychology, 111, 9-17.

Ray, J.J. (1981) Conservatism and misanthropy. Political Psychology 3(1/2), 158-172.

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. (1984a). Half of all racists are Left-wing. Political Psychology, 5, 227-236.

Ray, J.J. (1984b) Authoritarian attitudes and authoritarian personality among recidivist prisoners. Personality & Individual Differences 5, 265-272.

Ray, J.J. (1985) The punitive personality. Journal of Social Psychology 125, 329-334.

Ray, J.J. (1985). The psychopathology of the political Left. High School Journal, 68, 415-423.

Ray, J.J. & Furnham, A. (1984) Authoritarianism, conservatism and racism. Ethnic & Racial Studies 7, 406-412.

Ray, J.J. & Lovejoy, F.H. (1983). The behavioral validity of some recent measures of authoritarianism. Journal of Social Psychology, 120, 91-99.

Ray, J.J. & Lovejoy, F.H. (1986). The generality of racial prejudice. Journal of Social Psychology, 126, 563-564.

Sniderman, P. M., Brody, R. A., and Kuklinski, J. H. (1984). Policy reasoning and political values: The problem of racial equality. Am. J. Polit. Sci. 28: 75-94.

WeigeI, R. H., and Howes, P. W. (1985). Conceptions of racial prejudice: Symbolic racism reconsidered. J. Social Issues 41(3): 117-138.


I have made no effort to post my academic articles on the net in the order in which they were written -- though all the published ones are dated so any examination of the evolution of my views could readily be done.

My views have however changed little in the course of my lifetime -- unlike the major shifts from Left to Right that characterize many conservative intellectuals. I have only moved from the suspicion of government meddling that is characteristic of the conservative to the extreme suspicion of government meddling that is characteristic of the libertarian. I was however for a brief while persuaded that a full anarcho-capitalist program was feasible and the article above was written at that time. Subsequently, however, I have come to see such an absolute version of libertarianism as unrealistic and have reverted to minimal-statist views. Libertarians of all kinds -- Minimal Statists or otherwise -- share with conservatives a dislike of big government but differ from conservatives in that they see even the ideal conservative State as being still much more intrusive than is necessary.

My comment above that "Both Leftists and Rightists seem equally likely to engage in authoritarian behavior" is not one that I would now make. Christian conservatives in particular do have a record of attempts to impose their moral standards on others that I, like all libertarians, heartily reject but I think that such impositions are small beer compared to the all-embracing control that Leftists wish upon us. Christian bigots have never remotely shown the propensity for mass-murder that has characterized such good socialists as Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot. Even King Charles IX of France killed only a few thousand Huguenots.

So I would also reword this sentence: "if we are talking about attitudes, authoritarianism and conservatism are intimately associated. If we are talking about behavior, they are not" to read: "if we are talking about attitudes, acceptance of some need for authority and conservatism are intimately associated. If we are talking about behavior, conservatives, unlike Leftists, are very wary about imposing any kind of authority".

It may also be noted that, as is appropriate in a psychology journal, I give a psychological definition of conservatism: "Conservatives are people who are wary about the good intentions of others. They have a pessimistic view of human nature". On the political level a historically fitting definition of conservatism would be: "Wariness about government power and a stress on the rights and liberties of the individual". See here for the history concerned.

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