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The Specific Worldview Of Authoritarians

What is it? Maslow’s key formulation was that “The authoritarian person lives in a world… pictured by him as a sort of jungle, in which the whole world is conceived of as dangerous, threatening, or at least challenging, and in which human beings are conceived of as primarily selfish or evil or stupid. To carry the analogy further, this jungle is peopled with animals who either eat or are eaten… to be feared or despised. One’s safety lies in one’s strength, and this strength lies in the power to dominate… In the last analysis, the alternatives are to fear or be feared.”


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The “Authoritarian Person”

Certainly, Maslow is best known for self-actualization, peak experiences, synergy, and growth mindset. These all present an optimistic view of humanity that continues to resonate throughout healthcare, education, business, and social sciences today. Yet Maslow was also a realist who recog...


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How So?

Because in 1943, Maslow wrote The Authoritarian Character Structure, a brilliant academic paper that helps us understand Vladimir Putin perhaps better than any recent psychological work. Though largely forgotten now, it influenced a host of social thinkers, including Theodor Ador...


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What’s Insane To Us, Is Sane To The Autoritarian

Essentially, Maslow argued that it’s nonsense “to consider an authoritarian as simply an eccentric or ‘crazy person’” who is ultimately incomprehensible. In this light, few can forget the popular notion in the 1930s that Hitler was a ludicrous “madman,” hardly to be taken seriously by his...


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Eat Or Be Eaten

If the world is jungle-like for an individual, then the authoritarian is perfectly justified in all his suspicions (and) hostilities. Once we understand this point, matters look very different. And among the chief characteristics of authoritarians that Maslow identified was the embrace of...


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“It’s A Jungle Out There”

Maslow’s depiction of the authoritarian’s worldview seems chillingly accurate. But his genius in this 1943 paper was to seize Adler’s notion that our unconscious metaphors for life always reflect the reality of our own experience. “Once granted this worldview," Maslow crucially a...


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Can The Authoritarian Person Be Changed?

Maslow was temperamentally an optimist and ended his influential paper by answering, “We can say ‘yes’ with the utmost assurance… (but) where there is no will or desire to become well, cure is very difficult.” It seems unlikely that Putin at age 69 will relinquish his wo...


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Maslow? The “Hierarchy Of Needs” Maslow???

Born in New York City in 1908, Abraham Maslow was the son of Jewish-Ukrainian immigrants. Like nearly two million others from Eastern Europe, his parents had come to the New World for physical safety from pogroms and economic opportunity. But Maslow’s connection to contemporary events is ...


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The Psychology Of War-Makers

Writing amid World War II with an unspoken nod to Stalin, Maslow began his paper with the wry observation that, “In this war, it is difficult to differentiate our friends from our enemies.” He decried that political analysts had failed to incorporate psychology into a full understanding o...


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“An idea is something that won’t work unless you do.” - Thomas A. Edison

Though Abraham Maslow is best known for his growth mindset and self-actualization concepts, he also wrote about the authoritarian personality. Maslow argued that the key to understanding authoritarians is their worldview: a metaphoric jungle.

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