Fromm next explores the relationship between sado-masochistic tendencies with power, authority and the authoritarian character which I think shows a great deal of insight. He starts by asking: is not sadism identical with the craving for power? He says that although in its more destructive forms, the aim of sadism is to hurt and to torture another, sadism is not identical with lust for power, power is nevertheless the most significant expression of sadism. To him, the lust for power has reached new heights with the rise of Fascism under which we find millions impressed by its success and take it as a sign of strength and simply assume that it has the arbitrary right to decimate and punish peoples at will. But contrary to popular belief, Fromm thinks that "the lust for power is not rooted in strength but in weakness" because it is an expression of the inability of the individual self to stand alone and live and shows only "a desperate attempt to gain secondary strength where genuine strength is lacking" (FOF 138-139)
Fromm understands power in two senses: the first relating to the relationship between two persons, the second relating to the relationship between an individual with the environment in general. The first refers to the possession of power by A over B and the ability of A to dominate B. The second relates to the possession of power by A or B over matter or things or processes and expresses their ability generally to master them. He makes clear that when he talks about "powerlessness", he is using the term in its second sense ie. the inability of A or B to do what he wants, not domination but potency. To him, these two qualities are far from being identical. They are mutually exclusive. He says: "Impotence, using the term not only with regard to the sexual sphere but to all spheres of human potentialities, result in the sadistic drive for domination; to the extent to which an individual is potent, i.e. able to realize his potentialities on the basis of freedom and integrity of the self, he does not need to dominate and is lacking the lust for power." To him, "power, in the sense of domination, is the perversion of potency, just as sexual sadism is the perversion of sexual love." (FOF 139-140)
Contrary to popular beliefs, Fromm thinks that sadistic and masochistic traits probably can be found in everybody! He says: " At one extreme, there are individuals whose whole personality is dominated by these traits and at the other there are those for whom these sado-masochistic traits are not characteristic" He thinks that only in the former case can we speak of a "sado-masochistic character" (in the sense not of the sum total of behavioral patterns characteristic of a person but to the dominant drives that motivate behavior). He does not use Freud's terms to describe character-type like "oral" anal" or "genital" but thinks that whatever terms we use, the dynamics (in the sense of driving force) remain functionally the same. Frequently, a person may not be conscious of what kind of force is driving him although he is dominated by it e.g a person may be driven by sadistic strivings but consciously believe that he is motivated only by "duty" and may even suppress his sadistic drives sufficiently to make himself appear on the surface not sadistic at all but when his behavior, his phantasies, dreams and gestures are closely observed and analyzed, the sadistic impulses driving him in the deeper layers of his personality may emerge. However, a person showing sado-masochistic traits may not necessarily be classified as "neurotic". It depends on what social tasks the individual has to fulfill and what patterns and behavior are present in his particular culture.
To Fromm, a great number of the lower middle class in Germany and other European countries possess what he regards as a "sado-masochistic character structure" but they are not considered "neurotic" because the term "sado-masochism" connotes perversion. For this reason, he prefers to call such a character structure an " authoritarian character". (FOF 141) because such people tend to admire authority and will readily submit to it but they in turns want to be an authority themselves and have others submit to them. That is the type of character structure providing the underlying psychological support for Fascism. However, by "authority", he does not mean a quality that a person has the way he has material property or some physical qualities. He means a power relationship in which A looks upon B as somebody superior to A.
Fromm further distinguishes between "rational authority"(e.g the power relationship between a teacher and a student) and what he calls "inhibiting authority" ( e.g the power relationship between a slave owner and a slave) thought both are based on the superiority of one over the other. (FOF 141) In the case of rational authority, the interest of the teacher and pupil coincide: the teacher is satisfied if the succeeds in furthering the the learning of the student and if he fails, his failure is the failure of both. In the case of the slave-owner, all he wants to do is to exploit the slave as much as possible: the more he gets out from the slave, the more satisfied is he whereas the slave hold an opposite view: their interest and aims are opposed to one another. The inhibitory authority relationship is one of antagonism: what is of advantage to one is detrimental to the other. In the first relationship, the superiority and authority is a condition for the teacher helping the student subjected to his authority. The more the student learns, the smaller is the gap in authority between him and his teacher and the more he becomes like his teacher in knowledge/ Hence the authority relationship will tend to dissolve itself. In the second type of relationship, the superiority and authority of the slave owner is a condition for the former's exploitation of the latter and the longer it exists, the bigger is the distance between the two. Whereas in the first type of relationship, there may be love by the teacher for the pupil and admiration and gratitude by the pupil for the teacher and the student may want to identify partially or totally with the teacher, in the second type of relationship,there is only hostility, resentment and hatred by the slave for his exploitative owner, which if openly expressed, may lead to further punishment in a situation in which the slave can rarely win. Hence, the hatred may be repressed and as a partial palliative measure to remove or lessen the painful and dangerous feeling of hatred and to soften the feeling of humiliation, the slave may replace it by a feeling of "blind admiration.". He may try to convince himself that if the person who rules over me is so wonderful or perfect because he is so much stronger, wiser, better etc, then I should not be ashamed of obeying him. In the inhibiting kind of authority, the element of hatred/irrational over-estimation and admiration may increase over time whereas in the rational kind of authority, as the person subjected to authority grows stronger and more similar to the teacher, the element of admiration will decrease over time. But the differences between the two types of authority are merely relative because even in the master-slave relationship, the slave will get something in exchange for his services e.g food, lodging, protection and only in an ideal teacher-student relationship will there be a complete lack of antagonism. There are gradations in such authority relationships e.g those between a factory owner and his workers, a farmer's son with his father, or a housewife with her husband.
Moreover, Fromm thinks that authority may not necessarily be completely external and be in the form of commands and orders. It may become internalized as duty, conscience, moral ideal, superego etc. In fact, we may look upon the history of development of European morality as one starting from external authority easing into internalized authority eg. from the Catholic God and Church-based external morality to the Protestant God-based and conscience-based internal authority to Kant's man-based internal authority in the form of his "categorical imperative", following the political victories of the rising middle class since the Renaissance and Reformation. To many, this appeared as a victory of freedom. To submit to orders from outside in spiritual matters appeared unworthy of a free man and the conquest of man's natural inclinations by reason, will and conscience seemed the very essence of freedom. But analysis has shown that the conscience, according to Fromm, " a harshness as great as external authorities and furthermore that frequently, the contents of the orders issued by man's conscience are ultimately not governed by demands of the individual self but by social demands which have assumed the dignity of ethical norms."
With the development of mass society and mass media, a new source of authority has arisen and conscience has lost much of its former significance in the individual's life and "it seems as though neither external nor internal authorities play any prominent role in the individual's life." (FOF 144) So long as one does not interfere with another's legitimate rights, every one is "free". But authority has not disappeared. It merely becomes invisible. "Instead of overt authority, "anonymous" authority reigns. It is disguised as common sense, science, psychic health, normality, public opinion. It does not demand anything except the self-evident. It seems to use no pressure but only mild persuasion" (FOF 144) This is even more effective because it operates by subtle suggestions which are so well disguised. "Anonymous authority is more effective than overt authority, since one never suspects that there is any order which one is expected to follow. In external authority, it is clear that there is an order and who gives it; one can fight against the authority, and in this fight, personal independence and moral courage can develop. But whereas in internalized authority, the command, though an internal one, remains visible, in anonymous authority, both command and commander have become invisible. It is like being fired at by an invisible enemy. There is nobody and nothing to fight back against." (FOF 144). This is real insight! We need to be on constant guard against the subtle traps of such anonymous authority. Hence the need for training in Buddhist mindfulness!
Returning to the authoritarian character, Fromm says to such a character, the world is quite simple: those with power and those without, the powerful and the powerless. "His love, admiration and readiness for submission are automatically aroused by power, whether of a person or of an institution. Power fascinates him not for any values for which a specific power may stand, but just because it is power." (FOF 145) He has nothing but contempt for those people and institution without power. "The very sight of a powerless person makes him want to attack, dominate and humiliate him..he feels the more aroused the more helpless his object has become." (FOF 145)
Fromm has another insight about a special type of authoritarian character: he has a tendency to defy authority and to resent any kind of influence from "above"! He says that this type of personality will constantly "rebel" against any kind of authority, even one that does not suppress him or even actually furthers his interests. His attitude towards authority may be divided. "Such persons might fight against one set of authorities, especially if they are disappointed by its lack of power and at the same time or alter submit to another set of authorities which through greater power or greater promises seems to fulfill their masochistic longings." (FOF 145) I just wonder if St. Paul might not fall into this category of authoritarian character type.
To Fromm's observation as a psycho-analyst, there is a final type of authoritarian character. In this type, his rebellious tendencies are completely repressed and would resurface only when his conscious control is weakened by various extraneous forces whereupon his latent hatred arises against an authority when its power is weakened and when it begins to totter. One would have thought that the character structure of the actively rebellious type of authoritarian character would have been the opposite of the submissive masochistic type. They look like persons who on the basis of their inner strength and integrity, fight those forces that block their freedom and independence. But to Fromm, his fight against authority is essentially "defiance" . "It is an attempt to assert himself and to overcome his own feeling of powerlessness by fighting against authority, although the longing for submission remains present, whether consciously or unconsciously". (FOF 146) He says that many are puzzled how apparently "radicals" against authority in politics suddenly become extremely "authoritarians" themselves. But to Fromm, they are just typical psychological authoritarian "rebels"!
What is an authoritarian character like in life? Fromm explains. His whole attitude to life, his whole philosophy is determined by his emotional strivings: he loves those conditions that limit human freedom; he loves being submitted to "fate", whatever that means. For the soldier, fate may mean the will or whim of his superior officer to which he gladly submits. For the small businessman, it may mean the laws of supply and demand and the fickleness of public taste and fashion. "Crisis and prosperity to him are not social phenomena which might be changed by human activity, but the expression of a higher power to which one has to submit." (FOF 146). Even for those at the top of the social pyramid, it is basically the same. "The difference lies only in the size and the generality of the power to which one submits, not in the feeling of dependence as such.". (FOF 146). "Fate" is not confined to those conditions and forces that determine one's life directly but also those that seem to determine life in general e.g wars, being dominated by one people or one class of people, that there should always be the same amount of suffering in the world, the natural law, the destiny of man, the will of the Lord or Kant's ethical "duty" etc. "For the authoritarian character, there is always a higher power outside the individual, towards which the individual can do nothing but submit. The authoritarian character worships the past. What has been will eternally be. To wish or work for something that has not yet been before is crime or madness. The miracle of creation--and creation is always a miracle--is outside his range of emotional experience." (FOF 147). Fromm says something which the Christian may object to. He says that Schleiermacher's definition of "religious experience as an experience of absolute dependence is the definition of the masochistic experience in general: (FOF 147) and that "The concept of the original sin, which weighs upon all future generations, is characteristic of the authoritarian experience. Moral like any other kind of human failure becomes a fate which man can never escape. Whoever has once sinned is chained eternally to his sin with iron shackles. Man's own doing becomes power that rule over him and never lets him free. The consequences of guilt can be softened by atonement, but atonement can never do away with the guilt." (FOF 147). He quotes Isaiah: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" . This expresses the very opposite of authoritarian philosophy! To the authoritarian, life is determined by forces outside man's own self, his interests and his wishes and the only possible happiness lies in the submission to these forces. "The powerless man is the leitmotiv of masochistic philosophy" (FOF 147) The ideologue of Fascism, Moller van der Bruck,expresses it clearly: " The conservative believes rather in catastrophe, in the powerlessness of man to avoid it, in its necessity, and in the terrible disappointment of the seduced optimist."
Since the authoritarian is an inveterate pessimist and fatalist, does that mean that he never feels the need to do anything positive? Fromm says: "The authoritarian character does not lack activity, courage or belief. But these qualities for him mean something entirely different from what they mean for the person who does not long for submission." For the authoritarian will only act "in the name of something higher than one's own self: God, Nature, the past, duty etc never in the name of the future, of the unborn, of what has no power, or of life as such." (FOF 148) Always, he must lean on some superior power before he can act. For him, power itself is "never assailable or changeable" and lack of power is always " an unmistakable sign of guilt and inferiority". (FOF 148). If the power or authority shows any sign of weakness, his love and respect changes instantly into contempt and hatred. He can never attack any authority unless he is sure that he is backed by an even stronger power or authority. His courage is essentially a courage to suffer what "fate" or its personal representative or "leader" may have destined him for. To suffer without complaining is his highest virtue. But he does not have the courage to end his suffering or even to diminish it. "Not to change fate, but to submit to it, is the heroism of the authoritarian character." To Fromm, the belief of the authoritarian character is "rooted ultimately in his doubts and constitutes an attempt to compensate them. But he has no faith (a secure confidence in the realization of what now exists only as a potentiality). His philosophy is "relativistic and nihilistic" and is "rooted in extreme desperation, in the complete lack of faith and it leads to nihilism, to the denial of life" (FOF 149). For the authoritarian, the concept of equality has no meaning because the world is composed only of those with power and those without, the superior ones and the inferior ones. Differences, whether of sex or race, are signs of superiority or inferiority. For him there is only domination or submission, never human solidarity!
Fromm next talks about a peculiar a special friend of the authoritarian personality. But that would have to be the subject of another blog.