Linking opinions to social stratification

College Liberal

[Michael has nothing to say this week except talk about Mass Effect 3, so I was forced to put together a piece]

In this post I want to try and address a notion. It has been presumed or hinted at in a great many conversations that I’ve had with Michael lately but also from other places. I was addressing what I think is the one great flaw in Adorno’s thought, which Michael had either ignored or is ignoring, and that is his reasearch on ‘The Authoritarian Personality’ TAP where Adorno (et. al) tried to meld psychoanalysis with his socialist social theory to construct a typology or scale of people with regard to their susceptability to authoritarian control. The history around TAP is interesting in a variety of ways, not least because of the unease that US intellectuals had with Adorno’s original socialist bent on the issue, changing ‘socialism’ with ‘democracy’ to make the research more ‘respectable’ and probably better read.

What we also find interesting is the way in which Adorno’s fundamental idea is so influential, it has been definately so in the US. That notion being: is it possible to link social identity to one’s ideological outlook? As the most vague question, many people would think so, and it has led to a bit of research since Adorno on trying to link social identity features to say, a conservative or liberal mentality, or a religious believer or an atheist outlook. Why is this issue interesting?

  1. If the question is sufficiently empirically rigid, with decent operational terms, we can draft research questions and research design to answer whether say, in the UK, there are more people in the £30+ income bracket vote Conservative (the party) than Labour. With Adorno’s own research, his terminology was very bad in that it lacked operational rigour, plus Adorno had an outright disdain for positivist things like ‘evidence’. I think this aspect of Adorno is an oversight that Michael doesn’t properly acknowledge
  2. If opinion is fundamentally linked to identity, then our rational notions of open mindedness, or the semblance of debate should be taken less seriously. Major public debates, for example seem less to me like a means of reasonable people discussing ideas and proposals where they are willing to accept their own flaws in arguments or lack of evidence, and co-operatively reach the truth (like a Socratic dialogue), but instead, involve pundit figures who will refuse to accept any part of the opposing side’s opinion, and are sounding off on the same old issues where the audience members who have already made their mind will not be convinced either way. This is essentially the a critical point made by Chris Mooney as he advances the secularism and rationalism discussion as he moves away from the 2000s ‘new’ atheist agenda.


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