Authoritarianism is a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority and thus usually opposed to individualism, liberalism, democracy, libertarianism and anarchism. Authoritarian governments are those in which political authority is concentrated in a small group, usually unelected by the people, who possess exclusive and arbitrary power. Authoritarianism need not be manifested in such extreme forms as totalitarianism, in that social and economic institutions can exist which are not under the government's control, but it is characterized by highly concentrated, and centralized power maintained by political repression and the exclusion of potential challengers, using political parties and mass organizations to mobilize people around the goals of an elite.
- Most traditional societies produce an authoritarian personality, but some produce an innovative one, which leads to change.
- Bert N. Adams and Rosalind Ann Sydie in Sociological Theory (2001), p. 449
- In emerging democracies like Russia, in authoritarian states like Iran, Yugoslavia, journalists play a critical role in civil society, they form the very basis of those new democracies and civil societies.
- An anarchist … is an individual who, whether he has been brought to it by a process of reasoning or by sentiment, lives to the greatest possible extent in a state of legitimate defence against authoritarian encroachments.
- Hierarchic and authoritarian structures are not self-justifying. They have to have a justification. So if there is a relation of subordination and domination, maybe you can justify it, but there's a strong burden of proof on anybody who tries to justify it. Quite commonly, the justification can't be given. It's a relationship that is maintained by obedience, by force, by tradition, by one or another form of sometimes physical, sometimes intellectual or moral coercion. If so, it ought to be dismantled. People ought to become liberated and discover that they are under a form of oppression which is illegitimate, and move to dismantle it.
What happens next? We don't really know. There are people who think they know the answer. I'm not one of them. My view is, we don't understand very much about human beings or human affairs, so anything that would be done has to be experimentally tried, but I think there are some leading ideas that make some good sense.
- The killing of another, except in defense of human life, is archistic, authoritarian, and therefore, no Anarchist can commit such deeds. It is the very opposite of what Anarchism stands for.
- Violence is the whole essence of authoritarianism, just as the repudiation of violence is the whole essence of anarchism.
- Errico Malatesta, "Anarchism, Authoritarian Socialism and Communism" in Fede (28 October 1923); also in What Is Anarchism? : An Introduction edited by Donald Rooum (1992, 1995) p. 59
- I think the question is not about "communists" and "individualists", but rather about anarchists and non-anarchists. And we, or at least many of us, were quite wrong in discussing a certain kind of alleged "anarchist individualism" as if it really was one of the various tendencies of anarchism, instead of fighting it as one of the many disguises of authoritarianism.
- Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. All through history mankind has been bullied by scum. Those who lord it over their fellows and toss commands in every direction and would boss the grass in the meadows about which way to bend in the wind are the most depraved kind of prostitutes. They will submit to any indignity, perform any vile act, do anything to achieve power. The worst off-sloughings of the planet are the ingredients of sovereignty. Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us.
- The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.
- In popular terminology, a libertarian is the opposite of an authoritarian. Strictly speaking, a libertarian is one who rejects the idea of using violence or the threat of violence — legal or illegal — to impose his will or viewpoint upon any peaceful person.
- Dean Russell, in "Who Is A Libertarian?" in The Freeman, Vol. 5 Issue 5 (May 1955) published by Foundation for Economic Education
- That the more authoritarian organizations survive and prevail goes generally unnoticed because people focus on the objectives of organizations, which are many and varied, rather than on their structures, which tend to be similar. Whenever people see a problem, an opportunity or a threat, their first reaction — even before saying, "Pass a law'" — is, "Let's start an organization."
But the more an organization succeeds and prospers, the more it is likely to be diverted from its original ideals, principles and purposes.
- However sugarcoated and ambiguous, every form of authoritarianism must start with a belief in some group's greater right to power, whether that right is justified by sex, race, class, religion or all four. However far it may expand, the progression inevitably rests on unequal power and airtight roles within the family.
- We are at heart so profoundly anarchistic that the only form of state we can imagine living in is Utopian; and so cynical that the only Utopia we can believe in is authoritarian.
- Lionel Trilling, notebook entry (1948), published in Partisan Review 50th Anniversary edition (1985), p. 510
- Anarchism is a manifestation of natural human urges … it is the tendency to create authoritarian institutions which is the transient aberration.
- Most fundamentally, I would see Anarchism as a synonym for anti-authoritarianism.
- John Zerzan, in Running on Emptiness: The Pathology of Civilization (2008), p. 67
- The Napoleonic rule which followed within a decade after the French Revolution is generally conceded to be the prototype of modern dictatorships. It was the forerunner not only historically, but psychologically as well, for it demonstrated a principal function of dictatorship as a psychocultural emergent: a reversion to authoritarian rule after a too drastic attempt to impose democracy on an authoritarian culture. Napoleon's assumption of the role of dictator and then emperor, with the wholehearted support of significant segments of of postrevolutionary French society, illustrates a fact that has been true of virtually every dictatorship since then: the inability of an authoritarian culture to absorb too much self-government too suddenly without reverting, at least temporarily, to some form of paternalistic-authoritarian rule. From the first French Republic to the German Weimar Republic, it has been proved again and again that, while the outward forms of democracy may be achieved overnight by revolution, the psychological changes necessary to sustain it cannot.
- G.M. Gilbert in The Psychology of Dictatorship (1950), pp. 4-5.