So here’s some work in progress.
Many words have been written about how authoritarians operate, their playbooks, and the similarities between things that are happening now in the US (and several other countries), and how authoritarians have risen to power before. We know authoritarians value power over just about everything else, and their followers seem to be fine with that.
We know that they and their supporters really *think* differently about the world than those who don’t value authoritarianism. But the details remain a bit murky, at least to lay people. So this chart focuses on what may be important points where authoritarians and social justice oriented (collaborative) folks differ.
This current work describing differing mindsets can stand alone, meaning does not need to be linked at all to the larger Cultural PTSD theory, although it definitely complements the theory.
Differences in mindsets can have hugely important implications for how people think about life and what they value. They are personal. And they are often not things we are fully conscious of. In fact, people can (and do) go their entire lives without realizing exactly what kind of assumptions and values drive them at the mindset level.
So this chart can be used by anyone interested in thinking consciously about what values, assumptions, and priorities they hold -and- whether or not they are happy with holding these values. It can also help us understand those who seem to hold very different ideas about the world, including those that support authoritarians.
|Dominate Or Be Dominated/Might Makes Right/ Dominator Mindset (linked to authoritarianism)||Partnership/Collaborative/Nurturing Mindset (linked to social justice orientation)|
Focus on rights of self
Focus on rights of everyone
|Egalitarianism and Pluralism are seen |
as threatening- they want their group to have or maintain dominance over other points of view
|Egalitarianism and Pluralism are seen |
as desirable- they believe different groups of people can have differences in certain values, and still live together respectfully
Expertise, importance, and relevance are ordered in hierarchal ways (creating castes that hold varying amounts of status)
|Assumes many points of expertise (sees various stakeholders and perspectives as important, less focus on caste or status)|
|Use of cooperation is seen |
|Use of cooperation is expected, |
seen as healthy
|Tends towards hubris, |
seeks to get own way
|tends toward appreciation of others, |
seeks consensus when possible
Deceit is excusable, trusting Others is not expected nor a goal
|Good Faith arguments are expected, trust in Others is expected or at least a goal|
|Tends to believe information that fits preconceived notions- trusting information that confirms beliefs (and thus more easily deceived by propaganda)||Tends to trust information by its adherence to logic and sound reasoning. Uses trusted information to inform beliefs.|
|Use of force can be seen as legitimate||Use of force is not seen as legitimate, although containment of fascist elements is seen as necessary|
|Impulse is to control in order to create a sense of safety for self and immediate group||Impulse is to seek to understand how things work for self and others (everyone)|
|Ideal is to feel and be in control (of others)||Ideal is to feel and be present/open/connected (with others)|
|Obedience to authority is encouraged and/or enforced||Adjusting and creating new norms is expected, encouraged and seen as normal as understanding grows|
|Tradition is seen as important||Evolution is seen as important|
|Assumption of fixed expertise||Assumption of lifelong learning/growth and building upon (see Barbara Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build theory)|
|Fear of differences-|
conformity is desired
|Embracing accepting of differences- |
creativity is desired
|Tends to need to belong to a group, strong affiliative needs||Tends to value their convictions, may not need others to “verify” the correctness of their beliefs.|
Transactional orientation -people use others in very instrumental ways
Motivation is: I will do for you -if- you do for me: Quid pro quo
|Connection based/relational orientation, people connect with others|
Motivation is: I will do the right thing based on the needs of all involved.
|Walling off of assets||Sharing of assets|
|Thinking tends towards either/or, linear causality||Thinking assumes many interlinked factors work to create a situation, more holistically oriented|
Look out for number one, attaining wealth and status for self is valued
All for one and one for all, attainment of security for all is valued
|Ability to accumulate wealth for self as an end is valued|
Ability to increase wellbeing for everyone is valued as a worthy end to attain
|Building Walls (for perceived safety)||Building Bridges (for perceived safety)|
Likes to feel powerful and in charge- pursues power over others
Likes to feel happiness and connected with others, pursues joy in life
|Default tendency to judge unknowns as good or bad||Default intention is to discern and seek to understand|
Being vulnerable is seen as a wholly undesirable state, it is avoided whenever possible and thought of as a flaw or weakness
Vulnerability is seen as an essential part of being fully human, necessary to really understanding others
|Fear plays a large part in how people behave||Curiosity plays a large part in how people behave|
|Status, power, and/or money are pursued as ends for self||Status, power and money are tools to help advance a common good (Noblesse oblige in its best sense)|
|Tends toward hubris, seeks to get their way||Tends toward collaboration, seeks consensus|
This chart is non exhaustive, and very much in progress. It’s an almost back of the envelope brainstorm. It is based on my readings and personal observations that people do have very different values, priorities, and assumptions that they are -often- not fully aware of having. Further, these values, priorities and assumptions can be changed by cultural norms and consciously manipulated by those engaging in propaganda.
This entire chart is directly inspired by Riane Eisler’s work. I’ve taken her main ideas about Dominator and Nurturing social systems, and reworked them a bit to illustrate the differences in mindsets of people living in and promoting those systems.
I think Eisler’s articulation of these differing systems is quite accurate, hugely important, and still very much undervalued in the 21st century.
I believe much of the reason her work has been undervalued is that it points out quite a number of unflattering facts. So it seems like an indictment of how we’ve been living. And, it is clear that many of those in power in the main system currently in use (the Dominator System) are still actively trying to soft pedal, minimize, avoid acknowledgement and or avoid any public reckoning with the negative impacts of the system they hold power in.
Anyway, her work often focuses on the pressures and actions in the larger social systems -as do many race/class/gender critiques. This chart is more of a description of individual and cultural level *assumptions* or psychological orientations people tend to hold that makes them gravitate to and away from those systems.
It is also very much worth noting that the Dominator mindset can also be called a colonizer mindset with only a very few adjustments. Like it or not, all of us living in cultures developed by Western Civilization come out of histories that fully held both the beauties of renaissance thinking, and the stuntedness of colonizer mindsets.
This chart is, again, a work in progress. Humans are complex, and we all hold some conflicting values. We all hold values and assumptions we are not consciously aware of as well. Further, our social consciousness and our mindsets are always evolving, both on personal and the collective levels.
The differences between the mindsets depicted here are probably best thought of as points of difference that people have along continuums, rather than us being wholly one way or another.
And, just because we live in a system, doesn’t mean we have to buy what the system sells us hook, line, and sinker. Collectively, many millions of us are aligned with and have evolved toward a Nurturing Collaborator mindset, but as Ayanna Presley put it in a July 2020 speech, our power structures have not caught up to that more equitable way of living.
Finally, since we are often not fully conscious of the values and assumptions of our mindsets, the beauty of thinking about them, is that when we are able to consciously think about these values, we can more consciously choose what values or assumptions we want to hold, what we want to try to avoid, and in what areas we’d like to grow as we think about how we want to live our lives.
Living in the US in the early months of 2022, it is obvious to me (and millions of others) that there is a very conscious push to try to induce more people to embrace the Dominator mindset by some actors on the right. And, directly as a result of that push, we are experiencing a great deal of conflict in the US and in other parts of the world by those seeking to regress to authoritarian ways of living.
And: Yes, I emphatically see the Dominator Mindset as highly problematic in the 21st century. Clearly, all beliefs in the supposed innate superiority of one group over others are something that all societies see less and less of as they get healthier. And clearly, seeing violence as a legitimate way to get your group’s vision accomplished is not only highly problematic, but utterly primitive.
In short, I see Collaborative Mindsets as much more healthy than Dominator mindsets. I also see Dominator Mindsets as hugely dysfunctional in the Anthropocene. This mindset may have had merit in earlier times, but so did us walking on all fours. We evolved out of that, and we need to culturally grow up and out of the Dominator Mindset. Full stop. I’m not going to apologize for that statement, or try to hide it.
Sources: The roots of my thinking on this go back to ideas that writers like Riane Eisler first articulated in her book, The Chalice and the Blade, and have been further refined by her book Nurturing Our Humanity. Also credit needs to go to the concept of mindsets, and how they influence and shape our worldviews. Great accessible book: Mindsets, by Carol Dweck. The intersectional concept of oppression articulated by Kimberlé Crenshaw has been instrumental in helping me think along these lines.
Pure psychological research trying to define and operationalize authoritarianism and the qualities of those who become more prone to authoritarianism and social dominance orientation are critical pieces that need much more study, and I applaud those who are already doing so.