Are You a Fascist? Take Theodor Adorno’s Authoritarian Personality Test – 1947


Are you a fascist? The word is used a lot, mostly to damn and dismiss people whose views you simply don’t like, some of whom might well be fascists, but most of whom aren’t, at least not in the truest sense. German philosopher Theodor Adorno (11 September 1903 – 6 August 1969) devised a test to find out if you were one of them, a far right’un and thus a very wrong’un.

He had his own prejudices, of course. He didn’t do group loyalty, avoiding what he termed the “departmentalisation of spirit” that comes with membership of a Männerbund and the demand for “worship for their masters”- thoughts that forerun poet Charles Bukowski’s advice: “Wherever the crowd goes run in the other direction. They’re always wrong.”

According to the Nazis, Adorno was a bad lot because his father, Oscar Wiesengrund, was a Jew. As the Nazi party became the largest party in the Reichstag, in September 1932, Adorno’s right to teach was revoked. In March, as the swastika was run up the flagpole of the town hall in his native Frankfurt, the police searched Adorno’s office and home. His application for membership in the Reich Chamber of Literature was denied on the grounds that membership was limited to “persons who belong to the German nation by profound ties of character and blood”. “As a non-Aryan German,” he was told, “you are unable to feel and appreciate such an obligation.” Not much later, Adorno was forced into 15 years of exile, living in the UK and US.

Allowed back in to a defeated Germany, he penned the 1947 essay Wagner, Nietzsche and Hitler and collaborated with other intellectuals on the 1950 book The Authoritarian Personality. Adorno understood that Nazism had not vanished. Nazis had simply lost the war, and stumbled back home to the Fatherland to regroup in Bierkellers or find work at the United Nations and Eurovision.

In exile, Adorno wrote Minima Moralia. Published in 1951, he confessed that the “violence that expelled me” hd left him with an enduring sense of guilt at the very fact of his surviving the Holocaust. “I ought to be able to deduce Fascism from the memories of my childhood,”he wrote. But lest his “micrological glance” fail to alert you to fascist creep, a test would be handy. So he devised one based on lived experiences in the hope that we would get to know ourselves and live better.

In The Authoritarian Personality we can take the “California F-scale” test.  That F stands for fascism. A subject’s score is based on their responses to a set of 30 propositions. “To create a personality test that actually revealed latent authoritarianism, the researchers had to give up on the idea that there’s a strong link between anti-Semitism and authoritarianism,” writes Annalee Newitz. “Though their experiences with the Holocaust suggested a causal connection between hatred of Jews and the rise of fascism, it turned out that people with authoritarian tendencies were more accurately described as ethnocentric.”

Authoritarians, you see, “tended to distrust science and strongly disliked the idea of using imagination to solve problems. They preferred to stick to tried-and-true traditional methods of organising society.” Other tendencies included “superstition, aggression, cynicism, conservatism, and an inordinate interest in the private sex lives of others.”

The F-scale test consisted of the statements below. Take it and “yield an estimate of fascist receptivity at the personality level”.

Some of you may take the test in the hope of passing and knowing yourselves to be good brown shirts. Moving on to see if you’re bluffing it or adhere to Umberto Eco’s 14 Common Features of The Eternal Fascist. Others will aim to fail. You may also wonder what kind of person takes a test, and what they hope to discover from doing so, perhaps that they are blessed with spare time and cursed with indecision and a need to prove themselves.

Participants were invited to select one of the following options, with scores ranging from one to six: “Disagree Strongly”, “Disagree Mostly”, “Disagree Somewhat”, “Agree Somewhat”, “Agree” or “MostlyAgree.”

  1. Obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues children should learn.
  2. A person who has bad manners, habits, and breeding can hardly expect to get along with decent people.
  3. If people would talk less and work more, everybody would be better off.
  4. The business man and the manufacturer are much more important to society than the artist and the professor.
  5. Science has its place, but there are many important things that can never be understood by the human mind.
  6. Every person should have complete faith in some supernatural power whose decisions he obeys without question.
  7. Young people sometimes get rebellious ideas, but as they grow up they ought to get over them and settle down.
  8. What this country needs most, more than laws and political programs, is a few courageous, tireless, devoted leaders in whom the people can put their faith.
  9. No sane, normal, decent person could ever think of hurting a close friend or relative.
  10. Nobody ever learned anything really important except through suffering.
  11. What the youth needs most is strict discipline, rugged determination, and the will to work and fight for family and country.
  12. An insult to our honor should always be punished.
  13. Sex crimes, such as rape and attacks on children, deserve more than mere imprisonment; such criminals ought to be publicly whipped, or worse.
  14. There is hardly anything lower than a person who does not feel a great love, gratitude, and respect for his parents.
  15. Most of our social problems would be solved if we could somehow get rid of the immoral, crooked, and feebleminded people.
  16. Homosexuals are hardly better than criminals and ought to be severely punished.
  17. When a person has a problem or worry, it is best for him not to think about it, but to keep busy with more cheerful things.
  18. Nowadays more and more people are prying into matters that should remain personal and private.
  19. Some people are born with an urge to jump from high places.
  20. People can be divided into two distinct classes: the weak and the strong.
  21. Some day it will probably be shown that astrology can explain a lot of things.
  22. Wars and social troubles may someday be ended by an earthquake or flood that will destroy the whole world.
  23. No weakness or difficulty can hold us back if we have enough will power.
  24. It is best to use some prewar authorities in Germany to keep order and prevent chaos.
  25. Most people don’t realize how much our lives are controlled by plots hatched in secret places.
  26. Human nature being what it is, there will always be war and conflict.
  27. Familiarity breeds contempt.
  28. Nowadays when so many different kinds of people move around and mix together so much, a person has to protect himself especially carefully against catching an infection or disease from them.
  29. The wild sex life of the old Greeks and Romans was tame compared to some of the goings-on in this country, even in places where people might least expect it.
  30. The true American way of life is disappearing so fast that force may be necessary to preserve it.

You can take the test yourself here. But maybe best not to take it too seriously. The F-scale “has been heavily criticized by many psychologists because it is a better indicator of conservatism, an old-fashioned outlook, and a tendency to say ‘yes’ to anything rather than as a measure of authoritarianism,” write Ferdinand A. Gul and John J. Ray, via Open Culture, in their 1989 paper “Pitfalls in Using the F Scale to Measure Authoritarianism in Accounting Research.”

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