About this Research Topic
Starting with attempts to explain the appeal of leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini, authoritarianism has featured prominently in psychological explanations of social and political tolerance, concomitant preferences for restrictive and illiberal policies, and their implications for governance such as democratic backsliding. The importance of authoritarianism seems only to have increased in an era of perceived threats from terrorism, mass migration, and a global pandemic.
The global Covid-19 pandemic, in particular, offers unique opportunities to examine authoritarianism because the threat it poses is (a) salient; (b) multidimensional: it has disrupted collective norms and social consensus, e.g., hoarding of food, vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaxxers, while at the same time presenting varying personal threat by age, race, class etc.; (c) global in scope, which means that governments and publics around the world have been dealing with the same threat at the same time.
The broader intellectual background to the research topic is a subfield with tensions between theories based on (1) the idea of “right-wing authoritarianism” that increases with threat, versus (2) competing theories of stable authoritarian (favouring social conformity)-libertarian (favouring individual autonomy) predispositions that are activated rather than increased by threat, resulting in growing expressions of authoritarian attitudes among those with authoritarian predispositions in some accounts and among those with libertarian predispositions in others.
Efforts to reconcile these differences have focused on explanations such as variation in the types of threats examined and their implications for social conformity and personal autonomy, or differences in dependent and independent variables. But the debate goes on.
This Research Topic seeks to take the field forward by gathering theories and findings from research on authoritarianism from these differing perspectives in the context of Covid-19, which offers unique leverage from which to explore areas of consensus, differences and their likely causes.
Contributions should focus on dependent variables gauging (1) authoritarianism's relationship with perceptions of the threat of Covid itself, or (2) the relationships between authoritarianism, perceptions of the threat of Covid, and values and attitudes such as satisfaction with democracy and/or approval of the government, (in)tolerance, and attitudes towards minorities.
Contributions can use data from experiments of all types, as well as from panel or cross-sectional surveys in any country. Multi-country comparative research would be especially welcome.
Keywords: Authoritarianism, Covid-19, Threat, Tolerance, Attitudes to democracy
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.