Theodor Adorno, philosopher, musicologist, academic, and Frankfurt School member, is a name familiar to many in the “truth movement,” due in part to assertions some have made that he was instrumental in transforming The Beatles from a struggling British band, playing seedy Hamburg clubs, into the culture-changing phenomenon they eventually became.
What many may not know, however, is that the Tavistock Institute associate, in the 1950s, also authored a personality test that, at least ostensibly, was intended to measure the level to which a person has traits and thought patterns supposedly associated with fascism.
To establish some context for a discussion of Adorno as a psychometrician, J.Q. first takes a look at the murky history of psychological testing, with its early origins in the work of Charles Darwin and his cousin, Francis Galton–who both, arguably, approached “mental testing” from a eugenicist perspective. J.Q. also touches on some of the odder aspects of the field, such as Timothy Leary‘s background as a psychometrician who developed a test that has been used by the CIA to screen potential employees, as well as the Church of Scientology’s use of a personality inventory as a recruitment tool. These extremes of the field are also contextualized with a look at notable critiques of the validity of even widely used, mainstream instruments such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
J.Q. then takes an in-depth look at Adorno’s odd little psychometric instrument–called The F-Scale–which has also been used at times as an employment screening test. Is it valid to suggest that having traits like a conservative view toward homosexuality, or a belief in an omniscient supernatural power, is evidence of a “fascistic” personality? Or does this test itself, at least to an extent, reflect author biases reflective of a worldview that is itself highly authoritarian?
- How fascist are you? Take an online interactive version of The F Scale now!
- Lee, Martin, and Bruce Shlain. Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond: Grove Press, 2007
- Paul, Ann Murphy. The Cult of Personality Testing: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves. Free Press, 2005
- The Ghost of Authoritarianism in the Age of the Shutdown (truthdig.com)
- My forthcoming book: Pynchon and Philosophy: Wittgenstein, Foucault and Adorno (Palgrave, 2014) (martineve.com)
- The “Life” of Theodor W. Adorno: One Last Genius (3quarksdaily.com)