This article considers The Authoritarian Personality in terms of a consistent argument in early critical theory—that fascism begins in the family. It explores the foundations of this argument in Max Horkheimer’s Studies on Authority and the Family, his first major research project as director of the Institute for Social Research. In the Studies, the Frankfurt School begins its long engagement with psychoanalysis and develops a materialist perspective on the family, which treats the family as a primary political institution. Though its political and theoretical orientations are somewhat different, The Authoritarian Personality builds on these foundations, positing a link between personality types and family patterns, emphasizing the importance of the family in producing political subjects. This approach to The Authoritarian Personality, which dwells not on the personality variables on the F-scale or the classification of types, but on an underdeveloped concept of the authoritarian family, is made even more plausible by a careful look at one of the book’s other authors, Else Frenkel-Brunswik. This article amplifies Frenkel-Brunswik’s voice, and her other research efforts, in the construction of the theory of the authoritarian personality. It argues that The Authoritarian Personality, and the larger critical theory of fascism, presents a missed opportunity for the development of a more radical critique of the bourgeois family and a more robust defense of a “democratic” alternative.

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