Tony Vaccaro shows Newsnight’s Steven Smith his life’s work

World renowned photographer Tony Vaccaro

Margaret Thatcher’s authoritarian personality

Margaret Thatcher died on Monday. In death, as in life, she divides opinion.

Personally I think she was the worst thing that happened to this country since World War Two. All the problems we currently face have their genesis in her premiership.

The financial collapse of 2008 was a direct result, not just of the economic strategies she initiated, but more importantly a way of thinking she promoted. The senior managers and business brains of the banking sector, were the Young Turks of the financial industry when she came to power. The mantra of rampant self-interest she espoused, and they took to with such vigour, is the same “I’m all-right Jack” attitude, that lets these big-bonused-bankers do business the way they have and continue to.

Her devotees say she was a strong leader. For me she was a “strong leader” only to those who need that kind of guidance. To the rest of us she was nothing more than a bully. I think there was a callousness in her leadership that was nothing short of sadistic. She had a viciousness about her that I see in the “tough decisions” fiscal policy of George Osborne. No to a plan “B”, “C” or “D” is all-right when your worth £4.3 million, have a Notting Hill property worth £1.8 million and a wife who’s father is a life peer. A life peer who interestingly was also a member of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet.

Recent entries about Carrion, specifically those regarding Anthony Reiner, have made me realise something about Margaret Thatcher. Her success was due in no small part to her authoritarian personality. At this point it might be a good idea for you to take a look at Erich Fromm’s 1957 article “The Authoritarian Personality“. I referenced it in posts that grapple with the totalitarian mindset of prohibition and Reiner’s authoritarian personality.

Fromm makes some interesting insights, notably the symbiotic relationship between the passive and active authoritarian. If I were to characterise Reiner as a passive-authoritarian, an individual who belittles himself so he can, as part of something greater, become great himself. I would characterise Thatcher as the active-authoritarian, the sadist who feels strong because she has incorporated others.

To those who say she encouraged people to be free of the state, to go out there and do it for themselves, I say the free market is not freedom. Ask anyone struggling to pay a utility bill, or trying to buy a house, or even secure a living wage, how free do they feel? Market freedom is only freedom to those who have. If you already have it, you’re free to take it somewhere else. What if you don’t?

That argument aside, one of the most interesting thing for me, in realising Thatcher had an authoritarian personality, is realising how many people have the emotional need to follower her. The irony of her message of self-reliance and freedom is actually a message of subjugation. You must supplicate yourself at the alter of Thatcher or you’re one of “them” and if you’re one of “them” you’re vilified, blamed for everything that is wrong with the world. If we rid ourselves of them, things will be better for us. That people is the dynamic of totalitarianism. Which is perhaps Thatcher’s real legacy.

Personally I do not mourn her passing, because unfortunately I have to survive the world she created.

%d bloggers like this: