Where do your opinions come from? Do we 'think' our world views, or 'feel' them? And what do our beliefs mean for politics and society? In each episode of On Opinion, Turi Munthe asks thought leaders to share their perspectives on why we think what we think and what it means for the world today, discussing everything from the war on truth to how to argue with people you can't abide.
“The key division in all political systems is the result of two distinct perceptions of the most dangerous threats”
Western politics have traditionally been divided into Conservatives and Liberals - tradition vs egalitarianism. John Hibbing, who more than anyone has put biology back into our understanding of politics, proposes an entirely new approach - he divides the world between “Securitarians” and “Unitarians”, and sees the battle between them as the ultimate source of political conflict in the world.
Do you worry more about immigration or authoritarianism?
“The difference in orientation to security in the face of outsiders constitutes the most fundamental divide in political systems around the world, now and always.”
Based on a mass of new survey data, John’s revolutionary new book, The Securitarian Personality, is a fundamental rethinking of the core political divide in our societies - between Securitarians, whose central preoccupation is to protect insiders from outsider threats, and Unitarians, whose core central goal is to outsiders from insider threats. It is also a seminal new assessment of the political instincts behind Donald Trump’s rise to power.
Securitarians fear outsiders: immigrants, foreigners, norm-violators, non-native speakers, and those of different races, religions, sexualities who might be a threat to the identity and existence of the in-group.
Unitarians fear powerful insiders: those with the authority to impose their will arbitrary on the society below them.
These differences are deeply, biologically embedded in who we are, and they have immensely strong evolutionary causes. Securitarians and Unitarians are natural human types, and have been since our hunter-gatherer days.
“Political differences are not just superficial and malleable but rather attached to stable psychological, physiological, and possibly even genetic variations.”
Listen to John and Turi discuss this fundamental rethinking of our evolutionary politics:
Works cited include:
John Hibbing is an American political scientist and Foundation Regents University Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is known for his research on the biological and psychological correlates of political ideology. He is the author of The Securitarian Personality.
“In their desire for groups to BE equal, Liberals have a bias towards PERCEIVING groups to be equal… Inequality must therefore always be explained through discrimination and prejudice, rather than evolved or genetic differences”
Turi talks with Dr. Cory Clark about the origins of bias - why it is so ingrained in our thinking, its evolutionary uses, and whether bias (or ‘motivated reasoning’) is equally shared by people on all sides of the political spectrum.
Conservatives have historically got a terrible rap for being anti-science, creationists, climate change deniers… able to ignore objective facts that attack their world views.
Liberals, on the other hand, are the party of empiricism - they are more educated, are more likely to trust experts, and make up the massive majority of scientists and academics themselves…
And there’s the rub. Because at the heart of the Liberal view is a fundamental structuring bias around equality. Liberals so desire to see equality in the world that they are blind to instances of true genetic or evolved differences. This is what Cory Clark calls the ‘Equalitarianism’
Listen to hear Cory and Turi discuss:
Works cited include:
Cory Clark is a Social Psychologist and a Visiting Scholar in Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Her primary research interests social cognition, politics, morality and metascience.
“The disadvantaged don’t make the world, they cope with it”
Since Etienne de la Boetie’s Discourse on Voluntary Servitude (1577), we have asked ourselves why the weak, the poor and the marginalised accept injustice.
Social scientists talk to economic and political oppression. John Jost’s work shows that the oppressed don’t just suffer the injustice, they commit to it. Across society, people “invest in their own unhappiness”.
Black children prefer white dolls; women feel entitled to lower salaries; victims blame themselves; around the world, people vote against their own economic interests…
Jost presents three underlying reasons - epistemic, existential and relational - for why people become psychologically invested in the status quo even if it harms their objective interests, and walks through some of the research that demonstrates it.
“People are motivated to defend, bolster and justify existing social, economic and political institutions and arrangements because doing so serves fundamental psychological needs”
Listen to John Jost explain:
“Part of the job of the Social Psychologist is to look at fixing the ills they identify”
Works cited include:
John Jost is Professor of Psychology, Politics, & Data Science and Co-Director of the Center for Social and Political Behavior at New York University. His research addresses stereotyping, prejudice, social justice, intergroup relations, political ideology, and system justification theory. He has published over 200 journal articles and book chapters and five books, including A Theory of System Justification.
Turi Munthe is the founder of Parlia - an encyclopedia of opinion, promoting civil discourse. Prior, he built Demotix, a free speech platform which became the largest network of photojournalists in the world. Turi has been a journalist, talking head, policy advisor and VC. He sits on the board of GEDI, Italy's largest newspaper conglomerate, and was a longtime trustee of Index on Censorship and open Democracy.