Bob Altemeyer puts together a free and fantastic critique and analysis of authoritarian behavior and thought, identifying just what causes this mindset which is driven so insistently by principles but ends up ultimately as corrupt and self-serving as any philosophy.
As somebody who has dealt with the authoritarian mindset (and has finally been spurred by this book to label his political mindset as "anti-authoritarian"), I've asked many of the questions identified in the book's introduction:
The last reason why you might be interested in the hereafter is that you might want more than just facts about authoritarians, but understanding and insight into why they act the way they do. Which is often mind-boggling. How can they revere those who gave their lives defending freedom and then support moves to take that freedom away? How can they go on believing things that have been disproved over and over again, and disbelieve things that are well established? How can they think they are the best people in the world, when so much of what they do ought to show them they are not? Why do their leaders so often turn out to be crooks and hypocrites? Why are both the followers and the leaders so aggressive that hostility is practically their trademark?This book ought to appeal to anybody who has struggled with an abusive and irrational boss, or marveled at the disgusting behavior of crooked politicians who pay lip service to high ideals while working against those same ideals, fully supported all the way by their constituents.
I'll be frank - I think that this personality is damaging as well as illogical, and that people with highly authority-minded personalities, however illogical, tend to be more successful than people who aren't willing to play a broken game. This book seems to be the cure to this type of behavior - to identify authoritarianism as a whole, if not as a mental illness, as negative behavior, outlining its characteristics. Just identifying the fallacies behind these people's behavior is enough, I feel, to de-legitimize much of their behavior. This is pretty much why I'm going into sociology as a field.
Read the book
(also, link to Altemeyer's site)