What is utopian authoritarianism

Towards Utopia - an empirical speculation (by Wolfgang Frindte & Nico Dietrich)


Political utopias


In 2012 the Vienna publisher Paul Zsolnay published the book “Der Europäische Landbote” by Robert Menasse. The title of the book is an obvious allusion to Georg Büchner's pamphlet “Der Hessische Landbote” (Büchner 1979 [1834]), in which, after a brief introduction, the famous appeal “Friede den Hütten! War the Palaces! ”Appears. Büchner wanted to initiate a revolution against those "up there" with his pamphlet. Robert Menasse's aim is similar with his book: He pleads for the downfall of the EU and for a new beginning for Europe:

Either Europe will once more, but this time be peaceful, the avant-garde of the world, or Europe will definitely prove to the world that lasting lessons cannot be drawn from history and that there is no humane way to transform beautiful utopias into the law of reality to put. (Menasse 2012: 107)

Ulrike Guérot recently came up with a similar idea, who in 2016 wrote a book entitled “Why Europe Must Become a Republic! A political utopia ”. Both Menasse and Guérot see the end of the European nation-states and demand a constitution for a free, peaceful Europe of regions and not a Europe of nations or peoples. Such a plea or demand seems quite obviously to contradict the political developments in Europe. Whether in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland or elsewhere in Europe - the right-wing populist movements are not only gaining popularity, but seem to be on the verge of taking over government or have already taken it over. In this respect, one could rightly claim that Robert Menasse and Ulrike Guérot are in the good, highly respected, but ultimately failed series of social utopians1.

And this series is known to be long: It begins with the prophet Jeschajahu (also known as Isaiah) and the utopia of the kingdom of peace: “There they will turn their swords into plowshares and their skewers into sickles. For no nation will lift up the sword against the other, and they will no longer learn to wage war ”(Isaiah, 2, 4–5). Plato's “Politeia” (380 BC) and his ideas for an ideal state or Thomas More and his novel “From the best state of the state and the new island of Utopia” (1970 [1516]) should also be thought of, in which (one year before Luther slams his theses on the church door in Wittenberg), among other things, the abolition of money and private property, the introduction of a humane working culture, general communal nursing and care for the elderly as well as a general and equal education system are described. Francis Bacon's fragment “Nova Atlantis” (1984 [1627]) should not be forgotten either, which appeared one year after the death of its author and in which an ideally typical, scientifically and technically developed society is described. And with a historical leap and the neglect of other important utopians, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels come into play of utopias in the 19th century. In 1875, for example, Karl Marx formulated the following vision in his “Critique of the Gotha Program”:

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaved subordination of individuals to the division of labor, with the result that the opposition between mental and physical labor has also disappeared; after work has become not only a means to life, but itself the first necessity of life; After the all-round development of individuals, their productive forces have grown and all the springs of cooperative wealth flow more fully - only then can the narrow bourgeois legal horizon be completely exceeded and society can write on its banner: everyone according to his abilities, everyone according to his needs! (Marx 1973 [1875]: 19)

In 1918 Ernst Bloch published the “Spirit of Utopia” and years later “The Principle of Hope” (1954–1959). In 1975 the American Ernest Callenbach published his far-sighted work “Öko- topia”, in which he developed an ecological vision that is already a reality in many areas (German translation: Callenbach 1978). Etc etc. In a nutshell and back to Robert Menasse and Ulrike Guérot: In the spirit of the earlier social utopians, both criticize the existing conditions (here in the EU and in Europe) and postulate (in the sense of an ideal) the disappearance of the nation state and a Europe without borders. Menasse and Guérot identified the citizens of European countries as actors or subjects of these social changes. From the perspective of the social utopians, the disappearance of the nation-state will not be a change from 'above', but one from 'below'.


Empirical speculation


Even if such changes are unlikely to be expected in the near future, one could speculate on the basis of empiricism and develop visions without being sent to the doctor straight away2. The research question to be examined is: Are there actors or subjects in Germany who could also implement such changes from “below” for an open Europe without borders, who identify with Europe and are themselves open to “foreign” and new things? To reflect on this, we use the results of a study we carried out in summer 2015 on attitudes towards Muslims and Islam3. In the following we describe which constructs we collected how and which results were found.

Identification with Europe

In a first step, we ask to what extent the people in our non-representative sample identify with Europe: Of the 975 respondents at the time, a total of 20.8 percent stated on a five-point Likert scale that they identify strongly with Europe; 28.7 percent identified strongly with Germany and 8.6 percent strongly identified with Europe and Germany.

Positive attitudes towards Muslims

In the second step, we look for the characteristics and predictors of positive attitudes towards Muslims. The scale used for this consists of the following items:

• "There is no reason to deny Muslims access to certain professions."

• "Overall, Muslims make an important contribution to our society."

• "I would like to have more Muslim friends."

• "I wouldn't mind being friends with a Muslim."

• "Muslims should be equal citizens."

• "I can imagine voting for a Muslim in a local election."

The scale formed with these items (“positive attitudes towards Muslims”) has a one-factor structure and a satisfactory reliability (Cronbach's α = .87).

Causes of positive attitudes towards Muslims

In the third step we look for predictors for the “positive attitudes towards Muslims”. Gradual hierarchical regression analyzes were calculated4. We use a) ideological beliefs (authoritarian beliefs and social dominance orientation), b) variables to operationalize identification with Europe and Germany, c) media preferences and d) socio-demographic characteristics (age, gender, education, marital status, region of residence, etc.) as potential predictors. . The reason: Numerous national and international studies point to the influence of generalized or ideological convictions, such as authoritarianism (Right-wing Authoritarianism, RWA) or social dominance orientation, as robust predictors of prejudiced attitudes towards Muslims and Islam (e.g. Cohrs / Stelzl 2010, Imhoff / Recker 2012, Lee et al. 2013).

In our study, we relied on the Jena authoritarianism scale (RWA3D scale) by Funke (2005) in order to be able to record authoritarian beliefs. Social dominance orientation (SDO) was collected based on Cohrs and Stelzl (2010). The influence of nationalist convictions (e.g. Coenders 2001, Meer et al. 2010) on group-related prejudices has also been well researched empirically. Above all, identification with one's own national or ethnic group (with Germany or with Europe) influences attitudes towards relevant foreign groups (e.g. Falomir-Pichastor / Frederic 2013, Yogeeswaran et al. 2014). We subsume all specific attitudes towards traditional and digital media usage offers under media preferences. For the specific media choice and media usage behavior (cf. also Frindte / Haußecker 2010, Eyssel et al. 2015), a) the assessment of general media usage, b) television usage (“If you watch news on television, which channels do you watch the rule? ”: Das Erste, ZDF, Sat.1, RTL, ProSieben, Third [MDR, NDR, SWR etc.]) and c) Internet use (“ If you read or watch news on the Internet, which sources do you use then as a rule? ”: websites of traditional print media, e.g. ZEIT or Spiegel, online offers from TV stations, e.g. media libraries, blogs, Facebook, other sites).

Table 1 shows the model with the best solution of the stepwise regression calculations for the significant predictors. All predictors included in the calculation but not significant have been omitted.

The ideological convictions (authoritarianism and social dominance orientation) turn out to be negative predictors of positive attitudes towards Muslims. In other words, people who are more attached to these beliefs also tend to see Muslims less positively. The identification with Europe, the preferences for websites of traditional print media and education, on the other hand, suggest themselves as positive significant predictors; that is, stronger expressions of these variables go hand in hand with a more positive view of the group of Muslims.

Type formation through cluster analysis

Before we interpret and illustrate these findings, the last step of our statistical analysis should be explained: a cluster analysis5 was calculated in order to identify statistically relevant groupings that differ in terms of the meaningful variables, i. H. in order to be able to answer the research question raised above. Authoritarian beliefs (RWA), social dominance orientation (SDO), identification with Europe, preferences for websites in traditional print media, education and positive attitudes towards Muslims served as grouping variables.

The cluster analysis6 produced four homogeneous, easily interpretable clusters (valid N = 966). A subsequent discriminant analysis7 also shows that the grouping variables change in a significant way8 suitable to distinguish the four clusters found. The classification result showed that in the first cluster all cases can be classified correctly, in the second cluster 94.3 percent, in the third cluster 92.3 percent and in the fourth cluster again all cases. Figure 1 illustrates the results

We interpret this figure immediately in the announced speculation mode: In our overall sample there is a not small group (cluster 4 N = 239), which comprises 24.7 percent of the people from the overall sample and which mainly relates to group 1 (cluster 1: N = 170; 17.6 percent) is characterized by the following features: The respondents from cluster 4 not only show the lowest values ​​for authoritarian and socially dominant convictions, they also have a higher level of education; they find out more about the websites of traditional print media (Der Spiegel, Die Zeit); they have the most positive attitudes towards Muslims and they identify relatively strongly with Europe.

Empirically based optimism

The latter finding makes us optimistic, as we interpret it in the sense of the utopia represented by Menasse and Guérot of the disappearance of the nation state and a Europe without borders. There are still educated and politically informed people who have a positive view of ethnic minorities, refugees in general and Muslims in particular, who reject authoritarian and power-oriented social structures and identify with Europe. This group of people is - measured against the total population - not a majority; it comprises almost a quarter of the total sample. It doesn't even matter. Social change is initiated and implemented by minorities. But it must not and should not be the right-wing populist minorities that are currently dominating social change. And finally to the utopias again: At the beginning of the new millennium Ulrich Beck (2002) developed the basic lines of a “cosmopolitan age” in which the earthly religion of cosmopolitanism would take the place of the nation as earthly religion. Cosmopolitanism is "the secularized order of God after its end" (Beck 2002: 448).

In other words, cosmopolitanism is the next big idea that comes after the historically worn out ideas of nationalism, communism, socialism, neoliberalism, and this idea could make the improbable possible that humanity, without relapsing into barbarism, could enter the 21st century. Survived century. (Ibid .: 16)

For Beck, cosmopolitanism essentially means “the recognition of the otherness of others” (ibid .: 412). Although Beck (2002: 400) repeatedly insists that the question of who is the winner from the Second Modern9 will emerge, is in principle open, he optimistically assumes that the “countervailing power of the cosmopolitan left” can be an essential force for the success of the desired cosmopolitanism. For this, however, it is necessary

that the cosmopolitan left succeeds in establishing itself internally and externally as a national and global player in the meta-game of world politics. 'The' cosmopolitan left actually does not exist because it breaks down into millions of initiatives or is invisible to the outside in the form of individuals behind the well-known party-political branded articles becomes active - unless the cosmopolitan left founds and defines itself as such. The inner diversity of programs, languages, individual concerns as well as political tactics and strategies seem to place insurmountable obstacles in the way of such a reflective self-definition. That does not have to be that way. The programmatic key, the recognition of diversity, can also be understood and interpreted as an organizational “unit”. For this, however, it is necessary that this diversity no longer counts as a flaw, but rather is affirmed and practiced as an essential and identity feature of the new cosmopolitanism. In this sense, a cosmopolitan left would first of all have to practice the values ​​of cosmopolitan society for which it is politically fighting. (Ibid .: 401)

This prescriptive formulation is reminiscent of Marx’s dictum, according to which theory becomes material violence if it grips the masses (Marx 1961: 385). The meta-narrative cosmopolitanism must not only be retold by people, it must be lived.


1 The concept of social utopians is defined here more broadly than is customary in political philosophy. There, as a rule, those people are referred to as social utopians who, especially in France, the United Kingdom and Germany at the beginning of the 19th century, drafted and published ideas for a humane society. The most important representatives include Claude Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Louis-Auguste Blanqui and Louis Blanc, the native of Scots Robert Dale Owen and the German Wilhelm Weitling.

2 “Anyone who has visions should go to the doctor.” With this legendary sentence, Helmut Schmidt (allegedly) commented on the visions that Willy Brandt tried to formulate in the 1980 federal election campaign (ZEITmagazin 2010).

3 The results of this study and further studies on attitudes towards Muslims and Islam are presented in detail in Frindte and Dietrich (2017).

4 The regression analysis relates the empirical distributions of a predictor feature x and a criterion feature y to one another, so that a regression equation arises which enables the prediction of y from x. Exclusion in pairs was taken into account here.

5 The cluster analysis is a multivariate method with the aim of grouping or classifying examination objects (feature carriers) with regard to similarity (or dissimilarity) with regard to certain input features. The members of a cluster should be as homogeneous as possible with regard to their characteristics and the members of different clusters as heterogeneous as possible.

6 Hierarchical cluster analyzes were calculated using the Ward method, which was preceded by clustering using the single linkage method.The structogram was used as a guide to determine a reasonable number of clusters.

7 Like cluster analysis, discriminant analysis is a multivariate method for analyzing group or class differences. With this method it is possible to examine two or more groups considering several variables and to see how these groups differ. In contrast to the cluster analysis, however, the discriminant analysis is not an explorative (search procedure), but a confirmatory procedure (test procedure).

8 p <.001.

9 The "second modernity", whose beginning is usually dated from the middle or end of the 20th century, describes the processes of comprehensive globalization - combined with the increasing power of transnational corporations and precarious working conditions - as well as the development of a world society.



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