Many important thinkers have analyzed why people obey authority. One such thinker is the German theorist Hannah Arendt. In her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt considers why people came to obey the authority of Adolf Hitler, his Nazi party, and their extremely destructive rule. For Arendt, loneliness makes people vulnerable. When people feel uprooted, isolated, and by themselves, they tend to become insecure. To escape their fragile position, they’re liable to embrace a strong, forceful tyrant or authority figure. The fictions that this figure tells helps them break away from their fractured, atomized existence.
Arendt’s diagnosis relates to present discussions on why people are still enticed by authoritarian figures. Many people noticed authoritarian elements around former president Donald Trump. Alas, many people were quick to point out that Trump was a symptom of something, not the cause. The same isolation and atomization that Arendt attributes to the ascendancy of Hitler, thinkers today attribute to the allure of Trump.
Right now, a fair amount of Americans feel isolated, frustrated, and atomized. Their job prospects are precarious, and they’re alienated from various political and social institutions. Feeling fragile, they gravitate towards a strongman like Trump. The bellicose narrative offered by an authority such as Trump provides them with psychological wages. It helps them feel valued and important instead of inferior and disposable.