Uprooting Authoritarianism: Deconstructing the Stories Behind Narrow Identities and Building a Society of Belonging

Powell, John A.; Toppin, Eloy

Authoritarianism is on the rise globally, threatening democratic society and ushering in an era of extreme division. Most analyses and proposals for challenging authoritarianism leave intact the underlying foundations that give rise to this social phenomenon because they rely on a decontextualized intergroup dynamic theory. This Article argues that any analysis that neglects the impact of dominance as a legitimizing characteristic of in-group formation and identity construction based on dominant in-group membership will fall short of understanding the surge of authoritarianism. In the West, and the United States in particular, this dominant ingroup takes shape around the ideology and social force of whiteness. Whiteness, as the bonding element of a dominant identity-based in-group, compels narrow identities and exclusive group membership. It also makes promises of social gain and advantage to those constituted as white, the erosion of which is the source of the authoritarian uprising in the United States. This Article discusses the establishment of the Western metanarrative, and whiteness’s relation to it, and then advances a strategy to replace it with a more inclusive narrative of deep belonging, offering guidance to the social justice movement in its work toward this end.


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Columbia Journal of Race and Law

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August 18, 2022