On Political Disagreeablness

Sometimes minor political developments illustrate the nexus between personality theory and Haidt’s Social Intuitionist Model of moral judgement better than the big picture processes which are mediated by skilled politicians who are expert at disguising the emotion which guides their actions; hiding them beneath a veneer of cool reason and rationality.

An perfect illustration of this was the recent State of the Union address by President Barack Obama  “Obama promises action on equality” with the classically Liberal President’s address strongly referencing the Care/Harm foundation “restore unemployment insurance to 1.6 million workers” and the Fairness foundation “a rise in the minimum wage for new Federal contract staff”.  Obama couched these claims in calm and logical terms avoiding the more controversial claim that he felt that is was right to do s in the very depth of his soul.

Obama’s is universally agreed to posses a charisma rooted in his warmth and agreeableness and his unusual stillness and calm.  To some unknown extent this agreeableness and low neuroticism must influence his liberalism, his Social Moral Intuitions in Haidt speak but, we don’t appear to know exactly how or why.

A clearer expression of this conjunction of personality theory and Social Intuitions comes from the aforementioned minor political developments in the UK: in Scotland a backlash grows against “nasty cybernats”,  a small minority of SNP supporters who attack their opponents by deploying sustained invective and studied aggression.  There was the startling comments from a UKIP politician already renowned for public unkindness, who managed to publicly abusing someone for being disabled.  At the same time it was reported that a former prominent UKIP politician was involved in political kidnapping in Pakistan.

Geoffrey Miller’s claim that politics can be deduced from personality theory alone seems to overeach, but hear him low agreeableness “Conservatives show lower openness and (more traditionalism and xenophobia)….and lower agreeableness (more hard headed, hard hearted support for their self-interests and national interests).”

Now a caveat, low agreeableness and aggression aimed at political rivals of course is in all parties, and all politics all the time.  The Daily Mail linked is an exemplar low agreeableness itself, but many and most will agree that low agreeableness is more pronounced, more evident towards the extremes in politics.  But does the agreeableness/disagreeable spectrum create the politics in itself?

The other week an authoritarian nationalist politician, the President of the Russian Federation, asked homosexuals “to leave children in peace” during the Winter Olympics.  The word nationalist in the description is key to identifying the Moral Foundations and motivations of their politics.  A strong reference to the “in group loyalty” foundation is evident in Scottish Nationalism as offered by the SNP, British Nationalism from UKIP and Putin’s brand of Russian neo-nationalism.  This intuition about the moral worth of their in-groups and their low agreeableness promotes a moralised form of unpleasant aggression towards political rivals.

For Miller one causes the other, low agreeableness and then the predisposition to the end of the right wing spectrum.  For Haidt we proceed from Moral Intuitions informed by personality traits but Haidt doesn’t identify the traits in detail.  Also what about left wing disagreeableness? The current controversy about the French comedian Dieudonné and his newly infamous Quenelle salute, alleged to be a form of anti-Semitism, is an illustration of left wing low agreeableness rooted in his anti-establishment and anti-authoritarian views.  A moralised hostility to in-group authority and its perceived sympathy and support for Israel leads to the public demonstration of moralised antagonism.

Left wing low agreeableness, even far left low agreeableness, is usually softened and chastened however, by the left’s values, in which a claim that whole racial, ethnic or religious groups are morally dissolute is unacceptable in respect of the Care/Harm foundation.

Miller’s claim that you can derive someone’s politics from the big six personality types is intriguing but the relationship with Haidtian Moral Foundations is uncertain.

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