The Securitarian Personality, with John Hibbing

This week, Turi speaks to John Hibbing about “Securitarians” - how it is fear that explains the most fundamental division in our political tendencies, and what that means for democracy.

S2 E10: The Securitarian Personality

“The key division in all political systems is the result of two distinct perceptions of the most dangerous threats”

Western politics have traditionally been divided into Conservatives and Liberals - tradition vs egalitarianism. John Hibbing, who more than anyone has put biology back into our understanding of politics, proposes an entirely new approach - he divides the world between “Securitarians” and “Unitarians”, and sees the battle between them as the ultimate source of political conflict in the world.

Do you worry more about immigration or authoritarianism?

“The difference in orientation to security in the face of outsiders constitutes the most fundamental divide in political systems around the world, now and always.”

Based on a mass of new survey data, John’s revolutionary new book, The Securitarian Personality, is a fundamental rethinking of the core political divide in our societies - between Securitarians, whose central preoccupation is to protect insiders from outsider threats, and Unitarians, whose core central goal is to outsiders from insider threats. It is also a seminal new assessment of the political instincts behind Donald Trump’s rise to power.

Securitarians fear outsiders: immigrants, foreigners, norm-violators, non-native speakers, and those of different races, religions, sexualities who might be a threat to the identity and existence of the in-group.

Unitarians fear powerful insiders: those with the authority to impose their will arbitrary on the society below them.

These differences are deeply, biologically embedded in who we are, and they have immensely strong evolutionary causes. Securitarians and Unitarians are natural human types, and have been since our hunter-gatherer days.

“Political differences are not just superficial and malleable but rather attached to stable psychological, physiological, and possibly even genetic variations.”

Listen to John and Turi discuss this fundamental rethinking of our evolutionary politics:

  • The biology behind our political preferences
  • The characteristics of Securitarians and Unitarians
  • How Securitarians differ from Conservatives, Authoritarians, and Fascists
  • The ‘Securitarian’ Phenotype
  • The evolutionary history of our different political instincts
  • Who voted for Donald Trump (and Orban, Bolsonaro and others) and why
  • The advantages and hypocrisies of Unitarian thinking
  • What Siberian silver foxes can teach us about political types

Works cited include:

Read the Full Transcript

John Hibbing

John Hibbing is an American political scientist and Foundation Regents University Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is known for his research on the biological and psychological correlates of political ideology. He is the author of The Securitarian Personality.

This page was last edited on Tuesday, 16 Mar 2021 at 17:17 UTC