The Psychology of Dictatorship

Pages: 255
Item #: 4316153
ISBN: 978-1-4338-1298-9
List Price: $69.95
Member/Affiliate Price: $49.95
Copyright: 2013
Format: Hardcover
Availability: In Stock
FREE Shipping

For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories

  • How do countries become dictatorships?
  • What social, political, and interpersonal dynamics create opportunities for despots to take and maintain control?
  • And how are dictatorships overthrown?

Ever since World War II, social scientists have recognized the crucial importance of these questions. Yet despite the great strides made in our understanding of dictatorships, most studies in this area are undertaken by academics in liberal democracies who view totalitarian societies from the "outside in," a perspective that has caused researchers to ignore crucial elements of everyday life and to misunderstand the role of ideology and brute force in totalitarian societies.

In this book, Fathali Moghaddam presents his "springboard model" of dictatorship, derived from both a substantive analysis of the common structures underlying dictatorial regimes and his own personal experience of life in a modern dictatorship. He discusses the importance of psychological processes such as displacement of aggression, conformity, obedience, fear, and cognitive dissonance as tools that aid the development and maintenance of dictatorships, as well as the crucial role of ideology in cementing the allegiance of elites.

Since even democracies contain an ever-shifting relationship between democratic and dictatorial tendencies, with elements that can pull democracies back to dictatorship, this book has important implications for citizens of all nations, even our own.

Table of Contents



  1. Psychology and Dictatorship: The Historic and Contemporary Challenge

I. Psychology and the Springboard Model of Dictatorship

  1. Explaining Dictatorship: What Kind of Psychological Science is Needed?
  2. The Springboard Model of Dictatorship

II. Psychological Processes in Dictatorship: The Historical Context

  1. Sacred Carriers and Narratives: The Puzzle of Continuity in Dictatorships
  2. Dictatorship, Displacement of Aggression, and Group Cohesion
  3. Conformity, Obedience, and Behavior Regulation
  4. From Torture to Cognitive Dissonance: Varieties of Coercion in Dictatorship
  5. Leadership and Dictatorship
  6. Cognition and Action Supportive of Dictatorship
  7. The Future of Dictatorship and Democracy



About the Author

Author Bio

Fathali M. Moghaddam, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Psychology and the director of the Conflict Resolution Program, Department of Government at Georgetown University.

Dr. Moghaddam was born in Iran, educated from an early age in England, and worked for the United Nations and for McGill University before joining Georgetown in 1990.

He returned to Iran in the spring of revolution in 1979 and was researching there during the hostage-taking crisis and the early years of the Iran–Iraq War. He has conducted experimental and field research in numerous cultural contexts and published extensively on radicalization, intergroup conflict, human rights and duties, and the psychology of globalization.

His most recent books include Multiculturalism and Intergroup Relations (2008); How Globalization Spurs Terrorism (2008); The New Global Insecurity (2010); Words of Conflict, Words of War (2010, with Rom Harré); and Psychology for the Third Millennium (2012, with Rom Harré).

Dr. Moghaddam is the next editor of Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, and he has received a number of recognitions for his scholarly contributions, the most recent being the Outstanding International Psychologist Award for 2012 from APA Division 52 (Division of International Psychology).

More about his research can be found on his website.

Reviews & Awards
  • Honorable Mention, 2013 PROSE Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence

This book is an important reminder of the ongoing worldwide struggle against dictatorship and of the historical and contemporary role of psychology in understanding and contributing to this struggle.