Fundamentalism And Culture

Anthony Giddens' take:

A third dilemma is that of authority versus uncertainty. In conditions of high modernity, in many areas of social life--including the domain of the self--there are no determinant authorities. There exist plenty of claimants to authority--far more than was true of pre-modern cultures...

Some individuals find it psychologically difficult or impossible to accept the existence of diverse, mutually conflicting authorities. They find that the freedom to choose is a burden and they seek solace in more overarching systems of authority. A predilection for dogmatic authoritarianism is the pathological tendency at this pole. A person in this situation is not necessarily a traditionalist, but essentially gives up faculties of critical judgment in exchange for the convictions supplied by an authority whose rules and provisions cover most aspects of his life. We should distinguish this attitude from faith, even faith in fundamentalist religious codes. For faith almost by definition rests on trust. Taking refuge in a dominant authority, however, is essentially an act of submission. The individual, as it were, no longer needs to engage in the problematic gamble which all trust relations presume. Instead, he or she identifies with a dominant authority on the basis of projection. The psychology of leadership plays an important role here. Submission to authority normally takes the form of a slavish adherence to an authority figure, taken to be all-knowing.

(From Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age.) This is a really sharp insight into what I called "the fundamentalist psyche" in The Conservative Soul. It's what I mean when I think that globalization has fostered this kind of faith-as-submission rather than faith-in-doubt. Modernity is unsettling at the best of times; in periods of extreme danger, and vast social and economic changes, the appeal of fundamentalism is profound. That helps explain Islamism and Christianism, although Islamism is a far more potent and dangerous force in the world.