Economic Prosperity as “Narcissistic Filling”: A Missing Link Between Political Attitudes and Right-wing Authoritarianism

  • Oliver Decker Universität Siegen
  • Katharina Rothe William Alanson White Institute
  • Marliese Weissmann University of Leipzig
  • Johannes Kiess University of Leipzig
  • Elmar Brähler University of Leipzig


An expanded analysis of the origin of the correlation with economic deprivation found in the authors’ representative surveys of right-wing extremist attitudes (such as racism, anti-Semitism, and chauvinism), focusing on the underlying dynamics in Germany and the historical aspect of National Socialism. The growing prosperity of the West German “economic miracle” of the 1950s served a psychosocial “filling function” to block the narcissistic damage caused by confrontation with past crimes and the sense of the nation’s loss of greatness. As this prosperity vanishes for many people during the current economic crisis, the filling comes out and the narcissistic wound opens up. What emerges is both what lies underneath and what has been serving as a defense against it, which involve authoritarian dynamics. Initially, the metaphor of “narcissistic filling” will be developed through our analysis of group discussions conducted as part of our qualitative study (of 2008). The developed hypotheses will thereafter be introduced to our following representative survey (of 2010) and confirmed by means of quantitative methods.

Author Biographies

Katharina Rothe, William Alanson White Institute



Elmar Brähler, University of Leipzig
Prof. Dr.
Focus: Qualitative Research on Prejudice