Thursday, 19 July 2007

Becoming evil - a short note

Via Austin Cline at Jesus's General, I note the following book:

Sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and other scientists have actively sought out various competing and complimentary explanations for human evil. The amount of research which has been produced would be daunting to even the most committed student. Fortunately for the rest of us, a recent book from James Waller, a social psychologist and chair of the Department of Psychology at Whitworth College, provides a fascinating and thorough introduction to these questions and research.

Written for both scholars and lay people, "Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing" has both a negative and a positive agenda. On the negative side, it explains the flaws in many of the most common explanations for human evil; on the positive side, it agues for a more comprehensive understanding which draws from the insights provided by the explanations Waller shows are unable to stand on their own.

Damn - yet another volume to add to my groaning "must read" pile.

Cline also notes the following list of authoritarian personality attributes from the book:

Conventionalism: Rigid adherence to conventional, middle-class values.

Authoritarian Submission: Submissive, uncritical attitude toward idealized moral authorities of the ingroup.

Authoritarian Aggression: Tendency to be on the lookout for, and to condemn, reject, and punish people who violate conventional values.

Anti-intraception: Opposition to the subjective, the imaginative, the tender-minded.

Superstition and Stereotypy: The belief in mystical determinants of the individual's fate; the disposition to think in rigid categories.

Power and "Toughness": Preoccupation with the dominance-submission, strong-weak, leader-follower dimension; identification with power figures; overemphasis upon the conventionalized attributes of the ego; exaggerated assertion of strength and toughness.

Destructiveness and Cynicism: Generalized hostility, vilification of the enemy.

Projectivity: The disposition to believe that wild and dangerous things go on in the world; the projection outwards of unconscious emotional impulses.

Sex: Exaggerated concern with sexual "goings-on."

Remind you of anyone you've read on the Internet recently?

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