Why people do ghastly things

Chip Berlet cberlet at igc.org
Tue Oct 2 06:55:26 PDT 2001


Jeez, OK no lecture, but some newer cites to folks who try to explain some of the individual causes and attractions to authority and represion.

See, for example, the arguments in Altemeyer, Authoritarian Specter; Klandermans, Social Psychology of Protest; Robins and Post, Political Paranoia; Strozier, Apocalypse; Milburn and Conrad, Politics of Denial; Kramer and Alstad, Guru Papers;

An excellent review of the psychosocial aspects of authoritarianism and the Frankfurt School theories is in Social Thought & Research, vol. 21, nos. 1, 2, 1998. See also the classic works of Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism, and Eichmann in Jerusalem.


Aho, James A. (1994). This Thing of Darkness: A Sociology of the Enemy. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Smith, David Norman. (1996). "The Social Construction of Enemies: Jews and the Representation of Evil." Sociological Theory, vol. 14, no. 3, November, pp. 203-240.

Ezekiel, R. S. (1995). The racist mind: Portraits of American neo-nazis and klansmen. New York: Viking.

The more recent sociological theories actually are much more useful to understanding all types of social movement, including those that use violence or are right-wing populists.

On violence, della Porta, D. (1995). Social movements, political violence, and the state: a comparative analysis of Italy and Germany (Cambridge studies in comparative politics). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


----- Original Message ----- From: pk grunden To: lbo-talk at lists.panix.com Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2001 3:34 AM Subject: Why people do ghastly things

Doug wrote (Re: Sociology and Explanations): All of life isn't a teach-in. Don't we have an interest in understanding why people do ghastly things? Yes, I think we do, and not just out of idle curiosity. Deleuze and Guattari asked the question a long time ago, in Anti-Oedipus: How does desire become the desire for death? What makes people desire their own repression, up to and including death? This along with some nice pages apropos Fanon, discussions of object relations as "direct investment of the social field" and other such matters. It all seems so long ago to me now, but I always thought some answers lay in that direction (i.e./e.g Theweleit's "Male Fantasies", and maybe some of Brian Massumi's work). That said, I will now wait for the usual roaring silence, or to be pummeled senseless by the usual gang of wits anxious to prove their superior chops by informing me how such and such has been discredited or is no longer in fashion, and that I need to go back to driving the fork truck and let the REAL smart people do the thinkin'. But a lead toward better thinking would be preferable. pkg

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