Understanding Genocide: The Social Psychology of the Holocaust

By Leonard S. Newman; Ralph Erber | Go to book overview

2
What is a “Social-Psychological”
Account of Perpetrator Behavior?

The Person Versus the Situation in
goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners
Leonard S. Newman

It is safe to assume that few people would willingly identify themselves as potential mass murderers or ethnic cleansers. as diamond (1992) put it, “we'd like to believe that nice people don't commit genocide, only nazis do” (p. 277). but mass indiscriminate killings of one racial, ethnic, national, or religious group of people by another have been a persistent feature of human history (diamond, 1992, chap. 16). the twentieth century is arguably unique in terms of the frequency and scope of such tragedies (hobsbawm, 1994). in the 1990s alone, a partial list of events that could easily be categorized as genocidal—and that have taken place in full view of a worldwide audience—would include the violent upheavals in rwanda (gourevitch, 1998; smith, 1998), bosnia (rosenberg, 1998), and kosovo (wick & stone, 1999). such a list would also include many other lesser-known tragedies taking place outside of the media spotlight, such as the mass killings accompanying the brutal conflict between the dayaks and madurese in indonesia (see parry, 1998). it is understandable why one might wish to attribute such horrors to an unfortunate lack of niceness on the part of the perpetrators and leave it at that. in fact, it is probably difficult to read or hear about accounts of genocide without at least fleetingly concluding that the killers were twisted and evil human beings who bear very little resemblance to oneself or one's friends, neighbors, and loved ones. at the same time, for social scientists to construe genocide in this way would arguably be “an act of unconditional intellectual surrender” (wehler, 1998, p. 97).

among social scientists, social psychologists in particular would seem to be well positioned to shed light on the processes that lead individuals and

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Understanding Genocide: The Social Psychology of the Holocaust
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface *
  • Contents ix
  • Contributors xi
  • Understanding Genocide *
  • Introduction 3
  • Notes 7
  • Part I - Becoming a Perpetrator 10
  • 1 - The Psychology of Bystanders, Perpetrators, and Heroic Helpers 11
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • 2 - The Person Versus the Situation in Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners 43
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • 3 - Some Cognitive and Affective Implications 68
  • References *
  • 4 - An Evaluation of Stanley Milgram's Perspective, the Most Influential Social-Psychological Approach to the Holocaust 91
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Part II - Beyond the Individual: Groups and Collectives 111
  • 5 - Envious Prejudice, Ideology, and the Scapegoating of Jews 113
  • Notes 140
  • References *
  • 6 - Group Processes and the Holocaust 143
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • 7 - Examining the Implications of Cultural Frames on Social Movements and Group Action 162
  • References *
  • 8 - Preconditions for the Holocaust from a Control-Theoretical Perspective 188
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • 9 - The Zoomorphism of Human Collective Violence 222
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Part III - Dealing with Evil 240
  • 10 - The Holocaust and the Four Roots of Evil 241
  • References *
  • 11 - Examining Hitler from a Social-Psychological Perspective 259
  • Notes *
  • References 280
  • 12 - Lying Self-Deception and Belief Change 285
  • References *
  • 13 - Does Social Psychology Exonerate the Perpetrators? 301
  • References *
  • 14 - Social Psychologists Confront the Holocaust 325
  • Note *
  • References *
  • Author Index 347
  • General Index 355
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