Sacrificial Lambs Dressed in Wolves’ Clothing

Peter Glick

in Understanding Genocide

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780195133622
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199847952 | DOI:
Sacrificial Lambs Dressed in Wolves’ Clothing

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Why did the Nazis desire to exterminate a whole people? Why, in particular, were the Jews chosen as the primary targets of genocide? Why did the perpetrators persist and even accelerate their efforts when the war against the Allies was clearly about to be lost? The social-psychological concept most often invoked to answer these questions is scapegoating — the venting of frustrations on an innocent but weak target — a notion that has become part of popular “folk psychology”. Scapegoat theory, however, is not well integrated into contemporary social psychology, since its foundations are firmly set in late nineteenth-century views of human irrationality, steeped in the metaphor of the steam engine and focused on the role of “primitive” drives and repressed emotions. This chapter reexamines the scapegoat concept and presents an alternative, ideological model of scapegoating which aims to correct scapegoat theory's deficiencies more generally and to provide a greater understanding of the Holocaust more particularly. The proposed model argues that an ideology of envious prejudice is a crucial mediator of scapegoating.

Keywords: Holocaust; genocide; Nazis; Jews; perpetrators; scapegoating; social psychology; prejudice; ideology

Chapter.  12982 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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