Augustine Brannigan

in Pathological Altruism

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199738571
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918669 | DOI:

Show Summary Details


Genocide is approached with the assistance of two concepts: pathological altruism and pathological obedience. The first is marked by the utilization of genocide as an elite policy employed for self-interests but disguised as preservation of the group. A necessary requirement of genocide is the “pathological obedience” of a large section of the population, as in the case of the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. This chapter explores the role of self-control as an explanation of crime. Self-control is stable over the life course but it is argued, following Elias’s work on the “civilizing process,” that levels of self-control can vary over time. The collective investment in how individuals are socialized follows changing social memes. Elias argues that genocide is a reversion to barbarism. Alternatively, pathological obedience may arise from oversocialization, particularly in contexts of militarism and totalitarianism. This suggests that Milgram’s “agentic state” is cultural in origin.

Keywords: genocide; pathological obedience; self-control; agentic state; militarism; totalitarianism; social memes; civilizing process; barbarism

Chapter.  5937 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.