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The Roots of Evil

The Roots of Evil
The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence

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  • Date Published: July 1992
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521422147

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About the Authors
  • How can human beings kill or brutalize multitudes of other human beings? Focusing particularly on genocide, but also on other forms of mass killing, torture, and war, Ervin Staub explores the psychological, cultural, and societal roots of group aggression. He sketches a conceptual framework for the many influences on one group's desire to harm another: cultural and social patterns predisposing to violence, historical circumstances resulting in persistent life problems, and needs and modes of adaptation arising from the interaction of these influences. Such notions as cultural stereotyping and devaluation, societal self-concept, moral exclusion, the need for connection, authority orientation, personal and group goals, "better world" ideologies, justification, and moral equilibrium find a place in his analysis, and he addresses the relevant evidence from the behavioral sciences. Within this conceptual framework, Staub then considers the behavior of perpetrators and bystanders in four historical situations: the Holocaust (his primary example), the genocide of Armenians in Turkey, the "autogenocide" in Cambodia, and the "disappearances" in Argentina. Throughout, he is concerned with the roots of caring and the psychology of heroic helpers. In his concluding chapters, he reflects on the socialization of children at home and in schools, and on the societal practices and processes that facilitate the development of caring persons, and of care and cooperation among groups. A wide audience will find The Roots of Evil thought-provoking reading.

    Reviews & endorsements

    "A valuable and important study." Dimensions

    "Thoughtful, provocative work." Indochina Chronology

    "...a serious, noteworthy effort to present a general psychosocial/cultural analysis of the causes of genocide and mass destruction in the modern age." Bridges

    "Staub offers us a multi-textured psychological understanding of genocide and group violence generally, as well as some concrete proposals for promoting caring, connection, and nonaggression. The book is well written and well organized; largely devoid of psychological jargon, yet conceptually rich, it should be easily comprehended by all. While it is written from the analytical perspective of a scholar, it is illuminated by the humane spirit of a man who, as a Hungarian Jew, experienced the horrors of the Holocaust. It is a provocative book from which scholars, students and the general public can benefit greatly." Pearl Oliner, Shofar

    "...a rich essay based on extensive and thoughtful scholarship....Staub's book...represent[s] major advances in understanding our vulnerability to become perpetrators and the responsibilities and opportunities that inhere in our unchosen roles as bystanders." Contemporary Psychology

    "...a valiant effort to confront the horrors of genocide while trying to articulate something redemptive about human beings, which may guide future practice....a poetic vision." Jeffrey A. Atlas, New Ideas in Psychology

    "...a clear, plausible study of the origins of genocide and other group violence." KLIATT

    "...methodical and well done...a well-written, scholarly-researched book." George B. Palermo, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 1992
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521422147
    • length: 354 pages
    • dimensions: 234 x 156 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Psychological and Cultural Bases of Genocide and Other Forms of Group Violence:
    1. An introduction
    2. The origins of genocide and mass killing: core concepts
    3. The psychology of hard times: the effects of difficult life conditions
    4. Cultural and individual characteristics
    5. The psychology of perpetrators: individuals and groups
    6. Steps along a continuum of destruction: perpetrators and bystanders
    Part II. The Nazi Holocaust:
    7. Hitler comes to power
    8. Preconditions for the Holocaust in German culture
    9. Nazi rule and steps along the continuum of destruction
    10. The SS and the psychology of perpetrators
    11. The behaviour and psychology of bystanders and victims
    Part III. Other Genocides and Mass Killings:
    12. The Turkish genocide of the Armenians
    13. Cambodia: genocide to create a better world
    14. This disappearances: mass killing in Argentina
    15. Summary and conclusions: the societal and psychological origins of genocide and other atrocities
    Part IV. Further Extensions: The Roots of War and the Creation of Caring and Nonaggressive Persons and Societies:
    16. The cultural and psychological origins of war
    17. The nature of groups: security, power, justice, and positive connection
    18. The creation and evolution of caring, connection, and nonaggression

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Genocide in the Modern World
    • Psychology of Genocide and the Holocaust
  • Author

    Ervin Staub

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