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Radicalization as cause and consequence of violence in genocides and mass killings

McDoom, Omar Shahabudin (2020) Radicalization as cause and consequence of violence in genocides and mass killings. Violence: an international journal. ISSN 2633-0032

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Identification Number: 10.1177/2633002420904267


Major theories of participation in genocides and mass killings offer seemingly opposing explanatory logics for how and why individuals come to commit violence. The longstanding consensus on ‘perpetrator ordinariness’ contrasts with explanations that continue to highlight the prior, intensely-held negative attitudes and beliefs about the victim group. I propose a theoretical reconciliation. Radicalization would be better theorized not only as an antecedent to the act of violence, but also as a consequence of it. Killing transforms individuals. A well-established point in social psychology, not only do attitudes drive behaviors, but behaviors also shape attitudes. Some perpetrators dehumanize their victims, internalize exclusionary ideologies, and otherwise develop negative sentiments towards their victims following their participation in the violence. Attitudinal shift becomes a form of dissonance-reduction. Perpetrators come to espouse radical beliefs in order to justify their actions. This revised theorization has implications for our understanding of (i) perpetrator heterogeneity: individuals must vary in their vulnerability to radicalization; and (ii) non-instrumental violence: why we often observe the infliction of gratuitous pain and suffering on victims. I re-interpret testimony of perpetrators from Rwanda, the Holocaust, Bosnia- Herzegovina, and Cambodia to support the article’s central theoretical proposition.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 The Author
Divisions: Government
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2020 14:51
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 02:58

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