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Pathological Altruism$
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Barbara Oakley, Ariel Knafo, Guruprasad Madhavan, and David Sloan Wilson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199738571

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738571.001.0001

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From Pathological Altruism to Pathological Obedience

Chapter 16 Genocide
Pathological Altruism

Augustine Brannigan

Oxford University Press

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

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