Institutional aggression between groups
In some cases, the ‘institution’ may refer to a whole section of society, defined by ethnicity, religion or some other significant feature.
Violence may occur when one institution’s relationship with another is characterised by hatred and hostility.
Examples of this institutional aggression are:
- The murder of 6 million Jews by Nazis during World War 2
- More recently the murder of 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu by Hutu extremists in Rwanda in 1994.
Staub (1999) outlined 5 stages in the process of genocide that explain how difficult social conditions such as those found in pre-war Germany can rapidly escalate into victimisation of a target group.
The 5 stages are: Difficult social conditions, Scapegoating of a less powerful group, Negative evaluation and dehumanisation of the target group, Moral values and rules becoming misplaced and the killings begin, The passivity of bystanders
Institutional aggression - Dehumanisation
Although human beings usually have moral inhibitions about killing other humans, this changes if the target group is dehumanised so that they are seen as worthless animals and therefore not worthy of moral consideration.
- For example, in the Rwandan genocide the influential Hutu-controlled ‘hate’ radio station RTLM encouraged Hutu listeners to murder their Tutsi neighbours by referring to the minority Tutsi as ‘cockroaches’.
Institutional aggression - Obedience to authority
Milgram believed that the Holocaust was primarily the result of situational pressures that forced Nazi soldiers to obey their leaders regardless of any personal moral hate.
He argued, if so many participants in his study could give painful electric shocks to a victim simply because they were told to do so by someone in authority, then the Nazi regime would have no trouble making soldiers kill innocent, unarmed people.