Free Paper with a Literature Review on the Concept of Dehumanization

Published: 2018-01-25
Free Paper with a Literature Review on the Concept of Dehumanization
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Violence Analysis Society Literature review
Pages: 9
Wordcount: 2222 words
19 min read

Dehumanization is not a new term in the world today. Many countries and organizations perform inhumane acts towards defenseless people and hide behind the pretense of moral obligation. As (Bandura, 1999, pg 193) explains that, the perpetrators are conscious about their moral thoughts but seek to ignore the conduct that follows it. He goes further to explain that moral conduct goes hand in hand with moral reasoning. It is important to link the theories of morality and reasoning to that of conduct and action. Social cognitive theory shows that moral reasoning should translate to actions through use of self-regulatory measures in moral standards and self-restraint that put moral agency into play. Dehumanization occurs widely around the globe and despite several investigations and mitigation measures, inhumane injustices still occur around the world.

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Several studies have delved in to the concept of dehumanization but lack in systematic theoretical approach. Defining the human aspect of life will perhaps shed more light on the concept of dehumanization. First race and ethnic issues often relate to dehumanization. Ethnicity issues lead to dehumanization of weaker groups in the society. Dehumanization is referred to as denial of the victim’s subjectivity (Lang, 2010, pg 226). The perpetrators of inhumane injustices tend to view the rest of the population as different from them. They have a marginalized perception of the rest of the people and the different group’s rights are not important. Lang explains that when people deny subjectivity of other people then they lose interpersonal relations. When people lose interpersonal relationships, emotions are lost and replaced by the objectifying mind-sets. Dehumanization occurs when emotional alienation replaces the participant attitude (Lang, 2010, pg 226). However, the shift from participation o detachment is an unstable process Lang explains this is because all injustices performed require a social connection. Lang study, however, seeks to show that dehumanization is an overrated concept. When it comes to genocide and the psychology around it, the dehumanization is a misplaced term according to Lang.

Most of the violence issues occur due to other underlying psychological disorders (Lang, 2010, pg 226). He says that dehumanization acts happen because of power and adaptation that construct the context of dehumanization. For example, in the Nazi camps, the victims had to undergo a transformation for them to face objectification and later killed. A number of previous studies by psychologists are of the opinion that the guards at the camps were oblivious of the treatment of the prisoners (Lang, 2010, pg 227). It reached a point where the Nazi force the guards to touch, feel, smell, and hear what the treatment the Jews received. Bandura seconds this argument that says it is too easy to carry inhumane acts without having the feelings of attachment and guilty convictions about it. Lang and Bandura's studies suggest that for one to mistreat a fellow human being they have to detach themselves completely from the victim, which is completely impossible. They argue that dehumanization continues to happen because it does not provide the platform to interact with the victims.

Bandura and Lang's studies are similar since they all support the idea that dehumanization is not a prerequisite to mass murder. Lang believes that the perpetrators of mass murder are given no room to have sentiments. They have to ignore their sentiments and suppress it to complete the job. Mass murder actors adapt to their environment. They have all the feelings a human being is capable of feeling but at the end of the day still perform the duties their jobs require them to complete. It is clear from the studies that dehumanization requires power to thrive. When we look at dehumanization through the glass of genocide then we fail to see all the factors that thrive in the context of power.

Lang study in the taste of other scholar’s states that dehumanization requires seven essentials of objectification before it occurs (Lang, 2010, pg 246). First, victims face instrumentalization to fit in to the purpose of the perpetrator. Second, the victims face open denial to their right and third, the victims are treated like objects that are allowed to be mistreated. Martha argues that the perpetrator completely ignores the victim’s emotions and experience. Powers aim is not to achieve obedience or discipline but carries with it the concept of uncertainty. With power, submissiveness is not a sure ticket that one will not face mistreatment. Power gives people the ability to kill at will. In addition, power makes victims have no choice but to unite, while at the same time creating extreme differences and social constructs. People sometimes attribute violence to defense mechanisms thus justifying the results of their ‘defense’ (Kelman, 1997 pg 23). Often crimes against humanity by the police is seen as defense mechanisms that do not warrant condemnation.

In addition, it is clear that power does not limit the freedom of the victims but totally obliterates it. Power has many evils attached to it for example victims are stripped of their value as human beings and looked upon as objects that need no remorse. Power makes people lose the importance of human relationships and transform these relations to space and time. However, (Lang, 2010, pg 226) disputes the arguments of other scholars saying that the studies omit the sociology of psychology (Lang, 2010, pg 237). He stresses that the sociology of psychology is important to close the bridge between psychology and sociology. Lang uses some of the arguments presented to explain his argument on the psychological account. Lang in his study includes the social identity approach, which says that human beings are not moral but are inclined to discrimination, violence, and competition (Lang, 2010, pg 238). This approach holds the opinion that social identity exists when certain difference are erased between the in-group individuals and more differences created with the out-group individuals. Social identity leads to the process of self-categorization which makes people start stereotyping themselves as superior from other groups. When stereotyping occurs the constructed identity between one’s own identity and that of others broadens. Lang and Bandura study totally accept the social identity approach so they can rule out power and self-identity as the forces behind dehumanization.

In his study (Haslam, 2006, pg 254) says that ‘people’s values express their distinctive humanity.’ People believe that the pecking order on their values affects their view on the humanity aspect of the group. This happens when people perceive their group (in- group) to have superior values than that of the out-group. This makes the in-group view the out-group as deficient in shared humanity values. Hence, this makes the in-group disregard the interests and human rights of the out-group. In reference to other studies (Haslam,2006, pg 254) uses the arguments to show that the values are classified as “Prosocial” values (e.g., equality, helpful, forgiving) are transcendent in this sense, whereas hedonism values (pleasure, a comfortable life) reflect selfish interests shared with infrahuman species.” It is easy for the members of the in-group to dehumanize the out-group based on lack of prosocial values. Haslam introduces the term Infrahumanization in his arguments about dehumanization. He says that Infrahumanization is a “particularly interesting form of dehumanization because it is subtle, requiring no explicit likening of out-group members to animals, and is not reducible to in-group favoritism (positive and negative secondary emotions are both denied to out-groups).” He points out that Infrahumanization grows even in the absence of disagreements between groups. This makes it possible to stretch dehumanization even beyond the milieu of cultural hatred and cruelty.

On the other hand, (Bandura,1991, pg 196) attributes displacement of responsibility as a factor towards dehumanization. He says that people find it easy to carry out inhumane injustices when the authority is ready to carry the responsibility of these acts. It is easier for people to view their actions as originates of authority dictates rather than personal initiative. This approach makes people feel like they are not actual agents of the evils performed thus exempting them from condemnation from the public and condemnation from self. For example, Nazi guards distanced themselves from the responsibility of the inhumanities against the Jews. They simply placed blame on the government saying that they were carrying out orders. However, this approach is completely faulted; human beings are beings capable of exercising their free will. We have the responsibility of defying orders when we see that it does not resonate with our views about humanity. For example, Schindler was a Nazi but his moral reasoning did not allow him to carry out the injustices against Jews. In fact, he took it upon himself to build a factory that aided in saving the Jews he could get. Schindler allows his moral reasoning to translate to the moral agency instead of carrying out the authorities wishes.

Group decision-making culture is another factor that leads to the perpetration of dehumanization. The notions state that when everyone is directly responsible for inhumane actions then no one feels the moral responsibility. When a group of people carries out unjust actions then the results is attached to the behavior of the group at the time of action says (Bandura, 1999, pg 196). Bandura is of the opinion that people throw sentiments away when they act in a group as opposed to when they are on their own. This approach holds water since the ‘mob attitude’ affects how people think and carry out their actions. When people are in a group they tend to act in favoritism to the groups wants. They ignore their responsibilities and morality in order to fit in to the group's constructs of accepted behavior.

It is easy to weaken the moral agency when people pay no attention to the effects of their actions. To start with the intentions harbored when performing certain acts affects how we view the results of the actions. When we act in favor of personal gain, then it is hard to take into account the results of our actions. Since the reward is bigger and more gratifying than the consequences of the actions. The power protocol in organizations makes it easy to disengage from moral agency. The top most individuals in these hierarchs rarely carry out the actions they only formulate ideas. These flow of information and responsibility distances top most individuals in power from the results of the actions carried out.

Leyens and Haslam take the psychological essentialism as an approach that explains Infrahumanization. Essentialism refers to the point of view that all groups have unique attributes that are attached to their individuality and purpose ( Leyens, 2009, pg 187). It is true that different groups have basic differences that make it easy to identify them. However, these distinguishing features that occur on social constructs rather than inborn basis. Infrahumanization shows that essentialization occurs on group differences. Haslam shows that human uniqueness receives unnecessary essentialization which sometimes-interpersonal comparisons are deprived. Essentialism makes people believe that their group (in-group) is more human than the out-group is.

Infrahumanization thrives on several conditions, first non-necessary, and non-sufficient conditions are a prerequisite for Infrahumanization. Status falls in the class of non-necessary and non-sufficient conditions. Status does not cause Infrahumanization between groups either in-group or out-group (Haslam, 2006, pg 255). Several studies attribute that familiarity is necessary for Infrahumanization. They believe that in-groups get more sentiments than out-group does because people are more familiar to the in-group than the out-group is. Non-necessary and sufficient factors like conflict among groups lead to Infrahumanization. Several scholarly studies show that conflict is sufficient to bring forth Infrahumanization. The symbolic threat is necessary for the advancement of Infrahumanization hence falls under the category of necessary and sufficient conditions. Symbolic threats involve the primary differences that encompass a group. These differences lie in values, customs, beliefs, and identity a particular group holds dear to it. The symbolic threat is effective as people are more concerned with their values. When they see other groups that do not identify with their values, they are viewed as a threat.

Mechanistic dehumanization is the process of denying human essential attributes towards people who one does not feel psychological and socially alienated ( Haslam,2006, pg 258). Mechanistic dehumanization leads to lack of human sentiments in people. When people feel distant to others, they tend to ignore their human rights and interests. From the arguments proposed in the studies, it is clear that dehumanization occurs when individuals choose to ignore the moral agency. Bandura is of the opinion that inhumane injustices happen from premeditated acts and not on impulse acts. People commit crimes and attribute their actions on obedience to authority rather than self-disregard of responsibility.

The studies bring an interesting factor about power and dehumanization. Sometimes what looks like dehumanization act to other people is indeed a strategy to exercise power(Lang, 2010, pg 236).. When people gain, the unrestricted facets of power they tend to exert their authority over their subordinates without terminating social relations. Most people in authorities think that they are creating submissiveness when they allow dehumanization acts to happen. These studies show that intolerance of other groups leads to certain groups labeled as infrahuman’s. This happens when members of in-groups view theirs as superior to the outer groups. This superior view makes in-groups feel entitled to all the better perceptions, favoritism and that the out groups do not deserve humane sentiments.

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