Social Scientist. v 4, no. 42 (Jan 1976) p. 3.

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Psychology of Political Violence

POLITICAL VIOLENCE is episodic in the history of most organized political communities and chronic in many. No country in the world has been free of it even for the span of a generation. The prevalence of violence in the realm of politics particularly poses the cardinal problem: is man violent by nature or do circumstances make him so? Is he inherently aggressive or aggressive only in response to specific social conditions? In the Hobbesian view, the inescapable legacy of human nature is the ^life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short". This view has been given credence recently by ethnologists, whose study of animals in their habitats led them to conclude that the aggressive drive in animals is innate, ranking with the instincts of hunger, sex and fear.1

But most psychologists and social scientists do not regard aggression as fundamentally spontaneous or instinctive nor does their evidence support such a view. Rather they regard most aggression, including violence, as .sometimes an emotional response to socially induced frustration, and sometimes a dispassionate, learned response evoked by specific situations.2 Nature provides us only with the capacity for violence. It is social circumstance that determines whether and how we exercise that capacity.* Psychological evidence suggests that men have a capacity but not a need for aggression; other evidence points to the patterns of social circumstances

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