Against obedience: Hannah Arendt’s overlooked challenge to social-psychological explanations of mass atrocity.

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  • Author(s): Lang, Johannes
  • Source:
    Theory & Psychology. Oct2014, Vol. 24 Issue 5, p649-667. 19p.
  • Additional Information
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    • Abstract:
      This article explores the theoretical underpinnings and implications of a situationist social psychology of mass atrocity through a re-examination of Hannah Arendt’s work. The perception of a convergence between the views of Arendt, Stanley Milgram, and certain Holocaust historians inspired the situationist argument that ordinary people become mass murderers because they find themselves in circumstances that subvert their ability to make or act upon individual moral judgments. This explanation originated in a selective reading of Arendt that distorted her account. In fact, Arendt’s writings serve to question the situationists’ claim to explain historical instances of collective violence. The article uses Arendt’s thought to develop both an ontological and a normative critique of situationism, suggesting an alternative meta-theoretical foundation for a social psychology of mass atrocity. At stake is the concept of personal responsibility for mass killing, as well as social psychology’s ability to say something meaningful about collective violence. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
    • Abstract:
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