The conflict between autonomy and adjustment - a source of intolerance?
department of sociology Philipps-University Marburg Marburg, Germany
Recent empirical analyses show that people who hold prejudices against one outgroup are likely to be prejudiced against other outgroups, too. But why do persons who discriminate against homosexuals also hold negative attitudes against Muslims, migrants, homeless, and disabled people? In the present contribution, one possible explanation for the phenomenon of "group-focused enmity" is suggested.
The core idea of group-focused enmity is that different types of prejudice (e.g. racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia) are interrelated and constitute a personality syndrome. The tendency towards hostile attitudes against several outgroups stems from the perennial conflict between the individual's very own needs for autonomy and society's demands to adjust oneself. Facing minorities or nonconformist groups one becomes aware that the conflict between the individual's and the society's needs is not that irrevocably fixed as it seems to be. Dropouts, homosexuals, migrants (who want to immigrate in order to start a new life), Muslims or Jews (who indicate with their clothing a nonconformist way of life) suggest that the conflict between individual and society can be dealt with differently. This insight might lead to an aggressive reaction towards members of nonconformist groups.
Results from a vignette based online-study and a hitherto unfinished qualitative follow-up study designed to analyze the phenomenon of "group-focused enmity" will be presented. In the vignettes employed in both studies a protagonist is involved in a conflict between his/her own need for self-realization and the demands to adjust himself/herself. The story is interrupted and the respondents are asked to rate the sympathy of the protagonist and to give an advice how to behave. Then, the story goes on and the respondent is informed about the protagonist's decision and its consequences. The following factors are systematically varied: the protagonists group membership (majority/minority), his or her decision (for or against/adjustment), and the consequences of the decision (positive/negative).
The paper depicts the idea of "group-focused enmity", presents first empirical results and sketches the model's potential for the analysis of contemporary forms of discrimination across countries of the European Union.