Group Dynamics and the Public Sphere

Prejudice and Racism

Where does scapegoating come in?

Although scapegoating cannot explain all of social prejudice, we can certainly think of examples when it played an important role. One example would be the rise of Hitler and Nazism in Germany that followed the devastation of World War I. Germany faced defeat, followed by extremely punitive conditions imposed by the Treaty of Versaille; this wrecked the German economy and unnecessarily humiliated a once-proud nation. In an attempt to rebuild German pride and group identity, Hitler used the Jews as a scapegoat, blaming them for all of Germany’s troubles. The result was the Holocaust.

In another example of scapegoating, a 1940 study by Carl Hovland and Robert Sears looked at the relationship between the price of cotton and the number of lynch-ings of African Americans that took place in the American South between 1882 and 1930. A negative or inverse correlation was found: the number of lynchings increased as the economy declined.


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