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The Political Psychology of Conflicts - Essay Example

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The Political Psychology of Conflicts

Hewitt posits that violence is a response to being excluded from the political arena, such that people will resort to violence if they see the political system as unresponsive to their needs. So when Chechen rebel bands intensified attacks on Russian troops and civilian targets, the Russian federation responded in kind and, in some cases, with even greater force. The group instinct of the Chechens perceived this as a threat. Based on Evan Harrington's (2004) theory of inter-group hostility, the situation is rife for violence when a "group senses a threat from its government, from another group in the same country, or another government."
All the known political and psychological theories on inter-group hatred, prejudice, realistic conflict, ethnocentrism and authoritarianism may have come into play to hasten the plunge of the Russia-Chechen conflict into the pit of violence and hostility.
Russia is a melting pot of races, cultures and religions, making the federation a stratified society. This condition breeds inter-group hatred, in which there will always be unequal power relations and even discrimination between social groups. (Amiot, C. & Bourhis, R., 2005) The Russians who comprise the social and political majority in the federation may thus look down on the smaller Muslim segment of the population who are then reduced to a minority or low-status group. Amiot & Bourhis (2005) observe that the dominant group members in such a situation tend to initiate "overt" or "covert" acts of discrimination against the low-power groups. This portends certain trouble because at a later stage, the members of the low power group may become aware that their precarious power position could be compensated by their numerical strength. In other words, the minority group may eventually decide to challenge the majority, especially when the former perceive that the latter represents a serious threat to their well-being.

In the Chechen conflict, it is possible that the dominant or high-status group is reacting to the same threat being felt by the Muslim minority or low-status group. But what the dominant group may be protecting is its legitimacy and stability, while the minority group feels that the threat is directed at their ethnic and religious integrity, among other parochial interests.

Members of a minority group also harbor discontent with the larger society they belong to when they perceive that society to be decadent and the values it enshrines run counter to the values held dear by their smaller group (Wikipedia).
Group violence erupts when the more peaceful avenues for change, such as strikes and street marches, hold no promise of success (Townshend, C., 2002).
Brian Mullen (1986) points out that when such acts of violence involve larger crowds, the level of atrocity tends to be greater. "As the size of the crowd increases, the lynch mob becomes de-individualized and less attentive to self-regulatory clues."

The anonymity afforded by a crowd also emboldens people into committing of acts of violence. ...Show more


The Islamic Chechens in Russia first banded together and took up violence to dramatize their simple demand for self-determination based on their ethnic, national, linguistic, religious and regional identity. When Kremlin obstinately ignored this protest action, as had been the touchstone of its policy since the post-World War II period, the Chechnya crisis deteriorated into an Islamic extremist movement that threatens to explode into a civil war with worrisome international ramifications.
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The Political Psychology of Conflicts essay example
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