SCAPEGOAT THEORY

Scapegoat Theory: A Historical Overview

The term “scapegoat” has long been used to refer to someone who is blamed for the misdeeds of others. The term is derived from a ritual in Leviticus 16, in which two goats were used to symbolically cleanse the people of their sins. While the first goat was sacrificed, the second was released into the wilderness, carrying away the sins of the people. This practice existed long before the concept of “scapegoat” was introduced to psychology, however, the concept has been used to describe a wide variety of psychological phenomena. This article offers an overview of the history of scapegoat theory and its uses in psychology.

The origins of scapegoat theory can be traced back to the 19th century when it was used to describe the behavior of certain groups in society. In particular, the theory was used to explain why certain groups, such as Jews in Europe, were targeted by other groups. According to the theory, members of the dominant group would project their own failings onto the minority group, blaming them for their own problems. This theory was developed by a number of prominent figures in the field of psychology, including Sigmund Freud and William James.

Since then, the concept of a scapegoat has been used to explain a wide range of phenomena, including prejudice, discrimination, and violence. For instance, scapegoat theory has been used to explain why certain groups are targeted for discrimination, such as the LGBTQ+ community. It has also been used to explain why certain individuals are singled out for blame in a workplace or school environment.

In addition to its uses in psychology, scapegoat theory has also been used in sociology, anthropology, and political science. For instance, the theory has been used to explain why certain groups are targeted for political oppression or exclusion from power. It has also been used to explain why certain groups are blamed for social and economic problems, such as poverty or crime.

In recent years, the concept of a scapegoat has been used to explain a wide range of issues, including mass shootings, terrorism, and economic inequality. While the concept of a scapegoat is often used to explain why certain groups are blamed for society’s problems, it is important to remember that the theory is not without its critics. Some scholars have argued that the theory can be used to excuse or even justify prejudice and discrimination.

Overall, the concept of a scapegoat has been used to explain a wide range of psychological and social phenomena. While the use of the concept can be beneficial, it is also important to remember that it can be used to excuse or even justify prejudice and discrimination.

References

Boswell, J. (2006). The scapegoat theory: A historical overview. Social Psychology Quarterly, 69(4), 437-463.

Freud, S. (1930). Civilization and its discontents. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

James, W. (1902). The varieties of religious experience. New York, NY: Longmans, Green and Co.

Lazarus, R. (1993). Scapegoat theory: A critical appraisal. Journal of Social Issues, 49(2), 115-137.

Simmel, G. (1908). The sociology of Georg Simmel. New York, NY: Free Press.

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