The Scapegoat Mechanism

The scapegoat mechanism arises out of the social need to control and redirect conflict. In his book, The Scapegoat [Link], Girard describes scapegoating as a group phenomenon which occurs in moments of cultural crisis, when people feeling powerless are “disconcerted by the immensity of the disaster [whatever that might be] but never look into natural causes.” Instead there is a strong tendency to explain the crisis by moral causes. “But, rather than blame themselves, people inevitably blame either society as a whole, which costs them nothing, or other people who [they perceive as] particularly harmful for easily identifiable reasons,” but who are, for all intents and purposes, innocent. (René Girard, The Scapegoat, 14). When groups resolve the crisis by uniting against a single scapegoat their prior differences and the tensions they cause are dissolved (The Scapegoat, 115).

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