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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



The Psychology of Hate by Robert J Sternberg (American Psychological Association, APA) After the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis in World War II, the expression "never again" became a familiar refrain. Yet, during the last half of the 20th century and the beginning of the current decade, society has witnessed staggering numbers of brutal and hateful acts. Our news sources are filled with reports of White supremacist groups murdering members of minority groups, religious zealots killing doctors who perform abortions, teenagers violently clashing with their classmates, the genocides in Rwanda and Sudan, the mass killing in Bosnia, and the 9/11 attacks on the United States. These are not random or sudden bursts of irrationality but, rather, orchestrated acts of violence and killing. Underlying these events is a widespread and haz­ardous human emotion: hate. Hate is among the most powerful of human emotions—it has caused great sorrow and suffering—and yet it has been understudied by psychologists.

The Psychology of Hate is a groundbreaking book that brings together experts on the psychology of hate to present their diverse viewpoints in a single volume. The contributors address several provocative questions: How is hate conceptualized and what evidence is there for this conceptualization? What is the role of hate in terrorism, massacres, and genocides? How can hate be assessed? In addition, this volume provides concrete suggestions for how to combat hate and attempts to understand the minds of both those who hate and those who are hated.

Excerpt: Once one begins to see hate in terms of its functions, one can see hate everywhere. That is not always a comfort. Consider the myriad functions of hate:

  • Hate is a reliable source of attachment, a substitute for love. Hate is psychic structure on the cheap, hatred organizing the psyche over time through the narrative of one's hatreds, and thus preventing psychic fragmentation.
  • Hate gives meaning to life.
  • Nursing one's hatred provides comfort and satisfaction. Acting out one's hate is a source of pleasure, that of domination and control. Sadism is the pleasure of hatred. Hate is sadism stretched out over time.
  • Hate expresses (or is) its own epistemology, in which knowl­edge is gained by intrusion and measured by control. Hatred is primordial science.
  • Hate envies the self-sufficiency of the good and thus is similar to Milton's Satan.
  • "Evil be thou my Good."
  • Hatred is a mode of being in the world.
  • Hate binds people in a community with others who hate, a community whose intimacy is intensified by the guilty se­cret that all those who hate share: that there is pleasure in destruction.

If one can bear to know all this, then one shall have learned not only some terrible truths about the world but also something about hate that may from time to time allow one to mitigate its effects. Likely this knowledge will not lessen the sheer amount of hate in the world. Nevertheless, knowing of the secret fraternity of those who hate may allow one to intervene in their guilty pleasures and so short-circuit their satisfaction. The price of this inter­vention, which will only infrequently be effective, if history is any guide, is that of a terrible knowledge, one that connects the terrible things nations do with the terrible things that each person has at some point done to another person. That connection is hatred, which like Thanatos, to which it is so closely allied, is a principle that connects individual with world history. It is not a connection of which to be proud.


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