The Politics of Constructed Humiliation

Feature Section “Radicalization”
Psychoanalytic Perspectives on War, Terrorism and Genocide
By Charles B. Strozier, Deborah Mart

Humiliation, understood as the group equivalent of individual shame, is understood as the underlying motive driving group violence. This paper set out to show that this violence is enabled by a charismatic leader’s re-writing of a genuine, trauma-inducing past humiliation, into a narrative of constructed humiliation. The symbolic, paranoid humiliation narrative which results from this construction calls for effective, righteous violence – as has been seen throughout History. This hypothesis is drawn upon in order to account for various historical contexts of political violence, from Nazi Germany to recent terrorist attacks perpetrated in the name of radical Islam.


  • humiliation
  • narrative
  • violence
  • terrorism
  • paranoid rhetoric
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