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Taylor, F.K. Rey, J.H. (1953). The Scapegoat Motif in Society and its Manifestations in a Therapeutic Group. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 34:253-264.
    

(1953). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 34:253-264

The Scapegoat Motif in Society and its Manifestations in a Therapeutic Group

F. Kräupl Taylor, M.D., DPM and J. H. Rey, M.D.

The persecution and massacre of scapegoats has often assumed such epidemic proportions, in both ancient and modern history, that one is tempted to speak of a psycho-social disease with a potentially high mortality rate. Such a disease warrants attention even when it appears in an abortive and relatively harmless form.

In this paper we intend to consider briefly, in the first part, some aspects of the psychological and sociological implications of scapegoat phenomena. In the second part we shall describe the observation of such phenomena in a therapeutic group.

I

The Psychogenesis of the Need for Scapegoats

The name scapegoat derives from a religious ceremony which was designed to transfer the guilt of the Jewish people to an animal; in this case, a goat. Other religious cults have known similar practices. Often a human being was chosen as the recipient of the displaced guilt. Anthropologists, moreover, have described many superstitious customs in primitive people which had a similar purpose. The essence of all these procedures was the transfer of guilt by means of a magic rite.

Such procedures have always been closely associated with aggressive and extrapunitive attitudes. In some ancient scapegoat ceremonies which ended in the sacrificial death of the chosen victim, this aggressiveness was unmistakably manifested. It is possible that the notoriety of these homicidal ceremonies has tended to distort the original meaning of the term scapegoat. At least, the term is to-day

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