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Freudenberger, H.J. (1971-72). Why Men Rebel Ted Robert Gurr. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1970. 420.. Psychoanal. Rev., 58(4):641-642.

(1971-72). Psychoanalytic Review, 58(4):641-642

Book Reviews

Why Men Rebel Ted Robert Gurr. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1970. 420.

Review by:
Herbert J. Freudenberger

Ted Gurr makes some very cogent points in this timely discussion of a topic of great concern to so many of us today—what triggers men to violence?

Gurr brings impressive credentials to the task of evaluating the causes of violence in our society: In 1968-69 he was co-director of a task force of the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, and he is currently on the faculty of the Center of International Studies. His book is a scholarly one dealing with many areas that range from the sources of aggression to psychocultural justifications for violence, the politicization of discontent, and the communication of symbols that may lead to aggression against a regime.

A major thesis of the book, and one which was particularly interesting to me, is his development of the RD (Relative Deprivation) factor and its impact upon violence. By relative deprivation, he means “a perceived discrepancy between value expectations and value capabilities” on the part of an individual. It is his contention that each of us operates within a value system that is a consequence of personal and cultural development. When people see that within their particular country or society there is a possibility of their achieving a desired goal—whether that goal be economic in terms of the acquisition of material goods (value expectations), or political in terms of attaining power, or psychological as manifested in self-actualization (value capabilities)—and if these goals are perceived as relatively close and they are not achieved, then the stage is set for violence, and the deprived group in that country or society resorts to violent actions. As the members of a group or a nation feel sharply deprived with respect to their most deeply valued goals, then the number of outlets for anger increase.

Gurr illustrates this point by making reference to the Parisian workers of 1848, the Mexican peasants in 1910, the German Klein-bürgertum in the 1920's, the Hungarians in 1956, and the black South Africans in 1960. As people are exposed to modernization, their expectations rise, and if in turn these expectations are thwarted, the individuals' relative deprivations are heightened. Further, if there is in addition a tradition of violence among the members of that particular group, violent outbursts will almost certainly be the result.


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