Aggression and violence effect society in a variety of ways.

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Aggression and violence effect society in a variety of ways.  It is the general consensus that our society is becoming increasingly more violent.  The Bosnian civil war was the most brutal chapter in the break up of Yugoslavia.  On February 29, 1992, the multiethnic republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serb, and Muslim Slavs lived side by side, passed a referendum for independence – but not all Bosnian Serbs agreed.  Under the guise of protecting the Serb minority in Bosnia, Serbian leaders like Slobodan Milosevic channelled arms and military support to them.  In spring 1992, the federal army, dominated by Serbs, shelled Croats and Muslims in Sarajevo the Bosnian capital.  Bosnian Serb guerrillas carried out deadly campaigns of ‘ethnic cleansing’, massacring members of other ethnic groups or expelling them from their homes to create exclusively Serb areas.  Millions of Bosnian (and Croatians) had been driven from their homes by July 1992.  In early 1994 the fierce three-way fighting became a war between two sides.  In February and March the Muslims and Croats in Bosnia called a truce and formed a confederation, which in August agreed to a plan for 51-49 split of Bosnia, with the Serbs getting the lesser percentage.  Despite the Muslim-Croat alliance, the peace proposal, and an ongoing arms embargo against all combatants, the fighting did not stop.  In 1994 and 1995 the Bosnian Serbs massacred residents in Sarajevo, Srebrenica, and other cities.  The Bosnian Serbs wanted to unite all Serb-held land of the former Yugoslavia.  By September 1995, however the Muslim-Croat alliance’s conquests had reduced Serb–held territory in Bosnia from over two-thirds to just one-half the percentage allocated in the peace plan for the Serb autonomous region.  On December 14, 1995 the leaders of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia signed the Dayton peace accords, officially ending the wars in Bosnia and Croatia after about 250,000 people had died and more than 3 million others became refugees.

What is the cause of such unleashed aggression towards society?  How can we explain such acts of aggression and violence?  Warfare is an area of psychology on which much research is focused.  Psychologists have tried to discover its underlying mechanisms.  Several theories have emerged in the past few decades that attempt to explain different areas of aggression.  The old nature-nurture issue is a component in a large portion of the theories presented.  Aggression theories can be categorized into three groups: innate theories of aggression drive reduction theories of aggression, and social learning theories of aggression.  Innate theories, often called biological theories, explain aggression as a natural, unavoidable behaviour to which some individuals are biologically predisposed.  Drive-reduction theorist claim that aggression is a drive that is elicited by external stimuli, and social learning theorists state that aggression is a learned behaviour.  These theories offer various explanations towards the understanding of human warfare and why it occurs.

When a referendum for independence was passed on February 29, 1992, not all Bosnian Serbs agreed, and it was here the conflict began, leading on to the Bosnian civil war and so violence took place stemming from frustration and leading to aggression.  The frustration-aggression hypothesis formulated by Dollard et al (1939) proposed that frustration is the sole cause of aggression.  Although no psychologists believe this now, the other assertion of the hypothesis – that frustration creates instigation to aggressive behaviour, is more consistent with the evidence.  And has lead to a large number of investigations right to the present time.

The frustration-aggression hypothesis has been applied by many researchers to the model of social and political unrest.  Feierabend & Feirerabend (1972) used the frustration-aggression hypothesis as an explanation of socio political violence within a society.  They linked social violence to systemic frustration, which is the level of discontent within a society over unsatisfied wants, needs and expectations.  Gurr (1970) linked political violence to the level of ‘relative deprivation’ in a society.  He stated that if the realization of things such as desired standards of material welfare, self-determination, decisional freedom and satisfactory social relationships, falls short of expectations, a potential for political violence exists within the society.  Gurr suggested that if frustrated people do not blame their problems on the socio-political system, the likelihood of political violence is diminished, and it is possible that a scapegoat may be found, such as a disliked racial or ethnic group.  In order to release aggression caused by frustration.  This can be applied to the Bosnian civil war where the Serbs unhappy with the referendum for independence, massacred members of other ethnic groups.  Gurr suggests dissident elements within a society possess some power to coerce.  Evidence has found to show that revolutionary guerrilla armies appear to have some degree of coercive control over people living within territory that they control.  This was found in Bosnia with Bosnian Serb guerrillas.

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Both Gurr and Feierabend show the use of the frustration-anger hypothesis in the explanation of social and political conflict.  However critics believe that such extensions from experimental psychology are overly simplistic.  Gurr’s ‘relative deprivation’ theory has been criticised on its theoretical grounds.  Walker & Pettigrew (1984) argue that Gurr had described what is called ‘egoistic’ relative deprivation.  However, they propose that cause of collective aggression such as civil wars and riots is ‘fraternal’ relative deprivation.  This is when a person believes that his/her social group is deprived relative to other groups.

There is no understanding of the Bosnian ...

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