Accueil > Social psychology of violence


Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

This course aims to understand various forms of political violence such as war, genocide and “terrorism” from the perspective of social psychology. Without denying instrumental uses of political violence to achieve some material ends (profit, power), I consider that violence is always emotionally sustained because, in most social contexts, violence is not accepted as a “normal means” for political ends. Negative emotions, that lead to violence onset and fuel its severity, can stem from several situations, such as symbolic grievances, existential discrimination, relative deprivation. Drawing from the conceptual framework from T. Gurr and T. Lindemann, we will defend the idea that the severity of political and civil violence is strongly correlated with the perception of symbolic or existential discrimination. Furthermore, we will identify - counterintuitively - some other types of discrimination that can mitigate the severity of political and civil violence. Indeed, after a quick review of the major theories - including non-psychological - theories of political and civil violence, we will highlight the “Relative Deprivation” approach by T. Gurr, as well as the “Recognition” aspects of political and civil violence severity by T. Lindemann. To conclude, we will unveil the new possibilities for operationalisation and quantitative analysis the social psychology approach allows.


LAYACHI, Omar (PhD Candidate, Ecole Polytechnique)

Pedagogical format

Seminar course with participative emphasis.

Course validation

Written work : each student is expected to provide an analysis of a self-chosen but relevant topic in form of either a policy paper or a research essay. Data Analysis and Oral presentation: a 15-20-min team presentation exposing the results of their collection and analysis of relevant data (to be defined in session 3). Participation & peer-review: each student will receive a grade for his performance during class discussions. Each student will be expected to briefly assess and comment every team presentation given in class.


Reading mandatory readings (chapters to be defined in session 1) should not take more than 30 minutes per session, although it is preferred if the students go through the readings before the start of the course. The term paper will have a limited length of 1,500 words and students will have one week to complete it, so that it does not occupy them for too long. Regarding data collection, data sources will be provided, as well as the data collection format, it will be worth about 5 hours of team work.

Required reading

  • Thomas Lindemann, Erik Ringmar, The International Politics of Recognition, Paradigm Publisher, 2012
  • Ted Gurr, Why Men Rebel, Princeton University Press, 1970
  • James B. Rule, Theories of Civil Violence, University of California Press, 1988