So far, we have considered violence from the perspective of the individual person, and the influences that lead to his or her aggression becoming manifest. However, history shows us that the most frightening and uncontained violence is perpetuated by groups of people, and we are currently witnessing how the unprecedented social violence of the twentieth century’s wars and genocides continues to evolve into new forms of terrorist and urban violence in the twenty-first century. This chapter will give a brief overview of group and social violence, and from a psychoanalytic perspective examine some of the underlying processes that contribute to human beings becoming more violent when they come together — from the small group violence of playground bullies, juvenile gangs and the football crowd, to violence of a much larger scale in military actions and warfare, and how socially sanctioned mass violence can be perverted to become sadistic violence intentionally aimed at non-combatant civilians in acts of genocide and terrorism. There is of course a multitude of important political, socio-economic and ideological influences that combine to produce socially violent events to which I cannot do justice, but I will touch upon issues of race and ethnicity which underscore many acts of violence, again looking at this from a psychoanalytic viewpoint.
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