Scientific journal
European Journal of Natural History
ISSN 2073-4972

VIOLENCE, AGGRESSION AND EXTREMISM: IN NATURE AND SOCIETY

Krasikov V.I.

Article is worked out by supporting of a financial

assistance of the Russian Foundation for Basical

Research, project 07-06-00067-а

People usually fear for violence and hate it, although some of them also can unaccountably admire for it. Such mixture of these feelings shows that this phenomenon originated from the bottom of human soul. We are often in such emotional state when interpret it but it´s important to rationalize it.

Violence is often identified with only its rude physical, political and religious forms. However there are many other forms of behavior and consciousness that belong to violence but most can´t recognize it as a rule.  There are everyday occurrences such as sexism, ageism, race, moral discrimination and so on.

We may say the same about aggression and extremism. So these phenomena are understood here as every abnormal behavior and thoughts of people who find their meaning of life in negation of generally accepted values and norms. It can be said that aggression and extremism are immanent side of human beings because it can be found everywhere in human life: in the relations, that based on biological specifics, in social activity and in spirit existence of people.

 The specific trait of modern condition of philosophy is an aspiration for solution to the problems that come into existence between borderlines of sciences. Philosophical synthesis discovers the similar structures in dissimilar human spheres and derives some interesting conclusions from this congruence.

At present, there is not philosophical general reasoning of violence, aggression and extremism as an immanent side of human beings and so we want to discuss the following questions: What is general meaning of aggression in being of Life? What are differences in essence between biological and human aggression? Which factors does a stability of violence in human existence provide? What is a specific of main forms of extremism? Which functions does extremism perform?

It is well known that aggression is a common phenomenon of nature. It can be said that aggression is an active side of vitality. The general significance of aggression lies in important metaphysical fact that every creature must hold its position in being and keep a check on it. It means that self-preservation includes a specific activity. There is force that pushes competitors away from feed and chucks rivals out of one´s territory. This force not only protects from others but provides its renewal in future generations thanks to sexual politics. Another inactive side of vitality is conciliation and altruism. There are the two orientations in self-fulfillment of vital energy. If it says metaphorically, aggression is a strategic defense of Life. The inter-species aggression is self-fulfillment of species on opposition from the others. The inner-species aggression optimizes the allocation of resources on species territory and one of forms of sexual selection. Aggression may be defined by "do harm to a creature".

The phenomenon of human aggression can be understood as "do to harm to a creature intentionally". The primary feature of human aggressiveness is an intention or expediency. The development of consciousness radically changes some characteristics of aggression. The human race keeps of course several forms of biological aggressiveness but consciousness alters them, therefore the human aggressiveness should be understood as a new condition in comparison with the biological aggressiveness. The condition started in a unique symbolic state of existing. It is engendered by such new principal qualities as human self-identity and memory. Correspondingly, aggression transformed into action´s series of long duration. There are personal intentional series or lines of conduct. The main cause of human aggression is failure to understand one another because the human symbolic world is strong segmental and autonomous. Every segment is created of daily life of some stably groups who generate its specific value´s and opinion´s system. Incomprehension originated from many borders between these systems and it is root cause of aggression in human beings. Human aggression became a complete conscious structure that includes modeling of forthcoming actions, justification and legitimacy. Actions are very various from insinuations to a direct physical impact and we can see the obvious predominance of indirect symbolic forms here. Moreover, human aggression is rational, preventive and equivalent. It orients to cultural rules of particular society, but old biological features of aggressiveness remain in individual conduct of people. There are situational emotional reactions in routine life and inborn pathological forms of aggressiveness. What is a meaning of aggression in the human world? There is a permanent active redistribution in a wide spectrum of social interaction. There is the redistribution of territories, resources and zones of attention (fame, honor, love) in case of its deficiency. There, of course, peace periods in processes of a social distributions but it is rather stop-gap pauses in permanent social fight. Phases of manifest social fight simply are more transient than peace stages and so they are usually interpret like something rarer.

Extremism is constituted as a characteristic of the specific group´s consciousness. We think that extremism and aggression as biological phenomenon are quite different and it can not speak that extremism has its origin direct from aggression. Relationships between extremism and aggression can be interpreted similar to connections between form and content where extremism as active conscious social form gives certain characteristic shapes for primordial aggressive activity. Extremism is aggression that is conceptualized in some group-consciousnesses. There is an unconscious formed project of life, which shows good reason for ambitious pretensions of some groups who need power, goods or fame. Extremism is always a specific form of world outlook or schemes of references. Moreover, extremism expresses a specific identity of some groups who are in situations of open disagreement with norms and values of dominant culture. Such identity manifests itself in many ways. There are defiant life style, specific clothes and its cant.

What does a historical stability of extremism determine? Forms of extreme consciousness are generated by some permanent factors. The first is an anthropological factor that is based on three forms of natural distinctions. One of them is the distinctions between men and women. Both sexes have their way of behavior and style of appreciation and thinking. The truth is that both sexes are equivalent in existentional meaning but their natural specifications historically predetermined a successful functioning in defined different sectors of human existence. This anthropological situation determines an evolution of men´s domination and women´s protest. Thus conflict takes roots in a primordial anthropological situation of their natural differences. The conflict is represented in the male chauvinism and radical feminism. But it must be noted that ultimate aims of sexual politics or struggle for power in love and family are the whole truth of this conflict. Another form of the anthropological factor of extremism is natural ethnic distinctions. There is radical nationalism and conflicts of ethnos. Radical nationalism often is an effective form of ethnic mobilization on the way an accelerated transformation uncertain ethnic community into nation. In generally, there are two types of radical nationalism, videlicet a "nationalism of blood" and a "nationalism of idea". In essence, there are two historical forms of radical nationalism´s development. The "nationalism of blood" or ancient radical nationalism based on more a dim feeling of its inborn ethnic exclusiveness then on certain conception or ideology. The "nationalism or idea" or modern radical nationalism appeared about 2-3 centuries ago when nationalistic intellectuals and middle stratum "constructed" their standard national language, literature and identity in series of nationalistic movements, revolutions and wars in West Europe. However both can give birth to genocide in some particular historical conditions. Racism´s forms of nationalism are also originated from such situations.

The third form of the anthropological factor that generates extremism is distinctions of generations. Every generation has serious distinctive features of its psychological self-organization. Teenagers or young people who are in state of very serious psychophysiological transformation into adults have a consciousness that is qualitatively different from the other ages. There are an idealistic romantic impatient consciousness and fluctuating identity. It has been long recognized that a constant conflict of generations was continued for human history. This conflict was earlier regulated by traditions however the Age of Reason ruined a faith in traditions. The young can´t understand previous generations and conflicts with them. Contra-cultures of the young are originated from these processes in the second part of XX century. The very important of them are beatniks, hippies, punks, skinheads, rappers. These contra-cultures have essential general features. All they express the same existential experience of a certain anthropological category. They realize their community and continuity of their opposed lifestyles. These contra-cultures develop in a specific musical format when their musicians are simultaneously their ideologists. Their music from rock-n-roll to hip-hop is their banner, ideology and symbol of faith.

The second fundamental cause of extremism is a social factor. Every society is organized in the hierarchic order; therefore constraint, violence and exploitation of man by man are normal natural forms of social development. They are modifications of human aggressiveness. It can be said about some typical social groups who usually can have extreme consciousness. Firstly there are new influential groups who haven´t a state power yet and strive to posses it. There are also oppressed classes who struggle against dominant groups in diverse ways right up to revolt. Secondly there are diverse outsiders and marginal groups who hate a dominant culture and strive to establish their antagonistic culture. There are, for example, some criminal subcultures and new religious movements. Both types of nonconformist groups demonstrate high degree of self-isolation and hostility. Thirdly there are often critical altruistic intellectuals who feel their indignation at social unfairness and create nonconformist ideas.

The third cause of extremism is a mental factor. Consciousness of some people has tendency towards self-cultivation. A spiritual development of such consciousness creates new symbolic alternative worlds. This condition is characterized by a sharpening of idealization and alienation from the real world. As a result of those processes there is appeared specific type of intellectuals who have an unusual life motivation. There is a transcending of self-given entity or a strong desire to go beyond the limits of normal reality. Such uncommon radical attitude of mind often is typical of some philosophers, artist and religious intellectuals. Contrary to popular belief radical philosophers called in question about ideas of objective reality, social conditionality of people and general meaning of the world. It results from this it appears very strange for common people conceptions such as solipsism, anarchism and a statement of absurdity of the world. Radical artists also often set a challenge to popular norms of beauty, virtue and dominant cultural aesthetic values. It is well known that avant-gardism advances art in many historical causes. Religious intellectuals examined the confines of human knowledge and feeling in order that they attempted to express an unlimited inexpressible image and notion of Good. A development of human thinking requires extreme revolutionary ideas that can overcome old forms of life. Such extreme basic ideas are an authentic soul of extremism.

Above-mentioned factors totally determine a historical constancy of extreme views. The category of "extremism" may be defined in the following way. Extremism is actions and ideas that obviously and resolutely break norms of common life or it is well-grounded line of conduct that demonstratively confronts with usual practices of people. If we consider extremism as group phenomenon, we can add that extremism is also a specific style of some groups who create their characteristic cultures and their "symbolic universes". The meanings of such symbolic "universes" are strong contrary to views of a dominant culture. Seen as whole, extremism can be understood like specific formative structures of consciousness. There are some intentional positions that are formed and reproduced in certain social development. These structures may be including four patterns at least. The first of them is the dualistic categorization of the world meanings. The world meanings are radically divided in two sides: "good - evil", "truth - lie", "order - chaos" "beauty - ugliness" and so forth. People, inclined to such categorization, ascribe themselves of course as an expression of positive sides. This consciousness convinces that conflict and struggle are an immanent natural condition of the world. As a result people of extreme inclinations have a disharmonious feel of the world. They also have a lot of experience of hate and fear. The second pattern is a hyperbolic self-partiality. People of these groups pride themselves on their imaginary perfect qualities. They imagine that they are the best among people. Accordingly, they have their specific morals which work only to their own; for this reason they convince that they can cheat the other people out of their goods and to use them as servants. The third pattern is an ascription of their failure to permanent animosity of social surroundings. Extreme consciousness dehumanizes the others because only persons of their own groups are identified with "real men". The fourth pattern is a scenario of confrontation, destruction and overcoming. In other words, that is statements of main ways of the realization of their ideals.

Now we want to raise the issue of classification of extremism. We proceed from the assumption that distinctions of various types of extremism lye most of all in a sphere of their mental specifics. Primitive forms of extreme consciousness are determined some psychological characteristics and social circumstances. As for psychology, there are, for example, ethno-centrism, egoism, hard-heartedness, brutality, intolerance and, as a result, inabilities to comprehend other people. As for social circumstances, there are ethnic conflicts, sexual and age discrimination and life´s injustices. People of such state of mind spontaneously associate with each other and unite in their groups where they love themselves and hate the others. In such way they find their meaning of life because they are not able independently to formulate their aim in life. The principle here is that such groups firstly spontaneously are formed and after that the corresponding irreconcilable ideology and leaders take shape. There are radical nationalistic groups, sexists, contra cultures of the youth and some criminal communities.

By contrast spiritual forms of extreme consciousness are generated by ideas. Their authors are charismatic political and religious leaders, radical artists and philosophers. Various people here are united in attempt to carry out their characteristic ideas. It can be said that the main factors of a formation of these groups are ideals. These ideals have often evidential features of the extreme patterns. For example, there are transcendent religions, utopian ideologies, some philosophical doctrines. The meanings of such radical weltanschauungs are abstract and very symbolic. They are organized with dualistic ontological opposites: "spirit and matter", "God and devil", "destiny and freedom" and so on. The human spirit attempts to transcend the limits of a human fate here. Surprisingly, the majority of such consciousness´ forms have similar patterns of self-organization. Extremes meet and negation of the sensible world in which we live by solipsist bear a strong resemblance to total negation of teenagers. At the same time, these forms have some serious differences. There are differences in levels of mental development. The world-outlook´s patterns of primitive forms have very abstract and simple character. It means that consciousness here directs its attention at easily noticed therefore its concepts originate from prejudices and common stereotypes. In contrast, "a distance of attention" of spiritual forms is great and includes examination of many causes and factors in explanation of human beings. Duality of meanings has here dialectic character whereas primitive consciousness understands duality only like confrontation. There are different ontological bases of their world-outlook´s schemes of references. The primitive consciousness unaccountably concentrates on vital and material factors as underlying principles of human life whereas mentally developed forms believe that idealistic factors of spirit create and form the human world. Finally, there are different orientations of these diverse levels of extreme consciousness. It can be said that extroversion characterizes its simple forms and introversion describes its high forms. Introversion means that mentally developed individual consciousness concentrate on self-researching and gradually recognize itself, as a result, it can identify with human beings. It generates sometimes high forms of selflessness. On the contrary, activity of primitive extreme forms directs towards achievement of group´s goals like emancipation or domination whereas high forms aim to change a destiny of humanity. According to the analysis given here, the extreme views have important functions in human development. Firstly, social and spirit innovations often originate from abnormal and extreme forms of human behavior. In the course of long time they slowly transform into new norms and traditions. Secondly, extremism is an inverted order of social norms and their necessary limit. Thirdly, an extraordinary activity often is necessary form of solving of very difficult problems. For example, there may be social crisis, violent pursuits or some very fixed ideas. Finally, human history can be understood as an immanent combination of traditions and a creative criticism.

It must be noted that dominant public attitude towards extremism is rather extreme. It has been frequently maintained that extremists are villains and even inhuman monsters. I´m not sure that it is completely true. We begin to think and to act according their extremist logic and it is their win because they impose on us their views and rules. If we could exterminate all extremists, the new extremists would appear shortly after. Paradoxically, but they are a part of our world so the world is out of order. Such world engendered and will be engendering extremism. Consequently if we want to eliminate the threat of extremism we must change our world or ourselves. The main causes of transformation of natural extremities into extremism are strong unwilling to comprehend other mental conditions and cultures, a lack of self-criticism and a refusal to waive one´s privileges. A new comprehension and an interdependent changing only can convert extremism into admissible forms.


The article is admitted to the International Scientific Conference « Current problems of science and education», Moscow, 2007, May 14-16; came to the editorial office on 20.04.07