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Terrorism—A (self) love story: Redirecting the significance quest can end violence


Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s concepts of self-love (amour propre) and love of self (amour de soi même) are applied to the psychology of terrorism. Self-love is concern with one’s image in the eyes of respected others, members of one’s group. It denotes one’s feeling of personal significance, the sense that one’s life has meaning in accordance with the values of one’s society. Love of self, in contrast, is individualistic concern with self-preservation, comfort, safety, and the survival of self and loved ones. We suggest that self-love defines a motivational force that when awakened arouses the goal of a significance quest. When a group perceives itself in conflict with dangerous detractors, its ideology may prescribe violence and terrorism against the enemy as a means of significance gain that gratifies self-love concerns. This may involve sacrificing one’s self-preservation goals, encapsulated in Rousseau’s concept of love of self. The foregoing notions afford the integration of diverse quantitative and qualitative findings on individuals’ road to terrorism and back. Understanding the significance quest and the conditions of its constructive fulfillment may be crucial to reversing the current tide of global terrorism. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)

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Kruglanski, Arie, and Jocelyn J. Belanger, Michele Gelfand, Rohan Gunaratna, Malkanthi Hettiarachchi, Fernando Reinares, Edward Orehek, Jo Sasota, Keren Sharvit. 2013. "Terrorism—A (self) love story: Redirecting the significance quest can end violence." American Psychologist (October): 559-575. http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/amp/68/7/559/

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