Misanthropy is immoral

Inequality, inequality

Eva Gross

To person

Dipl.-Soz., M.A., born in 1976; Research assistant in the project "Group-related enmity" at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence, Bielefeld University, Postfach 10 01 31, 33501 Bielefeld. [email protected]

Andreas Zick

To person

Dr. rer. nat. phil. habil., born in 1962; Professor at the Faculty of Education, Bielefeld University, Universitätsstrasse 25, 33615 Bielefeld. [email protected]

Daniela Krause

To person

Dipl.-Soz., Born in 1981; Research assistant in the project "Group-related enmity" (see above). [email protected]

Group-related misanthropy contradicts the concept of equality. It justifies ideologies of inequality, which in turn can cement social inequality in the long term.


The central values ​​of a democratic society include the equality of all people and the safeguarding of the physical and psychological integrity of its members. These principles are intended to ensure that individuals and groups of different ethnic, religious, cultural or social origins can live together with as little fear as possible. Misanthropic attitudes and behaviors that devalue and marginalize the members of social groups contradict the norms and values ​​of equivalence precisely because they justify the inequality and question the integrity of groups and their members. Central social developments influence the advocacy of ideologies of inequality, which in turn can cement social inequality in the long term. In the Bielefeld project "Group-related misanthropy" (GMF) in Germany [1] over many years, we have observed in annual representative surveys how, for example, increasing economization of social relationships or economic crises promote negative prejudices against groups and intentions to discriminate. In the following we mainly describe the syndrome of GMF. It is based on an ideology of inequality that manifests itself in the devaluation of different social groups and cemented social inequality. Central here is the inequality that is expressed in stereotypes, prejudices and hostility.

Inequality Syndrome

Misanthropy marks and legitimizes the inequality of individuals and groups so that it is more likely that they will be discriminated against. The term misanthropy refers to the relationship between groups and does not mean an inter-individual enmity relationship. Group-related misanthropy includes stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination against people because of their belonging to weak groups in our society, in short: the devaluation of groups. The special feature of our understanding of the term is its range. On the one hand, the devaluation includes negative stereotypes, cognitively reshaped prejudices, but also emotional social distancing or intentions to harm an outgroup: It marks a difference between groups. On the other hand, the range is marked by the range of devaluations: Not only people of foreign origin experience devaluation, discrimination and violence, but also those of the same origin who are stigmatized as deviating.

In addition to xenophobia, racism and the devaluation of people who seek asylum or who belong to Sinti and Roma, the concept also includes the devaluation of people with religious convictions such as Judaism and Islam, i.e. anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Also included is the degradation of people of the opposite sex or a different sexual orientation and of people who are homeless or unemployed. In addition, the concept also generally includes the devaluation of all those who have recently joined the group, i.e. established privileges as a prototype of prejudice. [2]

An essential feature is that these devaluations, which create and at the same time establish the inequality of groups, in one syndrome are connected. The devaluations, which we understand as elements of the GMF syndrome, are interrelated and have a common core, which is described by the general ideology that inequality of groups determines society and that this is also good. [3] This means that if a person agrees to the devaluation of a certain group, they are significantly more likely to devalue and discriminate against other weak groups. [4]

Second, we assume that the GMF syndrome is not a phenomenon that is located on the extreme edge of the political spectrum, but rather reflects a broad, widely divided pattern of opinion in the German population. Third, an element can become part of the GMF syndrome if the equivalence of the corresponding group in society is made available. With a view to the spread of misanthropy among the population and the question of how the devaluations develop empirically, we have counted twelve social groups in the GMF syndrome since 2011 (see Figure 1 in the PDF version). [5] At the same time, the illustration corresponds to an empirical model test of the syndrome with the data from the representative survey from 2011, which supports the fit of the model.