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Volume 3

Expanded Contents


1. Introduction and Summary
2. Aggression and the Conflict Helix
4. Misperception, Cognitive Dissonance, Righteousness, and Conflict
5. Marxism, Class Conflict, and the Conflict Helix
6. Same and Other; Similarity and Difference
7. Cross-Pressures, Overpopulation, Anomie, and Conflict
8. Conflict as a Process and the Conflict Helix
9. Opposition, Determinism, Inevitability, and Conflict
10. Intentional Humanism

Other Volumes

Vol. 1: The Dynamic Psychological Field
Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix
Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace
Vol. 5: The Just Peace

Other Related Work

Conflict And Violence page

Democratic Peace page


Chapter 3

Frustration, Deprivation, Aggression,
The Conflict Helix*

By R.J. Rummel

The popularity of reformist liberalism in the academic community gives the deprivation and access doctrines appeal and persuasiveness.... Many academics cannot understand why steps taken in accord with such theories frequently intensify the demands of the insurgents and escalate both frontlash and backlash.... They fail to grasp the dimensions of political bargaining reflected by cries of revolution and black power.... It is the bargaining equations that determine whether progress toward reform will dampen extremism or encourage it.
---- Nieburg, 1969:43


We strive to gratify our wants and desires, our goals, aims, and ambitions. Introspection and self-knowledge make this much self-evident; experience with others confirms the generalization.

Moreover, we are often unable to satisfy our desires or accomplish our goals. Sometimes our ambitions exceed our abilities, or we misperceive the possibilities. But sometimes we are blocked by an external barrier that precludes gratification. This may be a traffic jam preventing us from reaching an appointment, a college rule prohibiting us from taking a particular course, an amorous neighborhood tom cat interrupting our sleep, or our race restricting professional advancement. Whatever the barrier, we are frustrated. All of us are so frustrated from time to time.

In addition, we all have experienced irritation and anger at some frustrations. A long line preventing us from seeing an eagerly awaited movie, a crush of shoppers hindering the purchase of some simple necessities, a slow driver obstructing a narrow road, probably have aroused in all of us that familiar flush of annoyance, even anger. That frustration of our desires and goals occasionally leads to anger is a commonplace. It is subjectively unquestionable--a fact of our existence.

Of course, not all frustrations lead to anger. Indeed, it is more common to accept frustration--the blockage of our wants or goals--as feedback suggesting that we adjust or alter our aims. We do this automatically, hour by hour, day by day. Frustration signals the error in the trial-and-error process by which we dialectically adjust our perspectives to external powers and potentialities. To live, to assert oneself, is to be hindered, to face difficulties, to be opposed. My desire to write this section uninterruptedly is hindered by construction noise in the background; my desire for physical comfort is defeated by the summer heat; my search for the right words to express my "understanding" is blocked by the barrier between structured language and unstructured "insight" and feelings. Moreover, when I let my consciousness stroll through the nested levels of my existence, I am also aware of a multitude of frustrations that reach consciousness like a flock of pheasants startled out of tall grass. Frustrations associated with family, research, teaching, politics, and the growing structure of coercive rules and laws. As I write, my life is within a matrix of such frustrations, high and low, large and small, significant and trivial.

Yet at the moment I am content, relatively happy, and feel no irritation, no anger.

Besides our desires and goals, our frustrations and anger, there are two other commonplace facts of life. We sometimes desire or aim to injure or hurt others, and behave in such a manner, sometimes because of our frustrations. Again, in our subjective world, these two facts are incontestable. Our awareness of them enables us to better perceive others1 to adjust our interests and interactions, and to develop predictive expectations. We can then understand why on a hot day in slow city traffic, one motorist will attack another for blocking his path, why a parent whose losing bridge game is interrupted for the fifth time by a child will vigorously spank him, and why a mistress cast off by her lover will send poison pen letters to his wife.

In the late 1930s, the commonplace enabling us to understand such behavior in certain contexts was erected into an invariant law of nature by a group of Yale psychologists (Dollard et al., 1939). First, they equated aggression with the desire to hurt or injure others. This effectively confused the various forms of aggression with one overt manifestation and confounded the bases of aiming to harm another, which may be instrumental (as in spanking a child), defensive (as in kicking an attacker), or hostile (as in spreading malicious gossip). Were one to equate love with kissing, the conceptual, cognitive confusion would be no less.

Second, frustration was defined as interference with a goal response, thus keying frustration to an objective barrier or difficulty, and to manifest behavior.2 Interference was felt to be through punishment or goal inaccessibility, further confusing frustration as blockage with frustration as deprivation.3

On this conceptual base, the Yale group put forward its famous assumption (Dollard et al., 1939: 1):

This study takes as its point of departure the assumption that aggression is always a consequence of frustration. More specifically the proposition is that the occurrence of aggressive behavior always presupposes the existence of frustration and, contrariwise, that the existence of frustration always leads to some form of aggression.

They further hypothesized a direct positive proportionality between the instigation to aggression and the amount of frustration. This amount depended on the strength of the drive toward a goal, the degree of interference, and the number of frustrated responses. The resulting instigation to aggression will be directed toward the perceived agent of frustration (displacement), and the act of aggression reduces instigation to aggression (catharsis).

This formulation, which hardly stood up to theoretical and conceptual analysis, was operationally precise and, although it assumed internal drives, it was in the stimulus-response, behavioral tradition. It generated considerable laboratory experimentation 4 and empirical research.

More than two decades of research5 has shown that frustration does not invariably lead to aggression, that frustration can lead to nonaggression, that aggression can occur without frustration, that in some cultures aggression is not a typical response to frustration, that some situations (such as threat and insult) can evoke more aggression than frustration, that the injustice of frustration is more significant than frustration itself, that frustration subsumes a diverse set of conditions, and that the aggression-frustration linkage need not be innate and could be learned. What began as an exciting statement of a psychophysical law has ended with a conclusion that should have been anticipated: frustration sometimes provokes aggression; and aggression is sometimes provoked by frustration.

The widespread acceptance of the frustration-aggression notion is perhaps attributable more to its simplicity than to its predictive power. In point of fact, the formula that frustration breeds aggression does not hold up well under empirical scrutiny in laboratory studies in which conditions regarded as frustrative are systematically varied.... [F]rustration, as commonly defined, is only one--and not necessarily the most important--factor affecting the expression of aggression.
---- Bandura, 1973:33

Qualifications not withstanding, social scientists, influenced by the frustration-aggression hypothesis, have often made it an assumption in social analysis and theories of relative deprivation. I now turn to these.


It is remarkable that those who are most deprived, most oppressed, most in need, are not those who usually violently rebel. Of course there have been food riots and peasant uprisings, but most often revolutions and violence have occurred when conditions are better or have been improving, and among those who are not the most deprived.

Explanations vary but generally focus on two propositions. First, deprivation is subjective, a function of a person's perception, needs, and knowledge. To nail deprivation to an objective or absolute lack of something such as freedom, equality, or sustenance, is to ignore that definitions of these shift according to historical period, culture, society, position, and person.

However, some internal norms or standards, some benchmarks, against which to assess deprivation are still required. The second proposition, therefore, deals with these norms. It asserts that we take our presently perceived or expected position, achievements, gratifications, or capabilities as a base of comparison against our wants or needs, or what we feel we ought to have. The gap between wants or oughts and gratifications or capabilities is then our deprivation, or relative deprivation in the sense that it depends on our base of comparison.

The literature on these two principles and on relative deprivation is well organized in Ted Gurr's Why Men Rebel (1970), which merits discussion. The idea of relative deprivation has been used either to measure fairness, inequality, or social justice, or to explain grievance, social hostility, or aggression. Gurr's concern (and mine in considering relative deprivation here) is with relative deprivation as a cause of aggression.

Surely relative deprivation seems to underlie much violence. But granting this, how are the two linked? Relative deprivation is a subjective, unobservable assessment of a person. Social and especially political violence, such as guerrilla wars and revolutions, are collective objective manifestations. How can the subjective one cause the objective other? Gurr's answer comes in three parts.

First, we must understand relative deprivation as creating the "potential for collective violence." This is because relative deprivation is a frustration that leads to aggression.

In summary, the primary source of the human capacity for violence appears to be the frustration-aggression mechanism. Frustration does not necessarily lead to violence, and violence for some men is motivated by expectations of gain. The anger induced by frustration, however, is a motivating force that disposes men to aggression, irrespective of its instrumentalities. If frustrations are sufficiently prolonged or sharply felt, aggression is quite likely, if not certain, to occur. To conclude that the relationship is not relevant to individual or collective violence is akin to the assertion that the law of gravitation is irrelevant to the theory of flight because not everything that goes up falls back to earth in accord with the basic gravitational principle. The frustration-aggression mechanism is in this sense analogous to the law of gravity: men who are frustrated have an innate disposition to do violence to its source in proportion to the intensity of their frustrations ....
---- Gurr, 1970:36-37

To comprehend this assumed connection between frustration and relative deprivation, we must look at Gurr's definitions. Relative deprivation "is defined as actors' perception of discrepancy between their value expectations and their value capabilities" (p. 24). It is the gap between that "to which people believe they are rightfully entitled" and that which "they think they are capable of getting and keeping" (p. 24). It is essential to note that deprivation is not based on wants or needs alone, but on the wants and needs that we feel we ought to have or deserve. Most of us want a million dollars, but in Gurr's theory few of us will feel that we have been deprived, since we do not believe we are rightfully entitled to this sum. The person denied a promotion he wants and feels he deserves will be deprived; the person denied a promotion he wants but feels he does not deserve will not be deprived.

Rightful entitlement is a normative concept. It assumes some criterion of the justness or fairness of what is due. Therefore, by definition Gurr's notion of relative deprivation links subjective wants and perceived justice on the one hand with perceived capabilities on the other. Frustration then results from inability to gratify just wants. And this frustration creates the potential for collective violence (aggression).

Gurr's whole theory of collective and political violence rests on this single pillar. As this pillar falls, so goes his theory. And it does fall, for these reasons. First, as discussed in the last Section and Chapter, tests of the frustration-aggression hypothesis have had mixed empirical results, and it was concluded that frustration causes some aggression but also can lead to nonaggression.

Second, our needs, such as protectiveness, pugnacity, and security, can directly lead to collective aggression. Some deprive themselves greatly to participate in collective violence for higher causes (God, country, freedom); others, for personal glory and esteem or because their friends are involved; still others, to improve their own conditions, to decrease their relative deprivation. Collective violence then may be instrumental, a conscious choice of a means to improve one's lot, not necessarily an automatic, emotional, and irrational aggressive response to frustration.

Third, given the variation between cultures and persons with relation to how frustration is handled and the importance of social learning, Gurr could have assumed that relative deprivation is a potential for collective cooperation. A relatively deprived person may believe that the gap between rightful wants and capabilities is due to evils he committed in a previous life, to God's will, or to his own laziness. He then may determine to live a better, more socially useful life, or to try to improve his capabilities.

Finally, a frustrated person may regress; he may withdraw from human interaction associated with the frustration, absorb it into a higher goal, or try to cope with it.

Gurr should have made relative deprivation and frustration one ingredient in the potential for collective aggression, along with our needs, character (temperaments), social learning, and interests (goals).6 How these all are relevant to Gurr's theory is discussed later. First it is important to summarize the remainder of his theory.

Thus initially we have the assumption that relative deprivation causes frustration. The intensity and scope of the frustration in turn lead to the potential for collective violence. The second part of the theory concerns the transformation of this potential into a narrower one for political violence--the "politicization of discontent."

Two variables politically focus the potential for collective violence. The first is the normative justification for political violence. The second is the perceived utility of such violence, based on some past experience. If political violence is believed to be legitimate and has worked in the past or elsewhere, the intensity and scope of these two variables determine the degree to which the potential for collective violence is transformed into the potential for political violence.

The final step in Gurr's theory is the transformation of political potential to political manifestation. Two balance of power variables are responsible for this. One is the balance of dissident to regime coercive control; the other is the balance of dissident to regime institutional support. Political violence is likely to be at its greatest when regime and dissidents have nearly equal power and considerable institutional support.

Thus for Gurr, political violence results from the frustrations of relative deprivation, but only if there is normative and utilitarian justification for violence, and the dissidents' coercive power and institutional support matches the regimes.

Before relating relative deprivation to the conflict helix, some other approaches should be briefly summarized. Considering the historical evidence that revolutions and rebellions do not appear when people are most deprived or oppressed, but when there has been a period of improving conditions, Davies (1962, 1969, 1970, 1973) has proposed a "J-curve" theory of political violence.

First, between what people want and what they get there is usually a gap, which is normally accepted, rationalized, and justified within society. If society is progressing and conditions are improving in some sense, people's wants will increase, but so will gratification. However a sharp downturn in gratifications, such as that due to a sudden economic depression, widens a gap between what people want and get, reversing their expectations of satisfying their wants. Frustration is thereby created, and the probability of violence is increased. Violence "becomes increasingly likely when any kind of basic need which has come to be routinely gratified suddenly becomes deprived" (Davies, 1973:247). Deprivation is relative, therefore, to previous gratifications and expectations.

As with Gurr, Davies assumes a frustration-aggression mechanism in connecting deprivation to violence. "Violence is always a response to frustration . . ." (1973:251). And writing about the greater probability of violence inherent in a sudden increase in deprivation, he says: "The psychological basis lies in the frustration of basic needs, a frustration induced by the sudden reversal in gratifications" (1973:246-247). As the frustration-aggression hypothesis falls, so does Davies' theory.

There are a number of differences between the theories of Davies and Gurr (Davies, 1973:248). In particular, Davies emphasizes the time element and sees as crucial not simply a deprivation gap but one resulting from a reversal in gratifications. For Gurr, the gap creates frustration, and he subsumes Davies' theory as a special case (Gurr, 1970:52-54); for Davies, the suddenly increasing gap when improving conditions worsen creates the frustration.

Gurr and Davies notwithstanding, the frustration-aggression hypothesis need not underlie relative deprivation theories. Runciman (1966), for example, has proposed a strictly sociological theory of relative deprivation in which frustration plays no role. Relative deprivation is a sense of inequality resulting from a comparison with some reference group. The choice of this group is crucial, for it would be possible to choose in such a way that one's sense of deprivation, or lack of it, does not reflect objective inequalities. This would explain why the deprived or oppressed often accept their conditions, for if their reference groups are equally oppressed and poor, there is little sense of deprivation. This would also explain the effect of war, social dislocations, communication, and education in stimulating relative deprivation, since these factors tend to change the groups against which people compare themselves.

According to Runciman, the sense of deprivation must be related to the dimensions of inequality existing in society. These he sees as class, status, and power (or in my terms, wealth, prestige, and power). Deprivation along one dimension may not be matched by deprivation along another, nor is actual inequality along a dimension necessarily matched by the sense of deprivation felt. Runciman applied his theory to the relative deprivation of the manual working class in England, both historically and to sample survey data he collected. He found that the magnitude and frequency of relative deprivation in class were seldom correlated with objective class inequalities for manual workers (p. 93). Moreover, their sense of relative deprivation in status has increased while their objective inequality has declined (p. 96).7 And regarding power, their relative deprivation has declined as the workers' power (through the Labour Party) has increased (p. 121).

In discussing Gurr, Davies, and Runciman, I have only touched on the varied relative deprivation literature;8 nonetheless the most prominent theories today have been summarized. How then does the idea of relative deprivation relate to the conflict helix?


In the simplest view, relative deprivation is the difference between what we want and what we get. For example, a man who fails to get a desired promotion, or a women who wants a higher income are deprived.

A number of difficulties are associated with this definition, however. First, we all have many wants that remain unsatisfied, but we do not feel deprived, frustrated, or angered. I want a better memory, unlimited research funds, a new car, and so on, but lack of these things hardly makes me unhappy. Usually I feel either that the personal cost in terms of other values or wants is too large, or that I do not deserve the benefits, or that it is not right that I have them anyway (such as unlimited research funds). The man who was not promoted may feel that a better person won or that his work so far has not been really deserving. The truly deprived, the very poor and oppressed, may feel that their lowly status is due to God's will or their own faults ("not having studied hard enough," "not having the brains," or "not wanting the greater responsibility"). Thus a wants-get gap may create little strain, tension, frustration, or conflict.

Clearly, the crucial element is a our subjective evaluation of this gap, of whether our want is something we simply desire, ought to have, are entitled to, or is our right. Thus if we feel we ought to be promoted (by reason of achievement) and are not, or if we are very poor we feel that society is morally obliged to provide us with basic necessities, the gap between a just want and what we get can generate irritation, anger, frustration, and conflict.

But the self may see this gap as being under personal control. That is, we may feel capable of closing the gap, but we may also be unwilling to give up other wants or values to do so. For example, a scientist feeling that he lacks the prestige his work should bring him may be unwilling to go on the lecture circuit, attend the conferences, and write the popularizing books that would make him better known.

Surely, what is involved in the subjective feeling of deprivation is not only a disparity between just wants and gets. Capability also is important, as in Gurr's definition, where deprivation is a gap between just wants (what we feel entitled to) and what we feel capable of getting.

Here also, however, difficulties exist. If we believe we are incapable of overcoming the gap, thus feel deprived, the possibility of rational action is foreclosed. It follows that the greater the relative deprivation, the greater the propensity to political violence only if one assumes such propensity to be a nonutilitarian, nonrational, and emotional reflex. For to lack the capability means that something does not lie within one's perceived ability. It is therefore illogical to bring in utilitarian and rational considerations (as does Gurr) to explain the political violence of the deprived. If through the media or new reference groups, communication, propaganda, and so forth, we reassesses our capability, become persuaded that what we ought to have is now within our capability (through, say, harder work, demonstrations, or revolutions), then given the definition of relative deprivation as a gap between just wants and capabilities, the relative deprivation has subjectively disappeared prior to action, for which there is no longer a basis.

To avoid such problems, we might define "relative deprivation" as a gap between just wants and expected want satisfaction. In other words, the gap between just wants and gets is defined relevant to a future state of affairs. However this definition does not consider the basis of the expectations. The gap may exist because one lacks the capability, or the just-want conflicts with other just wants one prefers to satisfy. In neither case need anger or driving irritation arise.

A general definition that would escape these problems seems to be out of reach--perhaps because of the difficulties of defining objectively both the want and the base of comparison (e.g., capabilities, gratifications, or expectations). For some, deprivation may lie in ungratified just wants alone; for others it may lie both in unsatisfied just wants and in personal lack of capability (say, due to poor education they believe the "system" gave them); and for still others it may be attributed to just wants being unjustly blocked by others and requiring unjust effort to achieve. One way to avoid this problem is to simply consider relative deprivation as a sense generated by a comparison to others. This is Runciman's approach. Then we can focus on the person or group against which the comparison is done and the particular wants involved. Whether the comparison also involves what one has, can have, is capable of getting, or expects, is then bound within the sense of deprivation.

However this approach still shares a problem with the other definitions, the use of the word "deprivation," which stems from "deprive" and denotatively means a state of having something taken away or withheld. This meaning often does not fit the case of "relative deprivation," since we may want something we have not had, such as more wealth, and no one or no thing may be withholding gratification from us. Our own situation, abilities, or lack of will may be responsible for the "deprivation." In this sense, the idea of relative deprivation is already a value-loaded concept, since its application implies something external which is preventing, blocking, or withholding certain valued things.

Compounding this denotative confusion is the connotation of "deprivation" associated with "privation." When deprivation is used, I sense that a person is not only deprived, but deprived of life's essentials. It rubs my sense for the word the wrong way to consider the relative "deprivation" of a rich person suffering a lack of servants, of a movie star who gets only third billing, or of a powerful politician who loses an election. The word seems best applied to the very hungry and needy.

Both connotatively and denotatively, therefore, the concept of deprivation almost unconsciously leads to an emphasis on certain kinds of wants, on the poor versus the wealthy, on the subordinate class versus the superordinate, and on the proletariat versus the bourgeoisie. It is partly for this reason, it seems to me, that those using the term slip from their subjective consideration into a concern for the objective inequalities of the poor and working class. The point is not whether this emphasis is right or wrong, just or unjust. A term meant to cover any gap between subjective just wants and what one has, can have, or is capable of getting, should be neutral with respect to the objective nature of those wants. The sense of the term should equally apply to the rich person desiring a bigger yacht, the dictator wanting order, the prisoner craving liberty, the clerk wishing for a promotion, the man coveting another's wife, or the beggar hungering for food. The intensity of "deprivation" felt over the lack of food may be no less than that felt over the lack of additional wealth, power, and so on. Witness the murders and crimes committed by wealthier people and members of the middle class, to gratify an intense desire.

To avoid these problems with the term "deprivation" and with the various definitions of relative deprivation previously discussed, I define the just-want gap as a psychological vector--as an injustice vector generated by comparison with others. There are several advantages to this approach.

First, another person or group provides the base of comparison of one's wants and gratification. Surely one can have absolute principles and norms against which to judge wants and gratifications, and just wants unjustly unsatisfied may be judged to be against God or nature. But my concern is with social interaction, with social transactions, and with social conflict. And for this reason the comparison to others in assessing justice--social justice--is essential.

This definition overcomes another problem in the relative deprivation literature. Usually (with some exceptions, such as Runciman) the perspective is monadic. A person's relative deprivation comes from within; the want gap is an internally produced difference between a person's wants and gets, cans, or abilities. Thus interaction and perception of others do not play a role at the initiation of deprivation. Once deprivation is produced, however, one may combine with others to be collectively violent or be prevented from expressing discontent by the opposition of others. With my definition, however, interaction with others, society, occurs at the very inception and is bound to this just-want gap.

A second aspect of my definition is that a vector of power is involved--a force toward behavior. It is a vector of interests, as I have used this expression throughout, that is generated within our motivational structure, in relation to needs, other interests, roles, and sentiments such as the superego and our superordinate goal.

Third, the vector is generated in terms of one's perceived sociocultural distances from others. Here the discussion of distance vectors in previous volumes (particularly in Chapters 16, 17, and 18 of Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix) is relevant, and I simply note the relationship between the injustice vector and these social distances in the psychological field. First consider that interests are vectors of power (activated, energized attitudes) in our motivational field, a region of the psychological field. The components of this space, our needs (sex, hunger, security, etc.), provide the energy for the field. Some of the interests cluster into sentiments, of which a particular kind, the superego, forms our normative interests, our oughts, ethics, and morality. To illustrate, Figure 3.1 presents this field defined by the hunger and self-assertion needs for John, along with two normative vectors of interests, one concerning a belief in a person's right to sustenance, and the other a belief that rewards should be proportional to investments (of time, energy, preparation, etc.). An interest is an active "I want something." John's interests are "I want everyone to have sustenance" and "I want everyone to be proportionately rewarded."

Now, assume that John is a struggling, unknown artist, whose interest in a sustaining income is represented in Figure 3.2. This interest is related to his superego, specifically to his normative interests as shown. Thus the interest in part reflects a belief in a sustenance right and a belief in merit and, moreover, stems from hunger and self-determination needs, which also contribute to the normative interests.

Just wants are those projections of our interests (wants) on the normative vectors. This is shown in Figure 3.29 Just wants may be less than and different in direction in the psychological field from the pure interest (which is formed partly by the nonnormative aspects of an individual's needs). For example, the income interest may push simply toward a dishwashing job. But the normative components may push toward either doubling one's efforts to sell more paintings or creating a need for welfare or social security (which is a "right").

So far, we have a just want along two normative vectors, but no injustice vector. Consider now that John becomes acquainted with Arnold, a playboy of inherited wealth who feigns an interest in art. John perceives Arnold in his psychological space in terms of a distance between them that is related to John's just wants. This is represented in Figure 3.3. The projections of this distance on the normative interests specify his sense of injustice, with his just but unsatisfied wants, in comparison to this playboy of "low merit" and inherited wealth. The injustice vector is then simply the sum of these projections of the distances onto the normative vectors. It is comparative, related to needs and interests; and as a vector of interest it is a power, a force to action.10 Moreover, the injustice vector is formed within our psychological field relative to our interests and depends partially on our perception of another. And the vector is value neutral. It favors no want. Thus I believe this perspective constituting the injustice vector overcomes many problems in the relative deprivation literature while integrating the concept with the idea of a psychological field and social interaction.


The relationship of relative deprivation-turned-injustice vector to the process of conflict is easily clarified. Injustice vectors--the moral sense of deprivation relative to others--are part of the conflict situation. These are vectors of interest, the opposition of which creates the conflict situation. Here, awareness (or perception) and the situation give context and meaning to the opposing interests; expectations of behavioral outcomes interrelate the injustice vector and its drive to action with the capability of the other and our expectation of his behavior. In other words, the situation of conflict involves our interests and their justness; our perception of others and our sense of injustice by comparison; and our beliefs about the capabilities of others and the outcomes of our actions. Within the framework of the helix, the conflict situation comprises the variables important to transforming the potential for collective violence into the potential for class violence and, finally, into manifest violence. At the collective level, the injustice vector fundamentally defines the class consciousness necessary to the class struggle within all organizations, including the state.

The initiation phase of manifest conflict involves a trigger provoking the will to action, and the occurrence of such a mechanism depends on the balance of powers an individual perceives between himself and others. Consequently a sense of injustice is no guarantee of action. This is also true of Gurr's model, in which the transformation of potential to manifestation depends on a balance of powers.

But deprivation theory does not explain what happens after the manifest conflict or violence ensues, while the conflict helix is in mid-ascent. Out of manifest conflict a balance is formed among the diverse interests held by people on the basis of their capability and wills. There ensues adjustment among the diverse vectors of injustice, an adjustment based on subjective perception and expectations honed by the reality of others. Conflict and the resulting balance form a structure of expectations that enables different views of injustice and different classes to live together.

In time these expectations may become incongruent with the underlying balance; a person may develop new reference groups, have new experiences, be the object of an ideological campaign ("workers are oppressed"). The sense of injustice may change such that the previous class balance (between workers and management in a factory) no longer reflects the parties' interests, or the underlying capabilities or wills of the parties may alter (bureaucratic dissension may weaken governmental control over dissidents). Then a trigger, such as an event provoking a rearoused or newly inflamed sense of injustice may provoke a turn of the conflict helix, a new balancing of powers and injustices, of classes.

At the ontological and empirical levels the nature of the psychological field and the conflict helix seems to answer the question, What is social justice? Just wants and injustice vectors vary considerably among people. Such interests and feelings are diverse, multidimensional, and personal. Moreover, the amount willingly sacrificed to satisfy just wants or to right a sense of injustice varies across individuals. People have different expectations, capabilities, interests, and wills. And the overriding superordinate goal, self-esteem, is intrinsic to the individual.

Then how, apparently, do we determine what is just? How do we balance different views of what is just? Given the diversity of human beings, this question can only imply two alternatives: we force our view of social justice on someone else (say, through governmental coercion), or people settle for themselves and among themselves their own balance. If the conflict helix as a field process operates at all levels without the imposition of an antifield on it, the diverse views of social justice will compromise and balance in terms of interests, capabilities, and wills. This seems to argue for the maximum freedom, for a precondition of the conflict helix is that each is free to pursue his just wants and to square his sense of injustice against others. The precondition of social justice is therefore freedom. Or, so it seems.

But this is a factual conclusion about an ethical question, which is not logically possible. Facts can be heuristic, they can provide some guidelines to thought, but they cannot make the argument themselves. To fully and logically answer the question we must consider the nature of ethics and then the ethical nature of social justice. Ultimately, we will have to use ethical arguments to determine what is socially just. And this I will do in the concluding volume of this series, Vol. 5: The Just Peace. There we will find that at the level of ethics we arrive at a conclusion similar to that we found ontologically and empirically: as a matter of ethics, social justice is the maximization of the freedom of individuals to choose the principles that govern them, even if they choose to be unfree. 


* Scanned from Chapter 3 in R.J. Rummel, Conflict In Perspective, 1977. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.

1. In more technical language, they provide a cognitive framework, a model, which helps us structure reality.

2. One can be frustrated without behaving, because of anticipated or perceived blocks to one's interests. A goal to ship a new automobile from California to Hawaii may be frustrated by a shipping strike. But if one had taken no prior actions to have an auto shipped, then according to the Yale group, there was no frustration.

To make this concept measurable and testable in the laboratory, frustration was limited by definition to actions already initiated. Research power was thereby gained, but the meaning of frustration in our lives and our understanding of it were distorted.

3. This is one of Fromm's (1973:67) criticisms.

4. Methodological dogma is not to be deterred by facts. Experiments on samples of students cannot possibly involve the range and intensity of frustration or allow the scope and violence of aggression required to test the frustration-aggression hypothesis. Yet rather than looking to history, case studies, or naturalistic observation, researchers in the main followed the example of the Yale group and took to the laboratory.

5. For reviews of the empirical literature, see Buss (1961), Megargee (1972), Berkowitz (1962), Himmelweit (1950), and Yates (1962).

6. Gurr (1969) has tested his theory on cross-national data for 114 nations. He measured relative deprivation as a combination of the intensity and scope of economic and political discrimination, political separation, dependence on foreign economies, lack of educational opportunity, and religious divisions. All these variables are questionable measures of relative deprivation as Gurr defined it.

Education, for example, may lead through greater awareness to more relative deprivation, not less. The combination of these variables measured on a short term correlated .32 with turmoil across nations, .45 with conspiracies, and .47 with total strife; when persisting deprivation is considered, the correlations were .27, .30, and .35. These are all low, but in the positive direction.

Nothing can be concluded from this, however, since Gurr is correlating measures of a disposition with a manifestation. Within his theory (which does not stipulate that the greater the relative deprivation, the greater the strife), relative deprivation as potential is transformed into violence through a series of intervening variables. Because of this, even negative correlations would not invalidate the theory. Therefore no empirical correlations between deprivation and strife alone would invalidate this assumed relationship.

In a later part of his paper, Gurr regresses strife onto his measures of relative deprivation and of legitimacy, tradition of strife, regime's coercive control, strength of institutions and their facilitation, and accounts for 64% of the variation in total strife. This is a practically and statistically significant result. The result is undermined, however, by the inclusion of variables whose measurement in part depends on the prior existence of civil strife. For example, his independent variables are tradition of civil strife, facilitation (in part "the supplies provided rebels during the 1961-65 period"), and size of regime's forces weighted by loyalty (in part measured by "the length of time since the last forceful intervention of the military and police against the regime, and the frequency with which they resorted to illicit force in the 1961-65 period"). Thus the multiple regression results might be explained by a theory simpler than Gurr's: strife leads to more strife.

The problem with Gurr's tests lies in the distance between his measures and his concept of relative deprivation. A more sensitive test was done by Portes (1974) using sample survey results (which do get at subjective dispositions) from Chilean slums, during 1968-1969. He found differences in expectation of goal fulfillment and subjective frustration to be unrelated to leftist radicalism. Rather than frustration resulting from relative deprivation being crucial, the important variable is "structural blame," the imputation of responsibility to the government or socioeconomic system for perceived deprivation. On structural blame and the secondary importance of relative deprivation, see also Portes and Ross (1974) and Halebsky (1974). The latter is a useful review of the relevant literature.

Incidentally, well worth pondering is Portes' (1974) explanation of the scope and persistence of the belief in relative deprivation as a cause of aggression or radicalism. He sees much of the literature as post factum justification of successful revolution.

7. Incidentally, consistent with the findings discussed in Section 35.2 (of Chapter 35 in The Dynamic Psychological Field), he found that education increased the sense of relative deprivation in status (p. 102). This should caution those who assume, in using an aggregate measure of education, that higher educational opportunity means lesser deprivation.

8. For reference to much of this literature, see Gurr (1970, Chapter 2).

9. The manner of geometrically projecting the income-interest vector onto the two normative vectors may be unfamiliar. The two normative vectors are oblique. Therefore the projections on one of the oblique vectors are drawn parallel to the other vector.

10. The vector diagrams with attendant mathematics could be considered to be a mathematical model of Runciman's reference group approach to relative deprivation. I am not sure, however, that Runciman would accept the underlying assumptions of my approach involving vectors of powers, the need components, the calculus of interests and corresponding attitudinal lattice, and the psychological field.

For citations see the Vol. 3: Conflict in Perspective REFERENCES

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