Monday, 7 September 2015

The -ism Series (22): Collective Narcissism

"An inflated belief in one’s own superiority and the need of its constant recognition and validation by others are characteristic for narcissism. This narcissism is collective, rather than individual, when the beliefs concern a group. Thus, collective narcissism is defined as an emotional investment in a belief about the unparalleled greatness of one’s own group that is contingent on continuous validation from others."
Golec de Zavala et al. (n.d.)

Collective narcissism means favouring one's own group, an attitude that is often accompanied by hostility against other groups (Golec de Zavala, 2012). German sociologist, philosopher and musicologist Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969) borrowed from Freud when analysing the phenomenon of Nazism and adopted his view that groups often act as a "negatively integrating force" since negative emotions towards "the other", out-groups such as people with a different religion or skin tone, offer a narcissistic gain for followers. Just belonging to the in-group makes them "better, higher, and purer than those who are excluded". Weak egos benefit from this mechanism as collective narcissism is the compensation for social powerlessness when members of the in-group turn themselves "either in fact or imagination to which they attribute qualities which they themselves lack and from which they profit by vicarious participation" (Cook, 2008). Another "advantage" is that people can be narcissistic about almost any social group they (feel they) belong to. In other words, there are a great many situations in which one can demonstrate collective narcissism (Golec de Zavala, 2012).

"(...) collective narcissism is exaggerated, but insecure, collective self-esteem. It consists of a very high regard for and glorification of the group. This is accompanied by a conviction that others do not appreciate the group’s greatness sufficiently and, consequently, treat it unfairly. Importantly, collective narcissism is related to self-reported, high esteem of the group accompanied by a lack of its positive regard on the implicit level: a level of automatic and uncontrolled evaluations that are not fully accessible to conscious reflection. In other words, collective narcissists, possibly, doubt the greatness of their group quite unconsciously. Even if they are aware of these doubts they do not acknowledge them. Instead, they report high certainty of their positive opinion about their group."
Golec de Zavala (2012)

- Cook, D. (2008) Theodor W. Adorno: an introduction. In Cook, D. (ed.) Theodor Adorno, 3-20, Key Concepts. New York: Routledge
- Golec de Zavala, A. (2012). Collective narcissism. In D. J. Christie (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Peace Psychology. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell.
- Golec de Zavala, A., Cichocka, A. & Iskra-Golec, I. (n.d.) Collective Narcissism Moderates the Effect of In-group Image Threat on Intergroup Hostility. online
- photographs by Bruce Gilden via and via and via and via