Foe - Enemies As A Function of Social Science

Enemies As A Function of Social Science

The existence or perceived existence of a collective enemy tends to increase the cohesiveness of the group. However, the identification and treatment of other entities as enemies may be irrational, and a sign of a psychological dysfunction. For example, group polarization may devolve into groupthink, which may lead members of the "in" group to perceive nonmembers or other groups as enemies even where the others present neither antagonism nor an actual threat. Paranoid schizophrenia is characterized by the irrational belief that other people, ranging from family members and personal acquaintances to celebrities seen on television, are personal enemies plotting harm to the sufferer. Irrational approaches may extend to treating impersonal phenomena not merely as conceptual enemies, but as sentient actors intentionally bringing strife to the sufferer.

The concept of the enemy is well covered in the field of Peace and conflict studies, which is available as a major at many major universities. In Peace studies, enemies are those entities who are perceived as frustrating or preventing achievement of a goal. The enemy may not even know they are being regarded as such, since the concept is one-sided.

Thus, in order to achieve peace, one must eliminate the enemy. This can be achieved by either by:

  • destroying the enemy
  • changing one's perception of an entity as enemy
  • achieving the goal the enemy is frustrating

Personal conflicts are frequently either unexamined (one's goals are not well defined) or examined only from one point of view. This means it is often possible to resolve conflict (to 'eliminate' the enemy) by redefining goals such that the frustration (not the person) is either eliminated, obvious, negotiated away, or decided upon.

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