What Causes Social Intolerance?

Category: Immigration, Tolerance
Last Updated: 17 Aug 2022
Pages: 10 Views: 1644

‘Across multiple disciplines in the social sciences, the study of social inequality represents a prominent area of research. ’ Social tolerance has commonly factored as a point of political study. This can be seen as a result of an increasingly pluralistic society, which encompasses vast elements of race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality and general diversity. Due to this greater emphasis has been cast upon the concept toleration. To a degree this can be perceived as a result of globalization, which has seen a vast influx of people from low income to high-income countries.

Social intolerance can also be viewed within a historical context, for example a prominent area of study is the Nazi Germany treatment of the Jewish race, as well as modern day relations. Throughout my study, I am going to break down with the help of political research, what the main causes of social intolerance are, as the issue of social tolerance continues to be prominent within today’s societies across the globe. There are varying arguments regarding what is the root cause of such intolerance, however, we must recognize that the effects of social intolerance is one which is hard to quantify.

This is because ‘how one responds to a survey question concerning attitudes toward a group will not accurately reflect how the respondent will react when encountering an individual from that group. ’ Therefore it is questionable to what degree we can rely on surveys, as often people responses do not always reflect true attitudes, as people can be dishonest, or answer in ways they believe to be more appealing than their true feelings. Social tolerance is a somewhat broad concept. As argued by Professor Popper, ‘Toleration is a necessary consequence of our being human we are all products of frailty: fallible and prone to error.

Order custom essay What Causes Social Intolerance? with free plagiarism report

feat icon 450+ experts on 30 subjects feat icon Starting from 3 hours delivery
Get Essay Help

So let us mutually pardon each other’s follies. ’ Thus meaning that we are all subject to such a disposition. Susan Mendes defines tolerance as an appeal to the propriety of allowing each individual to pursue his own life in whichever way he thinks best for him. This justification often refers to the requirement that we show respect for persons as autonomous agents. Such descriptions of tolerance infer that open-mindedness is a crucial condition for peace and stability and a balanced co-existence. It places emphasis upon the individual’s role within society and their responsibility to act in accordance.

There is also a moral element in relation to such attitudes ‘a principled recognition that the “others” have rights even if the exercise those rights in unattractive ways. ’ Within my study, I will be drawing upon research data from previous experiments, and will be using data from the European Social Survey, as the areas I have been predominantly looking at are within Europe and on a personal level, this information is relative to where I live. I believe that ultimately one of the main elements of social intolerance are based amidst certain elements of the demographic.

I believe characteristics such as age, religion, education and region shape our prejudices. Our society is ever evolving and broadening, and diversity has become a way of life to many. However, I believe that the older more sheltered and less educated population are more likely to be less tolerant and likely to support false and negative stereotypes, this is because they are less likely to engage with individuals from said groups, therefore they are more likely to support negative stereotypes, and integration helps eliminate such prejudice. Research suggests that those with education, who live in urban areas, or are religious liberals tend to hold more positive attitudes’ I believe that these views will be reflected in on the European Social Survey regarding ‘Qualifying for Immigration’. I am going to focus on the variables demonstrating the influences of economic considerations as well as nationality, as these reflect further arguments demonstrated within my essay. ‘The immigrant is committed to the way of life in the country they are moving to’. The results support the idea that the immigrant being committed to the way of life ‘is extremely important’ across Europe.

It also supports the belief that although economic factors are important, in relation to the immigrant assimilating to the nation states way of life, and both tie in with the arguments regarding social identity. (See Appendix 1 & 2) Social identity theory states that an integral element of an individuals’ sense of who they are is based upon groups that they belong to or identify with. This concept of identity can be related to various levels, such as nationality, ethnicity, religion, color or other characteristics. The result of this is that individuals are able to place themselves within groups that embody such characteristics.

Individuals can maintain membership of more than one group. Social Identity theory believes that ‘humans define themselves, as well as others, largely in terms of the social groups to which they belong’. Social intolerance can be seen to develop from relations between different groups, ‘One of the major motivational assumptions of social identity theory is that all people will strive to achieve a positive social identity. ’ As a result of the desire for positive affiliation, to evaluate their own group positively, they are often – though not always motivated to evaluate other groups negatively.

This underpins the tendency for social tensions to develop, as it is often installed by the conviction that certain groups are superior. Pressures therefore often arise, as groups believe that the positive elements within ones own group needs to be protected from the negative influences attributed to others. This can result in social prejudice and discrimination where ‘subordinate groups have predominantly negative stereotypic attributions when evaluated by dominant group members. ’ Social dominance theory begins with the observation that all human societies are inherently group-based hierarchies and are inherently oppressive.

This therefore means that social intolerance is derived from the hierarchal structure of society, which is composed of domineering group-based structure. Grouping reflects the differing elements within society, such as nation states, races, class, ethnicity, religion, etc. It is believed that only certain individuals are able to be obtain positions of power, and certain characteristics are deemed necessary, such as intelligence. Within this theory it is believed that men are more suited to domineering positions of group power than women.

In order for this there are ‘Hierarchy –enhancing environments are social contexts that encourage or reinforce the acceptance and support for social inequality. ’ Legitimising myths are a way in which hierarchal order can be maintained; they are seen as ‘attitudes, values, beliefs, or ideologies that provide moral and intellectual support to and justification for the group’. To phrase it differently, legitimising myths are seen as a way in which discrimination and intolerance can be justified in order to promote structure.

This theory is clearly limited in its views, as it does little to explain outer group relationships which may go against the grain of hierarchy. It can be seen that to a certain degree we do construct such social orders within society, but this theory is far too totalitarian and does not fit well within society as it does not explain a magnitude of group relationships. Group conflict theory, as is demonstrated in Sherif and Horland’s Robbers Case Experiment (1954) helps reflect the tensions that can arise through group competition.

The Robber’s Cave experiment, between two groups of young middle class boys concluded that ‘intergroup competition rather quickly leads to ethnocentrism and group conflict, but increases levels of inter-group morale, cohesiveness, and cooperation as well. ’ This experiment supports the belief that groups compete and conflict, as these ‘are largely functions of “realistic” competition between groups over scarce resources. ’ It’s therefore supports the rational choice theory that humans are predisposed to act selfishly and intolerance is often a product of this.

For instance if a group hinders another’s best interests either economically, politically or socially, this can cause an out lash of intolerance. Threat to national identity can be seen as a motivating factor in anti immigrant sentiment. It can often be hard for new immigrants to assimilate into another country’s culture, as often issues especially those such as religion and race can make assimilation difficult. The Sniderman study into Dutch culture draws to attention and quantifies these perceived threats to society and identity regarding new immigrants.

Sniderman argues that the perceived threat to culture overrides economic threats ‘perceiving a threat to Dutch culture has by the far largest impact in provoking hostility. ’ He argues however that positive economic conditions, as seen within the Netherlands, results in the greater perceived threat against culture. This perceived threat is reflected in Sniderman’s research, which shows that four of every five Dutch want to stiffen immigration requirements when immigrants do not speak Dutch fluently and do not have a good chance to fit in smoothly ith Dutch culture, compared to two of five when they do. To look at the causes of social intolerance, we ought to look more closely at the psychology of the individual.

Experimental research has demonstrated that unspoken racial attitudes exist even for individuals who score low on the measures of explicit racial prejudice and these beliefs influence judgements and perceptions. This can be reflected in survey results, as deep within our consciousness, as we are, to a certain extent, affected by the stereotypes and hierarchies that surround us. The psychological view is that implicit racial stereotypes and prejudices are held by everyone because they are part of how the human mind works in the context of a culture including stereotypical representations. ’ The question therefore is, how do we develop such a consciousness? It can be seen through a number of studies which point towards ‘stereotypical portrayals in the media and analyze the history of these portrayals’. It can also be seen that from a young age, those around us, for instance parents and social groups, influence our ideals.

We can be seen to adapt to the beliefs of others through the ‘process of self-selection (i. e. , the process by which individuals within a peer group influence each other and become more similar on a characteristic over time). These beliefs can manifest into discriminatory treatment, for example in the understanding of ‘implicit prejudice studies suggest that even among persons who hold sincere belief in race blindness, images and depictions of racial groups learned beginning in childhood are influential on their thinking’.

These attitudes can come to surface in particular situations, for instance job discrimination. The regular use of symbols can help change and condition the way in which we think, and can without knowing perforate into our consciousness. ‘Symbolic predispositions are usually strong attitudes normally acquired through classical conditioning in early life. ’ It can therefore be seen as a lengthy and gradual process.

The careful use of symbols can play to different ideals of the human condition, for instance certain symbols, such as flags, can install a sense of patriotism and pride, but in contrast, they can also be used to represent social evils, such as the Nazi swastika. People can also be used as symbolic images to install emotion and can represent social freedom, strength and empowerment, as seen through the imagery of Jesus and Martin Luther King, Jr. However, symbols can carry what seems like disproportionate power and can be used to, ‘evoke and mobilize human emotions. Virtually every war in America has been fought around such rallying symbols. Symbols can be manipulated and spun in order to represent something more credible, an example of this is the British National Party, rousing up symbolic patriotic imagery of Winston Churchill and the Union flag to help motivate emotion and support in regards to their immigration policies.

Symbols can be used as a tool to play on fear, and can therefore help to breed intolerance by appealing to people’s emotions. It has previously been argued that increased amounts of immigration has generated greater racial friction, it was believed that ‘a superordinate group (e. . , whites) becomes more racially hostile as the size of the proximate subordinate group increases, which punitively threatens the former’s economic and social privilege (Oliver and Wong 2003, 568)’. Therefore it can be seen that the increased levels of immigration generates greater social intolerance. However, in contrast to this argument, recent studies have contended that actually ‘increased contact makes it difficult for groups to accept typically negative stereotypes and also increases the probability of both groups’ holding shared values (Forbes 1997). This supports the belief that racial segregation contributes considerably to social intolerance, as it is believed through integration and contact, negative stereotypes and general ignorance can be dispelled when personal relationships are developed. I believe that is a vital factor in the promotion of inter-group relations, that a greater emphasis is played on increased contact. Even though higher immigration levels can cause anti-sentiment, I believe this predominantly affects highly segregated areas, as can be seen within parts of the United States.

Economic factors can be a key feature contributing to attitudes of social intolerance. This can be seen upon a personal as well as a collective level. The degree one feels affected by economic threats can be seen as objective, it is argued that ‘opposition to immigrants is rooted ultimately in the economic logic of people’s situations. ’ Therefore it can often be perceived that attitudes to immigrant minorities regarding economic factors are determined by individualistic circumstances. This is evident in regards to unemployment and financial instability.

People who can be perceived to be in an awkward financial situation are therefore more likely to be less tolerant, as they are more prone to support the belief that immigration has contributed to their own lack of welfare, jobs and resources. It should not be overlooked that economic factors contribute towards intolerant sentiment, especially as it involves the concept of promoting self-interest. But immigration can also contribute to economic success as reflected through Locke’s line of argument for toleration in regards to Huguenot refugees ‘claiming that the refugees should be accepted since they would bring economic advantages to England. Therefore it must be understood that causality can run both ways. Changes within the demographic can also be seen to have a prominent effect on attitudes towards social tolerance. ‘Research suggests that those with more education, who live in urban areas, or are religious liberals tend to hold more positive attitudes’ Greater education is a vital way in which social intolerance can be controlled. This is mainly due to the enlightenment education casts upon the collective ills and ignorance’s of elements of society which often results in discrimination and social intolerance.

Greater toleration can be seen as a result of living in urban areas, as they are more likely to offer diversity and promote assimilation. This supports the social contact theory, which argues that ‘The presence of a large minority population in a highly integrated area will result in more interracial contact, initiating a corrective for the hostility that threat otherwise produces. ’ Both these lines of argument support the theory that segregation helps install greater social intolerance, as through racial integration, individuals can break through barriers such as misconstrued racial stereotypes and prejudice.

In conclusion, a common theme throughout has been the presence of different factions within society. Groups have provided the basis for division, therefore resulting in competition, generating all different causes of social intolerance. Ultimately I believe that one of the greatest factors which has contributed to one of the most predominant reasons for social intolerance is the lack of interaction between groups, especially those of race. This has meant that different cultures and groups have found it difficult to assimilate especially within Western society, this has resulted in a lack of understanding and empathy between cultures.

This I believe has helped enforce stereotypes bridging a further gap, and therefore greater levels of intolerance. However, ultimately we as individuals need to break these boundaries. From a young age, imagery and symbols are presented to one another, and walls are built between the different sects. However, they can be broken down and proper stable relations can be built between groups, helping a respect and cultural understanding, ultimately resulting in less causations for social intolerance.

Cite this Page

What Causes Social Intolerance?. (2017, May 09). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/causes-social-intolerance/

Don't let plagiarism ruin your grade

Run a free check or have your essay done for you

plagiarism ruin image

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Save time and let our verified experts help you.

Hire writer