Many studies have investigated how to get individuals to obey external authority, as noted in the obedience experiments (Miller, 1986). But next to none have investigated how individuals obey their conscience as they act as members of a group committed to taking nonviolent courageous action in the defense of ethical principles and the public interest. The present study investigates the situational group context and group dynamics that allow individuals to act in concert with others to carry out ethical goals, even at personal cost to themselves.
There is a psychological and sociological phenomenon that is rife in our political and social context today. Scapegoating is a process of social exclusion that begins with the projection of negative attributes and traits onto one person or class of persons with the intent of rejecting their right of membership in the group. Such projection arouses fears of rejection and annihilation in those who are scapegoated. It must be emphasized that scapegoating is always a group phenomenon.
Those of us who have dedicated our professional lives to the study of group therapy and group processes realize the limitations of our work. Group therapists understand that our patients cannot make deep personal changes in a group unless it consists of individuals who are willing to travel with them along an uncertain path of questioning their own beliefs about themselves and the roles they play in their family and culture. Earl Hopper and Haim Weinberg, by editing this book, are challenging readers to do just that: to join with them and explore the unconscious side of the social matrix that influences their behavior in their own culture. The authors speak of this social matrix as a Foundation Matrix that encompasses the social interactions, beliefs, and self-defining myths and folklore peculiar to a people or nation and lays the ground for the social unconscious.