SOC 2280 Lecture Notes - White Southerners, Social Forces, Adolf Hitler
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Prejudice and Discrimination
• Prejudice – a negative attitude, or prejudgment, applied to an entire category of people, such as the
poor, women, and racial minorities.
• Discrimination – an act of unfair or unequal treatment directed against an individual or a group.
1) Individual Discrimination – negative treatment of one person by another on the basis of perceived
2) Institutional/Systemic Discrimination – negative treatment of a minority group that is built into
Theories of Prejudice
1) Scapegoating Theory argues that people who face prejudice are society’s victims. This theory suggests
that people transfer the responsibility for a failure to some vulnerable group. For example, Adolph Hitler
used the Jews as the scapegoat for all German social and economic ills in the 1930s. Similarly,
immigrants in the United States are often blamed by “real Americans” for their failures to get jobs or
secure desirable housing.
– Scapegoating theory fails to explain why a certain group is selected or why frustration is not taken out
on the real culprit when possible.
2) Authoritarian Personality Theory argues that some people have a personality type that is likely to
manifest prejudice. - Theodore Adorno and his research team claimed to have isolated the basic
characteristics of the authoritarian personality, which developed from an early childhood of harsh
1) adherence to conventional values
2) uncritical acceptance to authority
3) concern with power and toughness
- A child with an authoritarian upbringing obeyed and then later treated others as he or she had been
- Adorno’s study has been widely criticized on numerous grounds, including the equation of
authoritarianism with right-wing politics, its failure to see that prejudice is more closely connected to
other characteristics (e.g., social class), and the concentration on factors behind extreme racial prejudice
rather than more common expressions of hostility.
3) Exploitation Theory is a part of the Marxist tradition; it views racial subordination in the United States
as a manifestation of the class system inherent in capitalism.