SOC SCI H1F Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Rodney King, Sigmund Freud, Maximilien Robespierre
Course CodeSOC SCI H1F
ProfessorWilliam R Schonfeld
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SocCore H1F Lecture #1
Two views of human nature
● Constrained view: Human beings need external structures and restrictions in order to
behave well. This includes law, customs, traditions, and religions that are built up slowly
and organically in local communities. Radical reformers can destroy them. Leaders of
governments should be held under checks and balances. This is a pessimistic view,
humans are not always looking out for your benefit but are sometimes in it for
○ Robespierre and the French Revolution, later came Napoleon.
○ The Constitution was written with the constrained view in mind.
○ Freud took the constrained view
● Unconstrained view: Human nature is malleable and can be improved, perfected.
Anything is possible. If the artificial constraints on human beings are removed they will
be removed from petty rivalries that cause war and competitions. If we screw up, it is at
the fault of environmental conditions.
○ Rousseau took the unconstrained view
Sigmund Freud and the Constrained View
● If it brings you great riches and profit to kill someone else and you would never get
caught, how many of us would do it.
● Freud used a phrase: Narcissism of minor differences
○ No matter how intimate of a relationship we have with another human being,
except some turmoil and hostility. There will be differences of opinion, bickering,
○ Genocides involve conflicts between people that are very similar. Rowandan
genocide, cambodian genocide, etc. This brings us to the issue of Poland and the
town of Jedwabne. Christian citizens decided to murder 1600 Jewish citizens that
they knew very well. They were neighbors. What happened to government that
allowed this to occur? What happened to our moral values, they murdered
children, what changed their values for life?
Rodney King Riots
● Early 1990’s - African Americans rioted over the killing. They broke into stores, that were
often owned by Asian Americans, and they got guns to defend their property. Police
officers, that were mostly caucasian, came in to break this up. People saw this on TV,
and in a time and society that was embracing diversity, people became suddenly
● How does this happen? How are we ready to go at one another for reasons nothing
more than race? This is what happened in Poland in Jedwabne.
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