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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The Economy of Vengeance; Some Considerations on the Aetiology and Meaning of the Business of Revenge

Throughout the history of mankind, revenge and vengeance have been deeply ingrained in our social fabric and richly portrayed in literature, music, drama, and film. Vengeance can be understood as a defence against annihilation anxieties, stimulated by the reactivation of injuries and losses experienced earlier in the lifetime of a system, fed by an institution's inability to acknowledge guilt and to integrate love and hate, and driven by the desire for 'repair' via retaliation. As open and direct acts of both revenge and violence are largely taboo, they are broadly denied in contemporary society at large and in organizations in particular. Despite that denial, the underlying feelings and the desire to persecute remain real. Thus revenge often is wreaked unconsciously by sophisticated and hidden means. This article is guided by the working hypothesis that vengeance from a socio-analytic perspective is a psychosocial phenomenon and a dynamic of the collective, that is, the community or polis of related people. In social (political and economic) contexts, its inherent aggression and annihilation is often hidden behind an apparent logic of rationality, justice, and competition.