Scapegoat Theory Explained with Examples – Sociology

Scapegoat theory is all about blaming others for one’s own faults. Making someone a scapegoat means blaming him for one’s own failures and problems.

In order to understand the Scapegoat Theory, we need to understand the meaning of the scapegoat.

Google Dictionary defines a Scapegoat as,

A person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, especially for reasons of expediency; (OR) to put blame on someone making him a scapegoat

The psychological motive behind making someone a scapegoat is to save one’s own face and image.

Origin of the Term “Scapegoat”

The term Scapegoat has its origins in the Bible in the book of Leviticus. It is a reference to the goat that was sent to the wilderness carrying the sins of the entire community. Therefore, a person or group who carries the burden of others’ sins, mistakes, faults, etc. is referred to as a scapegoat.

Scapegoat Theory explained with Examples

The application of the Scapegoat theory is common in the interactions of individuals, groups, and even countries.

For example, at the individual level, a person usually blames his team members for the poor performance of the team. A teacher would blame the students for poor results. In a similar way, in the case of a road accident, the involved drivers would never take the blame or responsibility for the accident. Rather, they will accuse each other.

Similarly, scapegoating has been a common phenomenon among groups too. The car drivers tend to blame trucks and rickshaws for all the traffic chaos in the city. On the other hand, truck drivers would blame bikers and car drivers.

The higher strata of society would blame the lower class for the crimes in society. The lower class would blame the higher class for all sorts of corruption and exploitation in society. No matter what, each one is equally involved in it.

Similarly, the governments in countries always tend to blame each other for the poor economic condition of the country. For example, for any country that is performing poorly in terms of economy, the government would always tend to blame the policies of the previous government for this condition. As the president of the USA, Joe Biden puts the blame on the policies of ex-president Donald Trump. Similarly, Trump used to blame Barack Obama for all the mess in the country.

Similarly, countries have always been scapegoating each other for their own failures on the global stage. The perfect example of scapegoat theory is how the USA puts the blame for its failures in Afghanistan on Pakistan. Likewise, when the USA failed to contain COVID-19 at home, it thoroughly blamed China for its spread and havoc.

Wrapping Up

In short, we make other people and groups a scapegoat because we do not want to own responsibility for problems. Shifting blames to others is a favorite pastime of all. I failed because of him; we hold others responsible for our problems and failures. This is what scapegoat theory explains.

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