Systems Justification Theory (new glossary entry)

Better put your thinking cap on for this one! (I had to read it three times!!)

…In plain English, risk aversion and desire for comfort lead to rationalizing one’s own social position (for better or worse) to justify the status quo rather than push back….here’s the long form…

System justification theory (SJT) is a theory within social psychology that serves a psychologically palliative function. It proposes that people have several underlying needs, which vary from individual to individual, that can be satisfied by the defense and justification of the status quo, even when the system may be disadvantageous to certain people. People have epistemic, existential, and relational needs that are met by and manifest as ideological support for the prevailing structure of social, economic, and political norms. Need for order and stability, and thus resistance to change or alternatives, for example, can be a motivator for individuals to see the status quo as good, legitimate, and even desirable.

According to system justification theory, people desire not only to hold favorable attitudes about themselves (ego-justification) and the groups to which they belong (group-justification), but also to hold positive attitudes about the overarching social structure in which they are entwined and find themselves obligated to (system-justification). This system-justifying motive sometimes produces the phenomenon known as out-group (as opposed to in-group) favoritism, an acceptance of inferiority among low-status groups and a positive image of relatively higher status groups. Thus, the notion that individuals are simultaneously supporters and victims of the system-instilled norms is a central idea in system justification theory. Additionally, the passive ease of supporting the current structure, when compared to the potential price (material, social, psychological) of acting out against the status quo, leads to a shared environment in which the existing social, economic, and political arrangements tend to be preferred. Alternatives to the status quo tend to be disparaged, and inequality tends to perpetuate.

Reminds me of Candide: “This is the best of all possible worlds.”…

There is definitely a “social justice” tone to this theory that is repugnant to us libertarians, but it seems to me there are plenty of injustices in our society that lend themselves to truly just solutions yet are not pursued because people don’t want to risk coming out behind or fear not being able to handle the uncertainty they perceive comes with freedom.

This seems to go hand in hand with a phenomenon I noticed awhile back and dubbed manufacturing advocacy.

(I first heard of social justification theory from Gearóid Ó Colmáin.)

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3 Responses to Systems Justification Theory (new glossary entry)

  1. Tony says:

    After reading this, I’m pretty sure I’m one of the people they’re talking about as I got lost after the first paragraph. 😀

  2. Norman says:

    This is the way it’s always been , so this is the way it will always be – the Peacock family from the home episode of the X Files ……. One only needs an “easy” button to justify anything , literally anything at all. What is the most easy of all easy buttons ??? God. Anything you don’t understand ? God is a great answer. Anything you don’t like ? God works. Any thing you disagree with ? God will fix it. Think im wrong ? Go tell God about it. Remember Alah Alah Alawa Akbar !!!!!!

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