The Role of Anger in the Consciousness Development of Peace Activists: Where Physiology and History Intersect

by David Adams

Reprinted from International Journal of Psychophysiology,
Volume 4, page 157-164
© 1986, with permission from Elsevier Science


The focus of this paper concerns the role of anger in the development of consciousness in peace activists. By looking at this from 3 perspectives we can see an intersection of physiology and history. Looked at most closely, anger is a physiological event that recurs in the life of an individual. From a broader perspective, anger plays a critical role and a particular step in the development of consciousness. And from the broadest perspective, we may see how individual peace activists play a role in history by helping to resolve those contradictions (such as the present one between war and peace) by which history jerks its way forward. To put the proposition most carefully, it will be argued that anger is the personal fuel in the social motor that resolves the institutional contradictions that arise in the course of history. The materials on which this paper is based come from two sources. First is the study I have conducted in recent years on the development of consciousness in peace activists. Wishing to contribute my scientific skills to the peace movement, I have analyzed autobiographies of famous peace activists and oral histories of contemporary activists in Connecticut where I live. Since results from both the autobiographies and the oral histories are similar for present purposes, I will not make any distinction between them. The second source of material is the work that I and other researchers have conducted for many years on the brain mechanisms, behavioral complexities and evolutionary trends of aggressive behavior in rats, cats and monkeys. This material has been extensively published and is referred to in the bibliography (Adams, 1979, 1980).

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