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Society consists of numerous interconnected, interacting, and interdependent groups. Of the many dimensions that differentiate these groups, perhaps the most important are power and status. The consequences of belonging to a larger, more powerful “majority” group versus a smaller, less powerful “minority” group can be profound, and the tensions that arise between these two kinds of groups are the root of society's most difficult problems. To understand the origins of these problems and to develop solutions for them, it is critical to understand the dynamics of majority–minority relations.
Social psychological research on intergroup relations has tended to assume (either explicitly or implicitly) that (a) majorities have more impact on minorities than vice versa, and (b) it is more important, for both theoretical and applied reasons, to understand the cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses of majorities than of minorities. In recent years, however, these two assumptions have been challenged, with the result that increasing attention is being devoted to how minorities influence majorities and how minorities respond to majorities' (often negative) reactions toward them. For example, research indicates that numerical minorities can exert influence when they adopt particular behavioral styles (e.g., Moscovici, Lage, & Naffrechoux, 1969) and that members of stigmatized minorities, such as African-Americans, perform worse on standardized intellectual tests when negative stereotypes of their group are made salient (e.g., Steele & Aronson, 1995).
In October 2007, the Nobel Committee awarded its Peace Prize jointly to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the American politician Al Gore “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change” (Nobel Foundation, 2008). This award represented the first unambiguous statement by the Committee of the importance of defending the environment. True, the 2004 Peace Prize given to Wangari Maathai mentioned her contributions to sustainable development, but the primary criterion for the award was her work on behalf of “democracy, human rights and women's rights in particular” (Nobel Foundation, 2008). Thus, the 2007 award can be considered a milestone in the decades-old struggle to bring attention to the harmful effects of human activities on the environment, a recognition that environmentalists have been waiting for a long time.
Or can it? Are the ecology activists who have fought for the preservation of the environment for decades – by joining the words “green” and “peace”, by demonstrating in the streets, by chaining themselves to gates, by spending time in jail – pleased with the 2007 award? Do they feel happy with this highly visible recognition of the cause for which they have so long fought? Or do they feel bitter disappointment that the prize was awarded, not to one or more of their organizations, but instead to two relative newcomers to the cause – an intergovernmental panel and a professional politician?
Society consists of numerous interconnected, interacting, and interdependent groups, which differ in power and status. The consequences of belonging to a more powerful, higher-status 'majority' versus a less powerful, lower-status 'minority' can be profound, and the tensions that arise between these groups are the root of society's most difficult problems. To understand the origins of these problems and develop solutions for them, it is necessary to understand the dynamics of majority-minority relations. This volume brings together leading scholars in the fields of stigma, prejudice and discrimination, minority influence, and intergroup relations to provide diverse theoretical and methodological perspectives on what it means to be a minority. The volume, which focuses on the strategies that minorities use in coping with majorities, is organized into three sections: 'Coping with Exclusion: Being Excluded for Who You Are'; 'Coping with Exclusion: Being Excluded for What You Think and Do'; and 'Coping with Inclusion'.
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