'Ontological insecurity' and 'terror management': Linking two free-floating anxieties

  • van Marle F
  • Maruna S
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Abstract

In this article, we seek to clarify and develop the concept of ontological insecurity by linking it to the better developed, empirical literature on 'terror management theory' in social psychology. We argue that the understanding of both ontological insecurity and terror management can be improved through this overdue integration. In particular, merging these literatures can have important explanatory power when it comes to understanding punitive attitudes. The considerable body of empirical evidence that has been gathered to validate the proposition behind terror management theory can be understood as providing indirect support for the concept of ontological insecurity on an individual level. On the other hand, the macrosociological research on ontological insecurity provides the largely decontextualized, laboratory-based literature on terror management with a well-developed understanding of why 'terror management' has become increasingly important in late modern society. © The Author(s), 2010.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Conservatism
  • Ontological insecurity
  • Public opinion
  • Punitiveness
  • Terror management theory

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Authors

  • Fenna van Marle

  • Shadd Maruna

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