Polarization and Moral Threat: Insights from Systemist Analysis

Ilona Goldner*, Pazit Ben-Nun Bloom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article presents a theoretical framework for understanding the social consequences of polarization-driven behaviors by conceptualizing them as a moral threat to the self. Our argument employs systemist graphics, illustrating key connections and patterns from two distinct scientific works. First, an analysis of polarization-driven behavior, which reveals Americans’ willingness to trade democratic values for partisan goals. Second, research on moral disengagement strategies, revealing the role of resentment as a coping mechanism in armed conflicts. We offer a synthesis analysis between these two studies and uncover a twofold role of morality in polarization: as a factor in forming partisan animosity and a catalyst in its perpetuation and intensification. We further highlight the role of outgroup hate, rather than ingroup love, in driving negative actions resulting from polarization, and the challenge of reconciling morally-driven conflicts. Our framework sheds new light on the complex interplay between morality and conflicts, with implications for social cohesion, erosion of moral values, and democratic backsliding.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number453
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • affective polarization
  • conflict resolution
  • democracy
  • moral disengagement
  • morality


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