Recent publication

A. de Swaan. The Global Coordination Problem: Collective Action among Unequal States, Historical Social Research 48 (1): 213-225, 2023

The Global Coordination Problem J of Hist Social Research

The most pressing problems facing mankind today require for their solution some form of worldwide collective action at the level of states. In order to combat the global threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, wealthy countries must cooperate to provide vaccines for people in low-in- come countries, if only to prevent these populations from becoming breeding grounds for new strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that will also endanger the richer nations. Another, even more pertinent case is the campaign against global warming, which requires concerted action by committed state regimes to curtail the worldwide emission of greenhouse gases. Such figurations give rise to the classic dilemmas of collective action. 

Recently published 

Abram de Swaan, Contre les Femmes; La montée d’une haine mondiale. Paris: 2021, éds. Le Seuil. Traduit par: Bertrand Abrahams. L’Express, 02-02-2021,

Abram de Swaan : “La haine monte chez les hommes qui refusent l’émancipation féminine”

Face au recul du modèle patriarcal, les tenants de l’ordre ancien ne désarment pas, analyse le sociologue Abram de Swaan. Fondamentalistes religieux et extrémistes de droite sont sur le pied de guerre. Hier te lezen….

Recently published


Over the past fifty years, education has improved, especially for girls and young women, and machines have taken over the heavy work traditionally done by men. This has liberated many women from dependence on men for financial support or physical protection and allowed them to flourish in the workplace. But now, men’s wounded pride is leading to tensions.

Swaan sees the rise of the new extreme right, Christian fundamentalism, and jihadism as a response to women’s liberation. This is his simple thesis, which he proves in three steps. His first section is a lucid overview of the many ways patriarchies exercise their ‘reign of terror’ over women. Girl babies are tossed out like rubbish, girls are forced to marry adult men (‘nothing more than legalized paedophilia’), and their genitals and faces are permanently mutilated. As young women, they face threats such as rape and honour killings. De Swaan avoids the fallacy of ‘anti-Islamic enthusiasm’, instead showing how all forms of dogmatism support the ideology of male supremacy and pointing out the many forms of male dominance that persist in the West.

The second section describes the unstoppable rise of women in today’s world, which he attributes mainly to educational reform. Women have made their way into all levels of the school and university system, even in countries where you would least expect it. And higher levels of education have been shown to raise women’s feminist consciousness, making them more likely to have fewer children.

While the inequalities between women and men remain very real, De Swaan points to the huge strides taken over the past forty years in areas such as politics, health care and the work force and explains why emancipation can only continue to spread.

This sets the stage for the groundbreaking third section, in which de Swaan sketches the origins of opposition to women’s liberation. He lays out the evidence for the surprising theory that such disparate groups as jihadists, evangelical Christians, Latin American machos, ultraorthodox Jews and the secular extreme right are entrenched in sexism and motivated by the same ‘male resentment’. Along the way, he offers glimpses of their terrifying misogynistic subcultures, such as the alt-right online forums where women are, at best, the bearers of ‘bouncing baby whites’.

In Against Women, Abram de Swaan steers a sure course through the minefields of contemporary cultural politics and never shies from confronting blind spots and prejudice, even his own.

  • Nominated for the Bookspot non-fiction prize 2019.

From the Press

An exceptionally lively and readable account that fearlessly makes its way through today’s political minefields with a mix of sociological insights, level-headed selfanalysis, and cut-the-crap reasoning. Trouw

De Swaan’s book is uninhibitedly political and activist. It forms the exact counterpart of the essay Thierry Baudet wrote for American Affairs under the title “Houellebecq’s Unfinished Critique of Liberal Modernity”. De Groene Amsterdammer


Against women; The worldwide war by rightists and jihadists against liberation (Eng. edition mid 2020)

Édition française début 2020 (éds.Le Seuil)



Abstract: The extreme and ‘alternative’ right are increasingly present on the internet and more and more also in extreme rightwing parties and in militant groups. Jihadist groups such as ISIS have suffered severe defeat but have by no means disappeared. Although the Islamists and the rightists hate each other passionately, they agree on quite a few issues. One among those is their shared resistance to women’s emancipation. Decoding their key concepts of ‘Volk’ (Nation) and Caliphate respectively reveals their staunch defense of women’s subordination within traditional family roles. Their advocacy of violent struggle and their insistence on the differences between men and women go against the tenets of pacification and increasing equality, essential elements of the civilizing process. But are rightists and jihadists, with their insistence on ’natural’ order and harmony, contributing to processes of ‘decivilization’? Or should their visions of society to come be considered as a conception of a different civilizing process, in which arrangements by choice and negotiation are abandoned in favor of arrangements conforming to an imposed religious or moral order?


University of Amsterdam | Abram de Swaan presents Sigmund Freud | AISSR Great Thinkers Series

‘The uses of Freud for social science: a personal account’, 20 november, 2018

Anthropologists and sociologists usually quote Sigmund Freud’s works on culture, religion and art, civilization and its discontents being the most important among them.

But Freud was, of course, also a practician who applied his own invention, ’the talking cure’: psychoanalytic therapy. And he was one of the great connaisseurs of the human psyche.

These more mundane and clinical aspects of Freud’s work even today have great practical implications for social science. Most useful for empirical work are his central concepts of ’transference’ and ‘countertransference’, as well as ‘repression’ and ‘defense’. All these notions have been transformed since Freud first proposed and applied them. In this presentation, De Swaan discusses how some kindred authors used Freud’s ideas and methods and how De Swaan went about it in his own work (especially on genocidal perpetrators).



Abram de Swaan, 2018, Before the catastroph [Før katastrofen] 

In: Anders Jericho and Cecile Felicia Stokholm Banke (eds.) Pre-Genocide; Warnings and Readiness to Protect, [Advarsler før folkedrab] Humanity in Action (Denmark), 2018; (Original Edition, Columbus 2018), p. 141

Presented at the Pre-Genocide – Warnings and Readiness to Protect Conference. Humanity in Action, ‘Sinatur’ Lyngby, Denmark, September 26 – 28, 2018

Genocides do not happen out of the blue. This conference focusses on the periods before the Holocaust and the Genocides in Armenia, Cambodia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Rwanda and Bosnia. What are the lessons learned? Is the world better prepared today?

Keynote speech

Course: European culture, heritage and citizenship: Strengthening European identity through education and culture, and how to manage it, 24th to the 28th of September 2018, at the Royal Monastery of Yuste. Organized by La Fundación Academia Europea e Iberoamericana de Yuste



Abram de Swaan – Recettes contre la pitié : comment éliminer la compassion dans les sociétés génocidaires. Seminar Soin et Compassion , 24 feb. 2017, Chaire de philosophie à  l’hotel Dieu, Paris


Abram DE SWAAN (University of Amsterdam): “How Ordinary are ‘Ordinary Perpetrators’? Notes on the Genocidal Mentality”, IEA  de Paris, 10 may 2017

“The Brains that pull the Triggers – 3rd Paris Conference on Syndrome E”: international conference convened by Itzhak Fried (Paris IAS / UCLA / Tel Aviv University) and Alain Berthoz (Collège de France), with the support of the Région Ile de France within the framework of the DIM Cerveau et Pensée, and the American University of Paris. The conference brought together scientists and scholars from the human, social and brain sciences to bear upon the question of transformation of seemingly ordinary individuals to repetitive agents of extreme violence in groups (Syndrome E). The menacing specter of such transformation in the human condition that has caused immense loss of life in the past, is a matter of grave concerns in contemporary civilization with the increase in global radicalization and discontent.



Abram De Swaan.Killing Compartments: The Mentality of Mass Murder. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015. Reviewed by David Simon (Yale University). Published on H-Diplo (October, 2015). H-net Reviews in the Humanities & Social Sciences

Artikelen The Islamic State: Humiliation, Shame, and Rage in Fundamentalism, A. de Swaan, Yale University Press, blog 25, February 2015

Interviews and Lectures

  • ‘Genocidi, il male non è mai banale’, intervista con Abram de Swaan di Guido Caserza, Il Mattino, 27-9-2015.  (English summary)
  • Abram de Swaan, Ein Gespräch über Europa: Europa ist es wert, die Werte des Westens zu verteidigen’, interview Ives Kugelmann, in 1 Aufbau, März/Feb, 2015
  • De Swaan on lecture tour on The Killing Compartments along the American East coast
  • Auschwitzlezing,  21 januari 2015, Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen, Amsterdam Abram de Swaan, ‘Nooit meer Auschwitz’   –    ‘Auschwitz Never Again’ 


Book review

The Unkindest Cut of All, by Stephen Budiansky, The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 9, 2015

Genocidaires, by Glenn C. Altschuler, The Huffington Post, Jan. 21, 2015