Some people just want to watch the world burn: the prevalence, psychology and politics of the ‘Need for Chaos’ (Kevin Arceneaux, Timothy B. Gravelle, Mathias Osmundsen, Michael Bang Petersen, Jason Reifler and Thomas J. Scotto, 22 February 2021, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society)

Across all four countries, most people fell in the Low Chaos category and few people fell in the High Chaos category, but combining the Rebuild and High Chaos categories showed that there is support for some degree of chaos-seeking at around 20% in the four Anglo-Saxon countries. Is this something that should be worrying from a normative standpoint? We believe that the Latent Profile Analysis helps answer this question. If 20% of a country yearned for a violent overthrow of the current system, it would be worrying, but it seems that a considerable fraction of this 20% does not want destruction for the sake of destruction, but rather they imagine rebuilding society’s institutions in a way that does not involve violence. We leave aside whether their particular vision is a ‘good’ one, and simply note that most Utopian visions begin with the notion that society must be remade in some fundamental way.

We then turned our attention to exploring whether demographic and political characteristics help differentiate who falls in the different latent profile categories. Echoing previous research, we found evidence that chaos-seeking tends to be higher among the young, men and those with less than a college degree. Interestingly, we did not find consistent differences in terms of demographics between the Rebuilder and High Chaos subtypes. This would suggest that chaos-seekers, whether they like destruction for the sake of destruction or not, may be motivated by a sense of marginalization and grievance that exists at high levels in Western society today [7].

We also found that individuals who identify as Right wing were also more likely to fall in the High Chaos category, yet when we turned our attention to the political preferences of these individuals, the only consistent pattern that emerged was a dislike of immigration. Consistent with [8], we do not find much evidence that individuals in the High Chaos category are idealistic visionaries who want to dismantle social and political institutions to build a better world. Our evidence was much more consistent with the results of previous research that paint individuals high on the NFCChaos scale as nihilists who are only looking out for themselves. In contrast, individuals who fell in the Rebuild category did seem to have something approaching a social outlook. They do not like new lifestyles and, in the USA, they are not fans of capitalism. Perhaps these individuals want to replace established political institutions to make the world a better place (at least their view of what constitutes ‘better’.).