What is Intolerance?

What Does Intolerance Mean

We explain what intolerance is according to various meanings, the types that exist and detailed examples from history and today.

Intolerance is not handled rationally or empathetically.

What is intolerance?

The word intolerance means, in general terms, a high degree of rejection towards something or someone . In that sense, it is a term that is used in different contexts to refer to attitudes lacking in empathy , understanding and acceptance of something that is foreign to us, other, different.


For example, in the medical and nutritional field, the intolerances food are the inability to digest certain foods or certain substances , or to assimilate harmoniously. The people are lactose intolerant, for example, suffer when digesting dairy because their bodies lack certain enzymes necessary for this.

However, intolerance in the sociological field implies attitudes of rejection and confrontation towards everything perceived as alien , be they individuals, tendencies of thought or cultural manifestations.

Simply put, intolerance manifests itself in attitudes of visceral rejection towards the other, that is, a priori rejection, rooted in prejudice or trauma, but which is not handled in a rational or empathic way.

In this area, intolerance constitutes a social problem , since it lays the basis for discriminatory actions and discourses , for social segregation, and can lead to fanatical, fundamentalist attitudes, and persecution or hate crimes.

See also: Discrimination

Types of intolerance

Gender intolerance often leads to sexism, homophobia, or transphobia.

Intolerance in the sociological field is differentiated based on the criterion by which rejection of others is expressed, which may be:

  • Political or ideological intolerance . It consists of the fanatical rejection of certain forms of thought, social or political views, or simply the fanatical commitment to a cause, which a priori dismisses or considers any other to be wrong.
  • Gender intolerance. In this case, rejection is manifested against people of a certain gender or sexual orientation, when not against the other sex, which often results in sexism, homophobia or transphobia.
  • Racial or cultural intolerance. As its name expresses it, it directs its hatred towards a certain race or skin color, or simply towards those that it considers foreigners, members of a different, alien culture . In that sense, it tends to manifest itself as xenophobia or racism .
  • Religious intolerance It consists of the intense rejection of some specific religion or certain types of mystical manifestations. It is common among religious fundamentalists.

Despite there being different forms of intolerance, they usually coincide in the same individual, that is, they go together. Thus, it is common for intolerance towards foreigners or xenophobia to be accompanied by hatred of their religion, their culture, their skin color, etc.

Examples of intolerance

Anti-Semitism is a type of religious intolerance.

Unfortunately, examples of intolerance abound in our past and recent history as a species. Here are some specific cases:

  • European anti-Semitism. The Jewish people have been a wandering people since ancient times, when their state was invaded and destroyed by the imperial forces of the time. Since then, they have lived through a painful diaspora that has led them to merge to a greater or lesser degree with other cultures and nationalities, having a presence in almost the entire world. This has led to attitudes of rejection and intolerance, the climax of which was the pogroms in Eastern Europe in the 20th century and, of course, the systematic genocide of German Nazism, a movement that made them responsible for the German economic depression .
  • The Ku Klux Klan. Created in the 19th century at the end of the American Civil War , this movement brought together under its wing various groups of the extreme right who professed a deep racial intolerance: the supremacy of the white race. Thus, their xenophobic, racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and anti-communist attitudes were common. Its members used to wear a white robe and hood, and their symbol was a fiery cross.
  • Islamic fundamentalism. At the beginning of the 21st century, different radical Arab religious groups, followers of Islam , armed themselves in a single dispersed army under the banner of the holy war or jihad, and they prepared to wage a war against the Western powers through terrorism. Groups such as Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State (ISIS or Daesh) aspired to establish a religious state that would unify the practitioners of Islam under religious law ( sharia ) as expressed in the Koran. Christians, infidels, homosexuals and other minorities, under his regime, had to be oppressed or eliminated.

Follows with: Tolerance

Go up