Sociology Violence
by
Juergen Mackert, Eddie Hartmann
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 September 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0137

Introduction

Violence is a ubiquitous and quotidian social phenomenon. At the same time it is both a highly problematic and a disputed term and concept in sociological reasoning. Considering its status it must be conceded that it has not been conceived as one of the discipline’s basic terms nor has sociology succeeded in agreeing upon what exactly violence means. The reasons for sociology’s skepticism originates from modern democratic society’s view of itself as being widely nonviolent as well as modern human beings’ self-conception of being violence-averse. Undoubtedly, this specific self-conception that expresses an evolutionist hope of modern society to overcome violence as a decisive feature of everyday life has impeded efforts in sociology to seriously take violence into account since the inception of the discipline. However, given inherent conflicts of interests and values in any kind of human association as well as humans’ anthropological ability to exert violence under specific social conditions, this prevalent self-image of modernity is rather misleading. Just as every other form of human association in history, modern society is characterized by violence. We can observe violence in any kind of social relation, from intimate relationships in romantic attachments or families to relations both within and between social groups, clans, or gangs and in class struggles or ethnic conflicts up to geopolitical relations. The enormous plurality of violence phenomena makes for confusion. From pushing or hitting single persons, to hooliganism, guerrilla war, or terrorism, genocide and other mass atrocities—a seemingly never-ending list of forms of violence can be cited. Even democracy is not exempt from this list, although it is commonly supposed that violence has been reduced enormously within democratic societies as a consequence of a widely accomplished monopolization of the means of violence. Notwithstanding this vagueness and these inconsistencies, in recent years a wide and fruitful debate on violence has emerged that clearly reveals that sociology will not comprehend today’s social world without both understanding and explaining the emergence, processes, and dynamics of the many kinds of violence that characterize social relations from face-to-face interactions to geopolitics.

Handbooks

A number of handbooks offer interesting insights into defining aspects of the social phenomenon of violence. Heitmeyer and Hagan 2003 presents the by now standard reference to both general theoretical approaches and empirical research that cover almost all areas of violence as a social and sociological phenomenon. In recent years a number of handbooks complement the sociological perspective in highly interesting ways that also pave the way for an interdisciplinary view of violence. Héritier 1996 and Héritier 1999 are two volumes that offer a distinct multidisciplinary approach to violence that ranges from philosophy to the social and natural sciences. Given that violence has become a topic that is discussed not just as a genuine social phenomenon, Flannery, et al. 2007 lays stress on biological, personal, and interpersonal explanations of violent behavior, while Shackleford and Weekes-Shackleford 2012 contributes to the debate from a determinedly evolutionary perspective in analyzing processes and mechanisms of the generation of violence. In addition to these more theory-driven handbooks, more theme-centered contributions include Juergensmeyer, et al. 2013, which concentrates on the constitutive link between religion and violence as a specialized area of recent research. Brown and Walklate 2012 offers both an essential outline of the social problem of sexual violence and different perspectives on its theoretical analysis.

  • Brown, Jennifer M., and Sandra L. Walklate, eds. 2012. Handbook on sexual violence. New York: Routledge.

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    Important contribution that not only sets the scene of the problem of sexual violence in detail, but also offers different perspectives on theoretically coming to terms with it as well as how to respond to sexually aggressive behavior.

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    • Flannery, Daniel J., Alexander T. Vazsonyi, and Irwin D. Waldman, eds. 2007. The Cambridge handbook of violent behavior and aggression. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511816840Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Highly interesting handbook that explores particularly the genetical and bio-social foundations of aggressive and violent behavior, among other topics.

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      • Heitmeyer, Wilhelm, and John Hagan, eds. 2003. International handbook of violence research. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic.

        DOI: 10.1007/978-0-306-48039-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        A highly recommendable handbook that offers both encompassing articles about the many facets of the social phenomenon of violence and further information for each subject discussed. English translation of Internationales Handbuch der Gewaltforschung (Wiesbaden, Germany: Westdeutscher Verlag, 2002).

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        • Héritier, Françoise, ed. 1996. De la violence I. Paris: Odile Jacob.

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          The first volume edited by Françoise Héritier, who directed the social anthropology laboratory at the Collège de France, is concerned with philosophical, religious, and phenomenological aspects of violence.

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          • Héritier, Françoise, ed. 1999. De la violence II. Paris: Odile Jacob.

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            The second volume includes contributions from authors in anthropology, biology, literature, psychoanalysis and political science, providing further multidisciplinary perspectives on violence.

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            • Juergensmeyer, Mark, Margot Kitts, and Michael Jerryson, eds. 2013. The Oxford handbook of religion and violence. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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              The volume offers not only general and analytical approaches to the analysis of the nexus between religion and violence, but also a wide debate on the highly interesting link between these social dimensions.

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              • Shackleford, Todd, and Viviana A. Weekes-Shackleford, eds. 2012. The Oxford handbook of evolutionary perspectives on violence, homicide, and war. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

                DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199738403.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                The articles contribute to an evolutionary perspective on violence. Highly interesting volume for an interdisciplinary debate on evolutionary explanations of violence.

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                Concepts and Recent Debates

                After a long period of neglect, the topic of violence is today an eminent subject in the international field of social sciences. This development can be interpreted as a consequence of both the empirical omnipresence of violence and the need to address fundamental theoretical problems generated by a previous lack of sociological attention. Nevertheless, the debate on violence in the social sciences is extremely scattered and problems persist, beginning with defining violence as a term or concept. Violence is used to denote almost anything. The topic ranges from the direct use of physical force, for example, the anthropological conceptions of physical violence such as found in Popitz 1992, to violent outcomes that were not consciously intended through numerous conceptions of psychological violence, not to mention metaphorical notions, such as structural and cultural violence developed by the Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung (Galtung 1969) or conceptual analogies such as Pierre Bourdieu’s symbolic violence (Bourdieu 2000). For some time now, Michel Wieviorka has advocated a new approach to research on violence that aims to no longer attribute violence to social causes but to accept the idea that there is a nonsocial or even an antisocial basis to what causes violent behavior (Wieviorka 2009). Although the definition and conceptualization of violence is still subject to controversial debates, Kilby 2013 as well as Kilby and Ray 2014 offer a theoretically informed overall approach to manifold questions of definition by asking: “What is violence?” Moreover, by pointing out that violence erroneously has often been seen as reducible to or contained within other categories, such as power or social domination, Walby 2013 shows that the main challenge in addressing violence in sociology today is to identify its distinctiveness so as to construct an emerging field of sociology beyond the conventional ways of dispersing violence into fragments at the edges of the discipline. In a similar line of argument but primarily concerned with methodological problems across academic fields such as sociology, political science, and history, Hartmann 2014 presents a collection of articles that argue in favor of strict methodological relationism in order to bring social action, as referred to in social action theory, back into sociological explanations of violent behavior.

                • Bourdieu, Pierre. 2000. Pascalian meditations. Translated by Richard Nice. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                  One of Bourdieu’s last publications before his death in 2002. It provides a systematic account of the theoretical essence of his lifework by explaining key concepts such as symbolic violence and by grounding them on the philosophy of Blaise Pascal. English translation of Méditations pascaliennes (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1997).

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                  • Galtung, Johan. 1969. Violence, peace, and peace research. Journal of Peace Research 6.3: 167–191.

                    DOI: 10.1177/002234336900600301Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    In this article Galtung introduces his famous concept of structural violence for the first time in conceiving different forms of physical or psychological harm that result from social, political, and economic structures that prevent individuals from realizing their potential.

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                    • Hartmann, Eddie, ed. 2014. Special issue: Violence et sciences sociales: Plaidoyer pour un relationnisme méthodologique. Revue de synthèse 135.4.

                      DOI: 10.1007/s11873-014-0266-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                      This edited volume is concerned with both theoretical and methodological issues of violence research and addresses the question of “How do social sciences deal with violence?” The contributions advocate a relational approach to research on violence in drawing from different academic fields such as sociology, political science, and history. Available online by purchase or subscription.

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                      • Kilby, Jane, ed. 2013. Special issue on theorizing violence. European Journal of Social Theory 16.3.

                        DOI: 10.1177/1368431013476579Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                        The contributors to this special issue help sociology to catch up with a research topic that has been long neglected. They avoid giving a unified and easy answer to the question of “What is violence?” and thereby provide a differentiated and nuanced picture of the phenomenon and its complexity.

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                        • Kilby, Jane, and Larry Ray, eds. 2014. Special issue: Violence and society: Toward a new sociology. Sociological Review 62.S2.

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                          This volume is part of an ongoing concerted effort to advance sociological thinking about violence that began a few years ago. The contributions aim at helping to develop a new agenda for sociology that is appropriate with regard to the subject’s complexity. Available online by purchase or subscription.

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                          • Popitz, Heinrich. 1992. Phänomene der Macht. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck.

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                            One of Popitz’s most important publications that spells out his anthropological concept of social power drawing on a Weberian tradition. His approach reveals a perspective on violence that deliberately focus on the physical materiality of violence.

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                            • Walby, Sylvia, ed. 2013. Special issue: Violence and society. Current Sociology 61.2.

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                              The contributions in this volume are contextualized in what is called a paradigm of “violence and society” that emphasizes that violence is a nonreducible subject in its own right and that characterizes day-to-day life in society. Available online by purchase or subscription.

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                              • Wieviorka, Michel. 2009. Violence: A new approach. London: SAGE.

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                                Wieviorka advocates a new approach to research on violence that aims to no longer attribute violence to social causes but to focus rather on nonsocial or even “antisocial” elements that undermine and dehumanize human life. English translation of La violence (Paris: Balland, 2004).

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                                Classical Sociology and Modernity

                                In contrast to Thomas Hobbes’s (Hobbes 2010) philosophical analysis of the causes and consequences of the destructive civil war in England in the 17th century, that he argued might be solved by a social contract leading to the emergence of the modern state, the critical role of violence in the advent of modernity has been widely neglected in classical sociology. Although Karl Marx discusses the violent clashes in class struggles of the emerging capitalist society (Marx 2010) and Max Weber concentrates on the monopoly of the means of violence to understand the specific constitution of the modern state (Weber 1978), the classics do not concentrate on violence as an important subject. To a certain degree this absence of violence in classic writings may be due to an acceptance of the views of their authors’ predecessors, who proposed a historical trend marked by a gradual development from belligerent premodern societies to peaceful industrial modernity. This idea still resonates in Norbert Elias’s conception of a civilizing process relying on disciplinary forms of self-constraints that might lead to less violent social relations in modernity (Elias 1982). However, after two world wars, proxy wars during the Cold War, and numerous violent conflicts that remain ongoing around the globe this perspective compels questioning, thus generating three dominant perspectives on the intimate relation between violence and large-scale social change. First, in Elias’s perspective research on violence has focused on different concepts of disciplinary processes and organizational structures emerging within modern statehood. In this vein, Pinker 2011 argues in favor of a sustainable limitation of physical violence in social relations. Second, as a consequence of experiences with drastic forms of mass violence in totalitarian systems during the 20th century, this “ameliorationist thesis” has been radically opposed by referring to explicitly modern forms of violence. This perspective is emphasized in Miller and Soeffner 1996, which argues that in terms of its own essence modernity only appears as another form of barbarism, as well as in Arendt 1970 who argues in favor of a conceptual distinction between violence and power in the light of post–World War II experiences. Finally, emphasizing historical discontinuity, the third perspective stresses the ambivalent character of the relation between modernization processes and violence phenomena. One perspective in this broader line of argument is provided in Reemtsma 2012, which stresses the highly ambivalent relationship between the prevalent modern self-conception of violence-aversion on the one hand, and the continuing experiences of extreme forms of violence today, on the other hand.

                                • Arendt, Hannah. 1970. On violence. New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich.

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                                  Classical contribution from political philosophy that discusses the relation between power and violence as key concepts for coming to terms with politics in the second half of the 20th century in the face of violent means that can lead to the extinction of mankind.

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                                  • Elias, Norbert. 1982. The civilizing process. Vol. 2, State formation and civilization. Oxford: Blackwell.

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                                    Elias discusses the sociogenesis of the culture of the West in general and of the modern state in particular. In this development the “monopoly mechanism” refers to a progressive concentration of the means of military power within the state that is argued to be critical for a steady decline of violence in modern societies. English translation of Über den Prozeß der Zivilisation. Band 2 (Basel, Switzerland: Haus zum Falken, 1939).

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                                    • Hobbes, Thomas. 2010. Leviathan: Or the matter, forme, and power of a common-wealth ecclesiasticall and civill. Edited by Ian Shapiro. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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                                      Classical analysis of the social situation in the English civil war in the 17th century. Hobbes argues that to make life safer subjects should establish a leviathan, that is, a central authority that may guarantee security for everybody against threats from within society as well as from abroad. Originally published in 1651.

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                                      • Marx, Karl. 2010. The class struggles in France. In Political writings. Vol. 3, The First International and after. Edited by David Fernbach. London: Verso.

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                                        Against the background of his theory of a dialectical development of human history, Marx analyzes the dynamics of violent class struggles in a specific historical situation. His influential political writings analyze the causes, the character, and the actual processes of class struggles in France. English translation of Die Klassenkämpfe in Frankreich, 1848–1850, originally published in 1850.

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                                        • Miller, Max, and Hans-Georg Soeffner, eds. 1996. Modernität und Barbarei: Soziologische Zeitdiagnose am Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts. Proceedings of a conference held 5–7 May 1994 in Hamburg, Germany. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.

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                                          An international conference at the Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung produced this volume collecting the major contributions to sociological diagnosis at the end of the 20th century.

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                                          • Pinker, Steven. 2011. The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined. New York: Viking Adult.

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                                            Pinker argues that violence has declined both in the long run and in the short run, and he suggests five historical conditions for this process: the rise of the modern nation-state with its monopoly on the legitimate use of force, commerce, feminization, cosmopolitanism, and an intensifying application of knowledge and rationality to human affairs.

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                                            • Reemtsma, Jan Philipp. 2012. Trust and violence: An essay on a modern relationship. Translated by Dominic Binfiglio. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                              This volume brings together the results of fifteen years of extensive work on violence and modernity carried out by the author. It offers an original perspective in demonstrating that the aim of modern societies to decrease and deter violence has gone hand in hand with the misleading idea that violence is abnormal. English translation of Vertrauen und Gewalt: Versuch über eine besondere Konstellation der Moderne (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2008).

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                                              • Weber, Max. 1978. Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology. Edited by Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                Weber introduces and defines the “state” as a specific type of ruling organization. He argues that the state can be properly defined only “politically” in terms of monopolization of the means of legitimate violence without discussing the significance of violence in this process. English translation of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft: Grundriss der verstehenden Soziologie (Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr, 1921–1922).

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                                                Violence, the State, and Democracy

                                                From its early assertion against rival groups to violent conflicts with rival power centers within loosely defined territorial boundaries in the 16th and 17th centuries to interstate wars between established nation-states, Tilly 1985 shows that for centuries the emerging institution called “the state” has been constitutively tied to violence. Even the modern state’s widely accomplished monopoly of the means of violence does not put an end to state enforced violence. This holds true not only for interstate wars (see Sociology of War) but, as Giddens 1985 puts it, no less for the state exerting violence as an expression of power, domination, and surveillance against its own citizens. Neither can democracy be equated with the absence of violence. Providing a historical perspective, Hobsbawm 2012 shows how democracy emerged as the outcome of a number of violent revolutionary processes, while Mann 2005 points to democracy’s “dark side.” Democracies, especially settler democracies, because they rest on the idea of a “sovereign people” that excludes all non-members, turned to extremely violent means, engaging even in genocide, against so-called natives before they finally developed democratic systems. Providing a comparative perspective, Tilly 2003 offers a systematic approach that distinguishes democratic regimes with regard to the degree to which they provide for both democratic participation and state capacity that trigger different institutionalized areas in which violence may be employed while, in others, it is strictly forbidden (see Reemtsma 2012, cited under Classical Sociology and Modernity). Against such a background, a systematized ordering of the different degrees to which democratic regimes are plagued by violence can be devised. Ross 2004 argues that the “War on Terror” has triggered processes that may turn Western democracies into more violent societies. With regard to Latin American societies, Arias and Goldstein 2010 points to the fact that democratic regimes can exist in parallel with high degrees of violence, while Pearce 2010 argues that in these countries violence is intrinsically linked to state formation itself.

                                                • Arias, Enrique Desmond, and Daniel M. Goldstein, eds. 2010. Violent democracies in Latin America. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

                                                  DOI: 10.1215/9780822392033Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  The contributions are put in the perspective of an approach that discusses the coexistence of democracies and violence in Latin America. Contrary to common conceptions, in this view violence does not indicate that these democracies necessarily fail.

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                                                  • Giddens, Anthony. 1985. A contemporary critique of historical materialism. Vol. 2, The nation state and violence. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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                                                    One of the first books to bring the modern state back into social theory. The author stresses the role of the state as a power container and as both an eminent actor in interstate wars and an important agency of modern surveillance.

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                                                    • Hobsbawm, Eric. 2012. The age of revolution: 1789–1848. London: Abacus.

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                                                      Classical analysis of the fundamental and violent social transformation of premodern societies from the French Revolution to the democratic revolutions in Western Europe in 1848, originally published in 1962.

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                                                      • Mann, Michael. 2005. The dark side of democracy: Explaining ethnic cleansing. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                        Democracies are by no means always and necessarily peaceful regimes. The book reveals how, why, and under which specific conditions democracies, resting on the idea of rule by the people, are inclined to violent atrocities right up to processes of ethnic cleansing.

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                                                        • Pearce, Jenny. 2010. Perverse state formation and securitized democracy in Latin America. Democratization 17.2: 286–306.

                                                          DOI: 10.1080/13510341003588716Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          The article discusses the ways in that violence is embedded in the process of state formation in Latin America. Democratization is seen as a process that strengthens this link, thereby generating a logic of securitization.

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                                                          • Ross, Daniel Joseph. 2004. Violent democracy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                            The author argues that violence is intrinsically linked to democracy both in historical perspective and within conditions of globalization. Developments such as the nexus of global terrorism and the significance of security in today’s democracies are the focus of interest.

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                                                            • Tilly, Charles. 1985. War making and state making as organized crime. In Bringing the state back in. Edited by Peter Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, and Theda Skocpol, 169–191. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                              DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511628283Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              In a historical perspective, the making of both the state and war are discussed as long-lasting and highly violent social processes that are linked to one another. The state is characterized as a protection racket acting out violence against its subjects.

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                                                              • Tilly, Charles. 2003. The politics of collective violence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                The author develops a typology of manifestations of collective violence in which the state plays a crucial role. Against the background of a typology of democratic regimes, Tilly looks for relational mechanisms and social processes that cause variation in the character and intensity of collective violence.

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                                                                Methodological Controversies

                                                                Violence has become a topic of central concern to methodological discussion only recently. The central issue at stake is the linkage between different levels of analysis ranging from micro to macro. This micro-macro gap that cuts across all social sciences becomes particularly obvious in the dichotomy often found in the field of violence research between instrumental versus ideal, or cultural, accounts of social action. On the one hand, the main clusters of theory-oriented work on violence have emphasized micro-theoretical models of rational action, drawing particularly from the realist tradition in international relations, from game theory, and from rational action theory in general. Hardin 1995 as well as Felson 2009 are illustrative examples for this extensive type of literature that is based on the assumption that violence is essentially acted out in an instrumental manner by individuals with intent and that violent action is inherently linked to social conflict. On the other hand, culturalist analyses of violence mostly rely on macro-theoretical accounts and have strong methodological affinities to what may be called background explanations. They try to show that even apparently “senseless,” that is, noninstrumental, violence can make sense in terms of its meaningful relation to or resonance with other elements of the specific cultural contexts in which it occurs. In the field of war studies, for instance, Kaplan 1993 offers a culturalist account by conceiving ethnic hatred as being at the heart of what led to the violent clashes in former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. Drawing on a tradition of cultural sociology provided by Jeffrey Alexander and his explanatory concepts of cultural pragmatics and social performances, Smith 2005 offers a more interaction-based framework of analysis for the study of war. The methodological controversies about the micro-macro gap took on a whole new quality with Collins 2008, which offers a micro-sociological theory of violence, defending the thesis that for violence to happen, situational conditions must exist that open a pathway around the barrier of confrontational tension and fear, which usually arises from dynamic interaction sequences. In the journal Sociologica, Collins 2011 discusses the findings of other researchers about the issue of articulating the micro-level and the macro-level in violence research. Kalyvas 2006, which also engages in this discussion, argues that violence in the context of civil wars can be reduced neither to formalistic rational factors nor to preexisting cultural cleavages. Also Tilly 2003 (cited under Violence, the State, and Democracy) and Gould 2003 try to avoid the pitfalls of the micro-macro gap by advocating a distinctive relational methodology to research on violence phenomena.

                                                                • Collins, Randall. 2008. Violence: A micro-sociological theory. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                  Collins’s micro-sociological theory of violent confrontations stresses the unlikeliness of violence: few people actually use violence and they do so only in rare situations and for a short time. He argues that actors have to overcome an inhibition threshold of tension and fear before being able to act out violence.

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                                                                  • Collins, Randall. 2011. The invention and diffusion of social techniques of violence: How micro-sociology can explain historical trends. Sociologica 2011.2.

                                                                    DOI: 10.2383/35863Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    In this article Collins draws on his micro-sociological theory to emphasize the special importance of micro-interactional dynamics for explaining macro trends in violence. His article is followed by comments from Michel Wieviorka, Stathis N. Kalyvas, and Paolo Magaudda, before Collins closes the section with a reply to his critics.

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                                                                    • Felson, R. B. 2009. Violence, crime and violent crime. International Journal of Conflict and Violence 3.1: 23–39.

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                                                                      The author draws on a concept of rational choice to define violence as always constituting instrumental behavior that is oriented toward some kind of gain, although he refers to a very broad concept of “gain” that includes emotional aspects such as “thrills.”

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                                                                      • Gould, Roger V. 2003. Collision of wills: How ambiguity about social rank breeds conflict. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                        Gould analyzes why and how seemingly insignificant conflicts develop into extremely violent conflicts among social collectives. He argues in favor of analyzing uncertainties and ambiguities of institutionalized social ranks and relations between the parties involved in violent contestations in order to understand what triggers violence.

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                                                                        • Hardin, Russell. 1995. One for all: The logic of group conflict. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                          This book relies on an informal game model to explain how rational action based on what the author calls “commonsense epistemology” (p. 15) plays a major role in the formation of group identifications and exclusionary norms and how groups with such norms can tip toward violence.

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                                                                          • Kalyvas, Stathis N. 2006. The logic of violence in civil war. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511818462Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            The author attempts to outline the social mechanisms that explain violence in the context of civil war. He differentiates between indiscriminate violence, which is executed blindly without regard for victims’ profiles, and selective violence toward individuals, who are targeted based on specific information about them.

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                                                                            • Kaplan, Robert D. 1993. Balkan ghosts: A journey through history. New York: St. Martin’s.

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                                                                              The book defends the thesis that ethnic hatred was the essential driving force of the violent clashes in the Balkan during the 1990s. He argues that communism temporarily suppressed numerous conflicts of the past that, once given room to revive, turned into violent outbursts.

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                                                                              • Smith, Philip. 2005. Why war? The cultural logic of Iraq, the Gulf War and Suez. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

                                                                                DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226763910.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                Drawing on the tradition of cultural sociology, Smith suggests that every war has its roots in the ways that people tell and interpret stories. His book offers a systematic comparative study of civil discourse for three wars, stressing the role of narrative dimension in risk perception and moral mobilization.

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                                                                                Social Orders: Interpersonal and Collective Violence

                                                                                Kalyvas, et al. 2008 as well as North, et al. 2009 argue that there is good reason to link the analysis of violence to processes of the production and reproduction of any kind of social order. From interaction orders up to geopolitical constellations, violent events play a major role within the processes by which social orders are formed, their being challenged, as well as their reorganization or demise. With a view to this, the potentially critical role of violence in any “communal” (Vergemeinschaftung) or “associative” relationship (Vergesellschaftung) becomes obvious, contrary to modernity’s self-conception as being violence averse (see Reemtsma 2012, cited under Classical Sociology and Modernity). Consequently, manifestations of violence in the social world can be analytically distinguished in phenomena of interpersonal or collective violence, the boundaries being fluid in many cases. With regard to interpersonal violence, at first sight sociology seems to overlap with debates in disciplines such as criminology, psychology, or social work concentrated upon the individual. However, sociological reasoning takes different stances as it aims to explain violent behavior as a consequence of social processes and interaction dynamics. Sociological approaches have developed concepts such as domestic violence, sexual violence, gender-based violence, or violence against children and young people to come to terms with violent behavior in personal relationships. The difficulty of unambiguously differentiating between such phenomena as being expressions of either interpersonal or collective violence seems obvious in many cases. First, not only is a phenomenon like mass rape in wars or civil wars difficult to subsume under only one category, but no less do seemingly obvious individual acts of violence depend on the social conditions in which they arise. Second, the analysis of manifestations of collective violence always has to both consider and explain how and why individuals decide to take part in collective violent action, as is the case with, for example, hooliganism (see Dunning 2010, cited under Youth Violence), “deadly ethnic riots” (treated in Horowitz 2001), or, as Shaw 2007 demonstrates, with regard to genocide (see Genocide). The same applies to the politics of armed groups that pose violent challenges to the social orders, as Schlichte 2009 shows, or with regard to violence as a means of oppression in colonial orders, as Thomas 2012 discusses. The constitutive relation of violence and social order becomes clear in discussions of the crucial role that violence plays in war and peace, which is found in Sheper-Hughes and Bourgois 2004.

                                                                                • Horowitz, Donald L. 2001. The deadly ethnic riot. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                  In his first comparative study of what he calls deadly ethnic riot, Horowitz examines antagonist social movements directed against specific ethnic targets, including collective attacks ranging from genocide, ethnic cleansing, and mob violence to symbolic threats.

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                                                                                  • Kalyvas, Stathis N., Ian Shapiro, and Tarek Masoud, eds. 2008. Order, conflict, and violence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511755903Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    The contributions discuss the nexus of order, conflict, and violence in a wide range of empirical cases. All articles have in common the theoretical frame that argues that both the emergence of social order and the way it is sustained are constitutively linked to violence.

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                                                                                    • North, Douglass C., John Joseph Wallis, and Barry R. Weingast. 2009. Violence and social orders: A conceptual framework for interpreting recorded human history. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511575839Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      Drawing on a conceptual distinction between “natural state” and “open access orders” as two different types of social order, the authors are concerned with the question of how modern societies limit and control physical violence successfully.

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                                                                                      • Schlichte, Klaus. 2009. In the shadow of violence: The politics of armed groups. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag,

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                                                                                        By systematically comparing fifteen countries, Schlichte argues that nonstate armed groups in failed states always try to maintain strong ties to state-related actors in order to transform their violence-based power into legitimate political power.

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                                                                                        • Shaw, Martin. 2007. What is genocide? Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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                                                                                          Shaw considers the origins and development of the concept of genocide and its relationships to other forms of political violence. Providing a distinct critique of the research literature on genocide, the author argues that what distinguishes this phenomenon from more legitimate warfare is that the groups and individuals targeted are of a civilian character.

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                                                                                          • Sheper-Hughes, Nancy, and Philippe Bourgois, eds. 2004. Violence in war and peace: An anthology. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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                                                                                            The contributions discuss a wide plurality of forms of violence in contexts that range from colonialism, concentration camps, and state terror to everyday violence, thereby noting that violence is not restricted to basically violent social contexts but is a phenomenon of any kind of social order.

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                                                                                            • Simon, David. 1991. Homicide: A year on the killing streets. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

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                                                                                              In an ethnographic study the author reports about the daily work of a homicide squad in an abandoned neighborhood in Baltimore where an individual is shot, stabbed, or battered to death on two out of every three days. The reflections on both economic and social conditions make this analysis essential.

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                                                                                              • Thomas, Martin. 2012. Violence and colonial order: Police, workers, and protest in the European colonial empires, 1918–1940. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139045643Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Against the background of the nexus between the politics of imperial repression and the economic structure in colonial empires, the book concentrates on both the structure and the strategies of police after World War I.

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                                                                                                Excessive Individual Violence

                                                                                                “Excessive individual violence,” as Leuschner 2013 calls it, has become the generic term for two manifestations of individual violence that have appeared markedly in recent years. One such manifestation, “school shootings,” has been interpreted quite differently in sociology. Explanations of the phenomenon vary: Langman 2009 conceives such outbreaks as desperate acts of mentally unstable adolescents, while Larkin 2009 views them as political acts; they may also be reactions of outsiders against a rigid and merciless status system at schools, a system that triggers complicated emotional reactions, as Collins 2014 argues. The second manifestation, and no less threatening to the wider social order, is the so-called lone wolf terrorism, which has emerged as a widespread phenomenon, as Bates 2012 shows. It ranges from killings by usually religiously motivated anti-abortion activists to assaults by political perpetrators such as Timothy James McVeigh, Theodore Kaczynski (better known as the Unabomber), or Anders Breivik, who killed seventy-seven young people on the Norwegian island Utøya in 2011. Levin and Madfis 2009 refers to the fact that excessive individual violence has become widely debated in both sociology and the other humanities, which Spaaj 2010 also makes clear. The fact that in these cases we are dealing with individuals acting on behalf of themselves easily engenders misleading explanations that turn to reductionist individualism, an interpretation that neglects the social context within which perpetrators live and in which they develop their decisions.

                                                                                                • Bates, Roger A. 2012. Dancing with wolves: Today’s lone wolf terrorists. Journal of Public and Professional Sociology 4.1.

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                                                                                                  Develops a typology of the phenomenon based on the process of self-radicalization and the concept of leaderless resistance and points to the fact that this type of terrorism is mainly found among right-wing reactionaries and religiously radicalized jihadists.

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                                                                                                  • Collins, Randall. 2014. Micro-sociology of mass rampage killings. In Special issue: Violence et sciences sociales: Plaidoyer pour un relationnisme méthodologique. Edited by Eddie Hartmann. Revue de synthèse 135.4: 405–420.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1007/s11873-014-0250-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    The essay rejects common explanations of school shootings and develops a micro-sociological perspective that takes account of the perpetrators’ social context as well as the fact that mass killers carry out detailed preparation, obsessed with planning their attack, overcoming social inferiority and isolation by an emotional excitement triggered by clandestine preparation. Available online by purchase or subscription.

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                                                                                                    • Langman, Peter. 2009. Rampage school shooters: A typology. Aggression and Violent Behavior 14:79–86.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1016/j.avb.2008.10.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      Trying to analyze the personal features of ten school shooters, Langman develops a typology of the perpetrators, making a plea for characterizing the teen school shooters as mainly psychotic or psychopathic.

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                                                                                                      • Larkin, Ralph W. 2009. The Columbine legacy: Rampage shootings as political acts. American Behavioral Scientist 52.9: 1309–1326.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/0002764209332548Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        The article discusses school shootings as political acts. It stresses the cultural significance of the Columbine shootings in 1999, which served as a model for further incidents in the United States as well as elsewhere.

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                                                                                                        • Leuschner, Vincenz. 2013. Exzessive individuelle Gewalt: “School Shootings” und “Lone Wolf Terrorism” als soziale Phänomene. In Special issue: Ordnung und Gewalt. Edited by Eddie Hartmann and Jürgen Mackert. Berliner Journal für Soziologie 23.1: 27–49.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1007/s11609-013-0212-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          The author introduces the term “excessive individual violence” that denotes school shootings and lone wolf terrorism; he discusses a wide range of explanatory approaches to the phenomena in the behavioral and social sciences. Available online by purchase or subscription.

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                                                                                                          • Levin, Jack, and Eric Madfis. 2009. Mass murder at school and cumulative strain: A sequential model. American Behavioral Scientist 52.9: 1227–1245.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/0002764209332543Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            To explain why young people commit mass murder in school shootings the authors develop a five-stage sequential model set against the background of criminological theories and argue in favor of cumulative effects that exert strain on the perpetrators.

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                                                                                                            • Spaaj, Ramón. 2010. The enigma of lone wolf terrorism: An assessment. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 33.9: 854–870.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1080/1057610X.2010.501426Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              The cross-national analysis compares the phenomenon of lone wolf terrorism in fifteen countries. Given that the phenomenon has increased especially in the United States, the author links psychological considerations with the wider social context.

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                                                                                                              Gender-Based and Domestic Violence

                                                                                                              The concepts of both gender-based and domestic violence are of critical importance with regard to violent acts within intimate social relationships, a topic long neglected in sociology, as Hearn 2013 shows. In either case sociology has to deal with violent episodes committed within families or households, which call for systematic investigation, as Johnson 2008 forcefully argues. Heise 1998 concentrates on coming to terms with violent acts in heterosexual relations, which occupies the center of much debate, but both gender-based and domestic violence are also concerned with other types of actions. Not only does the concept of domestic violence include violence against children, the elderly, or the helpless, but also, to the degree that patterns of relations and families have changed, consideration must be taken of violence of women against men or violence in same-sex relations, which Donovan and Hester 2014 discusses. Another important type of violence that applies to both domestic and gender-based violence is analyzed in Cooney 2014, namely, what can be called family honor violence, violence that is committed in the name of family honor and is perpetuated typically by men against their female relatives. Beyond those acts of abuse in intimate relations or between people who know each other well, consideration must be given to acts such as violence against homeless women, as Jasinski, et al. 2010 discusses, or systematic gender-based violence against women, such as rape in the context of war in which it can be used as a deliberate war strategy, as Kelly 2000 argues in considering the case of former Yugoslavia.

                                                                                                              • Cooney, Mark. 2014. Family honour and social time. In Special issue: Violence and society. Toward a new sociology. Edited by Jane Kilby and Larry Ray. Sociological Review 62.S2: 87–106.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/1467-954X.12193Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                The author analyzes family honor violence by applying a new theory of conflict developed by Donald Black, who relates violent acts to movements of social time. Cooney hypothesizes that family honor violence against women is most frequently driven by what Black calls understratification (in this case: threats to male and corporate family rule). Available online by purchase or subscription.

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                                                                                                                • Donovan, Catherine, and Marianne Hester. 2014. Domestic violence and sexuality: What’s love got to do with it? Bristol: Policy Press.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447307433.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  The book contributes to the important debate on domestic violence by discussing the problem against the background of same-sex relationships, thereby broadening the perspective of the social problem.

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                                                                                                                  • Hearn, Jeff. 2013. The sociological significance of domestic violence: Tensions, paradoxes and implications. Current Sociology 61.2: 152–170.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1177/0011392112456503Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    The article argues that domestic violence is a neglected subject in sociology. It stresses the paradoxical nexus of intimacy and violence and argues in favor of theoretical sociological considerations of the problem. Available online by purchase or subscription.

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                                                                                                                    • Heise, Lori L. 1998. Violence against women: An integrated, ecological framework. Violence against Women 4.3: 262–290.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/1077801298004003002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      The programmatic article conceives violence as a phenomenon that consists of personal, situational, and sociocultural factors. To explain violence against women, Heise argues in favor of an encompassing heuristic approach, one that may also lead to further theoretical development.

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                                                                                                                      • Hird, Myra J. 2002. Engendering violence: Heterosexual interpersonal violence from childhood to adulthood. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

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                                                                                                                        The book concentrates on violence carried out by men and women against persons they know. Further, interpersonal violence also encompasses phenomena such as violence in classrooms, dating violence, or violence against children.

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                                                                                                                        • Jasinski, Jana L., Jennifer K. Wesely, James D. Wright, and Elizabeth E. Mustaine. 2010. Hard lives, mean streets: Violence in the lives of homeless women. Boston: Northeastern Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                          Very important quantitative and qualitative study about homeless women and their experiencing violence. The book offers much information and points to important correlations between violence and homelessness with patterns of manifold child abuse.

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                                                                                                                          • Johnson, Michael P. 2008. A typology of domestic violence: Intimate terrorism, violent resistance and situational couple violence. Hanover, NH: Univ. Press of New England.

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                                                                                                                            The author distinguishes between three types of domestic violence—intimate terrorism, violent resistance, and situational couple violence—in drawing distinctions that help in understanding the role of gender in domestic violence and the different causes and effects of these types of violence.

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                                                                                                                            • Kelly, Liz. 2000. Wars against women: Sexual violence, sexual politics and the militarised state. In States of conflict: Gender, violence and resistance. Edited by Susie Jacobs, Ruth Jacobson, and Jen Marchbank, 45–65. London: Zed Books.

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                                                                                                                              Drawing on her extensive work on sexual violence, Kelly focuses on the use of sexual violence as a deliberate strategy in war and political repression by the state and on the question of how this is connected in manifold ways to sexual violence in all other social contexts.

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                                                                                                                              Youth Violence

                                                                                                                              Youth violence constitutes both a major area of sociological research as well as a kind of cross-cutting concept that is closely linked with many adjacent debates on different aspects of violence given that youngsters and adolescents may be involved in almost any manifestation of either interpersonal or collective violence. These phenomena range from bullying at school or simple hand fights that might develop into fistfights (see Collins 2008, cited under Methodological Controversies) to school shootings (see the debate under Excessive Individual Violence). In addition, with regard to organized manifestations of collective violence, young persons are widely involved as both the principal victims and the primary perpetrators. Dunning 2010 discusses football hooliganism. An ethnographic study, Willis 2009 shows how violent behavior becomes a substantial part of daily working-class youth culture, which emerges in resistance to school authority and social domination. Gang violence is a worldwide phenomenon that has long been sociologically analyzed as a problem of male youth; however, as Miller 2001 shows, this is also a problem that affects young women. Furthermore, since the early 1990s youth gangs stand at the center of a new landscape of violence in Latin America, as the contributions in Jones and Rogers 2009 reveal. One critical historical and global phenomenon that has been largely neglected in sociology is the case of child soldiers. Different aspects of the issue are analyzed in Cohn and Goodwin-Gill 1994. The fact that youth are both perpetrators and victims of violent acts has led sociology to either develop theoretical models or search for presumably explaining factors that might help to understand why young individuals turn violent. Such approaches range from Cohen 1955, which provides classic cultural explanations of delinquent behavior, to Heitmeyer and Legge 2008, which argues that processes of social disintegration might foster violent behavior.

                                                                                                                              • Cohen, Albert K. 1955. Delinquent boys: The culture of the gang. New York: Free Press.

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                                                                                                                                Classic study in the development of criminology in the tradition of the Chicago School, interactionism, and Durkheimian sociology that offers cultural explanations for the emergence of delinquent behavior.

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                                                                                                                                • Cohn, Ilene, and Guy S. Goodwin-Gill. 1994. Child soldiers: The role of children in armed conflicts. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                  Highly interesting analysis covering legal aspects as well as discussing both the problem of why children participate in armed conflicts and the consequences this might generate. It also outlines possibilities on how to prevent children from being abused as soldiers.

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                                                                                                                                  • Dunning, Eric. 2010. Towards a sociological understanding of football hooliganism as a world phenomenon. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 8.2: 141–162.

                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1023/A:1008773923878Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    The author analyzes football hooliganism against the background of a figurational approach that links the phenomenon to the social structure of the countries under investigation.

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                                                                                                                                    • Heitmeyer, Wilhelm, and Sandra Legge, eds. 2008. Youth, violence, and social disintegration. New Directions for Youth Development 119. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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                                                                                                                                      This volume includes a collection of articles that refer to the theory of disintegration, which suggests that social disintegration encourages the development of violent behavior. Drawing on this approach, the authors offer explanations for the forms of youth violence under examination.

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                                                                                                                                      • Jones, Gareth A., and Dennis Rogers, eds. 2009. Youth violence in Latin America: Gangs and juvenile justice in perspective. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1057/9780230101333Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        A collection of wide-ranging, cutting-edge studies that focus specifically on youth gangs and the dynamics of juvenile justice in Latin America. This volume provides a systematic comparative perspective on youth violence in Latin American societies and its present-day reality.

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                                                                                                                                        • Miller, Jody. 2001. One of the guys: Girls, gangs and gender. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                          A study about young women’s involvement in youth gangs that is comparative in two ways: it compares two different cities (St. Louis and Columbus) as well as gang and nongang girls. On this basis, the author examines comparative socioeconomic data and asks how the findings relate to gang participation.

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                                                                                                                                          • Willis, Paul. 2009. Learning to labour: How working class kids get working class jobs. Reprint. Farnham, UK: Ashgate.

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                                                                                                                                            Originally published in 1977. In this now classic ethnographical study, the author examines the various aspects of cultural development among the members of a group of working-class children in an English industrial city and demonstrates how this subculture reinforces the working class as subordinate to social domination specific to capitalist society.

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                                                                                                                                            Urban Violence

                                                                                                                                            Violence is not only related to different types of social order but also embedded in particular spatial configurations. While the emergence of particular types of violence in urban spaces has generally been discussed under the umbrella term urban violence, this field has become a central concern not only to sociological research but also to related disciplines such as anthropology, criminology, geography, or urban studies, as illustrated with Soja 2000 and Hagedorn 2007. An extensive literature conceives urban violence as the result of major changes in the global economy, such as deindustrialization and the abandonment of former industrial areas. Referring to what the author calls “advanced marginality,” Wacquant 2008 stresses an analytical concept of ghetto and hyper-ghettoization to examine urban spaces of abandonment where social disinvestment fosters the spread of pandemic forms of (urban) violence. Auyero 2000 draws on Wacquant’s concept of hyper-ghettoization to analyze urban violence in Buenos Aires in relating violence to fundamental socioeconomic and institutional changes caused by neoliberalism. Similarly following this general argument but focusing on the daily interactions between crack selling Puerto Ricans living in New York City’s East Harlem, Bourgois 1995 provides a noteworthy ethnographical study of urban violence as mainly driven by what the author calls a search of respect within the community by marginalized parts of an urban population. Equally relying on ethnographical fieldwork, Anderson 1999 delineates the unwritten set of rules that govern violent behavior in the inner city of Philadelphia in order to refute the stereotype of its anarchic character. Urban violence is today considered one of the most challenging problem for aid-giving organizations and those that work to prevent conflict, as treated in Bernard and Nikolova 2010.

                                                                                                                                            • Anderson, Elijah. 1999. Code of the street: Decency, violence and the moral life of the inner city. New York: Norton.

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                                                                                                                                              In his most famous book, Anderson provides a nuanced analysis of the counter-culture that emerged in the marginalized African American communities of Philadelphia. The code of the street is an informal system that regulates social interactions and behavior, especially violent behavior, by combining elements of respect, loyalty, and honor.

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                                                                                                                                              • Auyero, Javier. 2000. Hyper-shantytown: Neo-liberal violence(s) in the Argentine slum. Ethnography 1.1: 93–116.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/14661380022230651Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                The author focusses on three different kinds of violence—daily interpersonal violence, state repression, and the structural violence of mass unemployment—that he understands as the interrelated expressions of the broader socioeconomic and institutional transformation of Argentine shantytowns since the 1990s.

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                                                                                                                                                • Bernard, Vincent, and Mariya Nikolova, eds. 2010. Urban violence. International Review of the Red Cross 92.878: 309–536.

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                                                                                                                                                  This issue on urban violence presents a large collection of works that address urban violence as one of the most challenging contemporary problems that emerge with rapid urbanization, growing levels of poverty, discrimination, economic disparity, and social inequality, and that accompany fundamental changes in organized crime on a global level.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Bourgois, Philippe. 1995. In search of respect: Selling crack in El Barrio. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                    This ethnographic study sets new standards in terms of both ethnographic methods and anthropological reasoning. The author succeeded in establishing a trustful and stable relationship with crack dealers in one of the roughest ghetto neighborhoods in the United States, East Harlem, and he provides a deep understanding of the underlying social structures of this closed community.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Hagedorn, John M., ed. 2007. Gangs in the global city: Alternatives to traditional criminology. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

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                                                                                                                                                      In contrast to traditional criminological accounts, this book provides an alternative perspective on gangs. The contributors consider gangs and current changes in the world of gangs not as primarily a crime problem but as particular forms of social organizations in poor communities that are adapting to globalization.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Soja, Edward W. 2000. Postmetropolis: Critical studies of cities and regions. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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                                                                                                                                                        The book deals with the reordering of urban space in the so-called megacities that have emerged globally during the last half of the 20th century, associated with neoliberal restructuring and creating what the author calls new “islands of enclosure” (p. 299).

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                                                                                                                                                        • Wacquant, Loïc J. D. 2008. Urban outcasts: A comparative sociology of advanced marginality. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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                                                                                                                                                          In this book Wacquant brings together many years of extensive work on what he refers to as “advanced marginality.” It offers an original research perspective by introducing the concepts of ghetto and hyper-ghettoization as analytical categories rather than using them as pure descriptive terms.

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                                                                                                                                                          Terrorism

                                                                                                                                                          Generally terrorism can be conceived as a strategy of the weaker side in a violent political conflict. As such, Hess 1988 defines terrorism as purposive acts of direct physical violence that are executed unpredictably but systematically; these acts are part of a political strategy and, while they are directed against a victim, perpetrators also intend to psychically affect many other people. As both a social phenomenon and a manifestation of collective violence, terrorism has long been a subject of interest in sociology, as Reich 1998 points out. While Hoffman 2006 claims that terrorism in its different manifestations, be it ethno-nationalist, separatist, religiously inspired, or social revolutionary, has been of special interest to either politically motivated sociologists or specialists in the sociology of violence, Della Porta 2013 stresses the significance of the theory of social movements in coming to terms with the phenomenon of terrorism. Nevertheless, only with the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the subsequent announcement of the “War on Terror” terrorism became a field of intense investigation. Crenshaw 2011 provides an important contribution to the wide debate of how sociology may cope with terrorism as a social phenomenon in general, while Juergensmeyer 2000 treats terrorism motivated by religion. Smelser 2007 offers an interdisciplinary approach to identify the causes, dynamics, and consequences of terrorism.

                                                                                                                                                          • Crenshaw, Martha. 2011. Explaining terrorism: Causes, processes, and consequences. London, New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                                                            With this book, the author, an eminent expert on terrorism in the social sciences, makes a major contribution to many of the most important and interesting aspects of terrorism; topics range from definitional problems to organizational, psychological, and political questions as well as to the decline of terrorism.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Della Porta, Donatella. 2013. Clandestine political violence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139043144Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              The book combines the study of violence with the sociological analysis of social movements. It approaches terrorism as a phenomenon of clandestine political violence, thereby stressing the specific trait that distinguishes modern terrorisms.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Hess, Henner. 1988. Terrorismus und Terrorismus-Diskurs. In Angriff auf das Herz des Staates: Soziale Entwicklung und Terrorismus. Edited by Henner Hess, Martin Moerings, Dieter Paas, Sebastian Scheerer, and Heinz Steinert, 55–74. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.

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                                                                                                                                                                Offers a convincing definition of what terrorism might mean sociologically. Against this background Hess analyzes both the idea and the public discourse on social revolutionary terrorism in Western Europe in the 1970s and 1890s.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Hoffman, Bruce. 2006. Inside terrorism. Rev. ed. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                  A profound introduction to the scientific analysis of terrorism ranging from a debate on definitions to historical considerations to recent debates and political clashes on terrorism and discussions of how to cope with it.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Juergensmeyer, Mark. 2000. Terror in the mind of god: The global rise of religious violence. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                    In this seminal work violence is argued to be motivated by religion. The author provides a broad comparative view of different religions in giving a sociological understanding of the ways in that religion works in violent conflicts.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Reich, Walter, ed. 1998. Origins of terrorism. Psychologies, ideologies, theologies, states of mind. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                      The contributions to this edited volume offer comprehensive information on many arenas of interest in the sociology of terrorism. The authors concentrate mainly on the minds, beliefs, and motivations of the terrorists.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Smelser, Neil J. 2007. The faces of terrorism: Social and psychological dimensions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                        The book approaches fundamental problems in the debate on terrorism in the social sciences as it concentrates not just on specific paradoxes of the phenomenon. In particular, it offers an explanation of terrorism by analyzing important dynamics and processes from both sociological and psychological perspectives.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Suicide Terrorism

                                                                                                                                                                        While terrorism represents a strategy in violent political conflicts suicide terrorism is best conceived as a specific tactic in them. Far from being a recent phenomenon, Rapoport 1984 shows that members of Jewish, Islamic, and Hindu groups have in the past deliberately compromised their lives in terrorist attacks. For a long time suicide terrorism remained motivated mainly by religion, but the historical transformations of the 19th century also ushered in a new era of terrorism (see Hoffman 2006, cited under Terrorism). Today, as Bloom 2005 argues, suicide terrorism may be seen as strictly politically motivated, although, as Khosrokhavar 2005 shows, the role of religion as causally relevant for motivating mainly young men but also women to become suicide bombers should not be neglected. The history of suicide terrorisms as a “moderntactic” begins with the car bombs and the attacks on the American embassy and barracks of the marines in Lebanon in 1983. Until then, suicide attackers had been killed in carrying out their attack by the defenders. Now, however, for the first time, in the act of killing themselves such attackers tried to kill as many others as possible. While Gambetta 2005 makes clear that the death of the perpetrators constitutes the decisive aspect of suicide terrorism through the ages, it has proved to be a very successful means of the weaker side in a great number of politically asymmetric violent conflicts. Atran 2003 points to the fact that suicide missions are carried out by physically and mentally sound persons, while Merari 2010 argues that the spread of this phenomenon around the globe raises many social and psychological questions.

                                                                                                                                                                        • Atran, Scott. 2003. Genesis of suicide terrorism. Science 299.5612: 1534–1539.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1126/science.1078854Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          The article argues convincingly that suicide terrorism is neither performed by insane people nor stems from poverty. Against a number of common misconceptions it stresses the role of recruiting organizations, which induce a commitment among potential candidates for suicide attacks.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Bloom, Mia. 2005. Dying to kill: The allure of suicide terror. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                            On the basis of case studies in Palestine, Sri Lanka, and Turkey, Bloom outlines a theory of suicide terrorism that identifies not only necessary and inevitable social conditions that facilitate the emergence of suicide terrorism, but also social mechanisms that explain its processes and dynamics.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Gambetta, Diego, ed. 2005. Making sense of suicide missions. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199276998.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              The contributions in this edited volume analyze different phenomena of suicide terrorism from the perspective of methodological individualism, thereby stressing the motives and interests of both the individual perpetrators and the organizations behind them.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Khosrokhavar, Farhad. 2005. Suicide bombers: Allah’s new martyrs. London: Pluto.

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                                                                                                                                                                                The book discusses the relation between suicide terrorism and the Islamic idea of the martyr. Distinguishing between the national and transnational martyr, the author shows that the former intends to establish a sovereign collectivity that he or she is ready to die for, while the latter wants to create a global neo-ummah.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Merari, Ariel. 2010. Driven to death: Psychological and social aspects of suicide terrorism. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Based on extensive empirical data, the author argues that social environment, groups, and individuals are the critical components in considering the problem of suicide terrorism. Although the book analyzes both group processes and personal traits of suicide bombers from mainly psychological perspectives, it contributes to sociological analyses as well.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Rapoport, David C. 1984. Fear and trembling: Terrorism in three religious traditions. American Political Science Review 78.3: 658–677.

                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.2307/1961835Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                    In this article on terrorism motivated by religion, Rapoport offers a comparative historical analysis of terror groups in three religious traditions that developed durable organizations. He convincingly discusses the differences among groups that originate from Hindu, Islamic, and Judaist communities and offers a view on how they differ from secular terror groups.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Torture

                                                                                                                                                                                    Although cases of individuals torturing others are well known, torture also is enacted as an act of extreme collective violence used to spread terror among a population. As a means of domination, Foucault 1977 shows that, historically, torture has been practiced in public, while Mackert 2015 argues that “modern” torture is characterized by its secrecy, a fact that explains the social structuring of torturers’ violent behavior. As in the case of war criminals or terrorists, it is difficult to understand or explain the readiness of torturers to mistreat and kill others, since, such acts may be carried out by otherwise caring fathers and loving husbands. Thus, Conroy 2000 conceives torturers as usually “ordinary people.” Given that torture triggers processes of dehumanization and degradation, as Crelinsten 1995 reports, Haritos-Fatouros 1988 notes that torturers have to be trained in order to torture others. As a social phenomenon torture has not assumed a greater importance at any one time in history, but it does appear to be of greater significance in the modern period. However, as the contributions in Reemtsma 1991 show, as a means of domination torturing people has long been a strategy of totalitarian political regimes that disregard the basic rights, and the very life, of the individual. Given recent developments McCoy 2006 argues that at the beginning of the 21st century Western democracies have deliberately turned to torture in the “War on Terror,” in which they sacrifice respect for human dignity, one of the inalienable basic rights of a democracy.

                                                                                                                                                                                    • Conroy, John. 2000. Unspeakable acts, ordinary people. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      On the basis of interviews with torturers the author discusses the capability of such individuals to carry out extreme violence against other people. Torturers from very different backgrounds reveal what they did in a book that offers insights into the dynamics of torture.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Crelinsten, Ronald. 1995. In their own words. In The politics of pain: Torturers and their masters. Edited by Ronald Crelinsten and Alex P. Schmid, 35–64. Boulder, CO: Westview.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Important article that features interviews with torturers that “explain” why they did the dirty work; the statements show how natural it seemed for perpetrators to fulfill their tasks and why they executed given commands.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Pantheon.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          In this now classic book, Foucault discusses torture from both a historical and genealogical perspective as a violent means of domination that is directed against the bodies of the subjects of an absolute power. English translation of Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison (Paris: Gallimard, 1975).

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Haritos-Fatouros, Mika. 1988. The official torturer: A learning model for obedience to the authority of violence. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 18.13: 1107–1120.

                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1988.tb01196.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                            Important contribution from social psychology. Haritos-Fatouros offers a detailed analysis of how people can be trained systematically to be able to torture others.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Mackert, Jürgen. 2015. The secret society of torturers: Explaining the social shaping of extremely violent behaviour. International Journal of Conflict and Violence.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Given that secrecy is the determining feature of “modern” torture, Mackert analyzes groups within the military or police that use torture in the manner of secret societies, to use Georg Simmel’s sense. He argues that the secret life of these groups requires a unique social structure, one that triggers consequences which enables their members to torture other people.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • McCoy, Alfred W. 2006. A question of torture: CIA interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror. New York: Hold Paperbacks.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                The book analyzes both the uses and the development of new forms of torture by the CIA. Starting from a historical overview on torture it offers a highly interesting analysis of how strategies and methods of torture spread around the globe and how they impinge on the subject under torture.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Reemtsma, Jan Philipp, ed. 1991. Folter: Zur Analyse eines Herrschaftsmittels. Hamburg: Junius.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Against the background of the strategy employed by military juntas in South America to torture almost anyone suspected to be either an opponent of government or a subversive subject, the authors develop a highly interesting concept that allows for understanding torture as a means of public domination.

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