Violence: A Micro-sociological Theory

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Greenwood Publishing Group, Aug 23, 2009 - Social Science - 563 pages

In the popular misconception fostered by blockbuster action movies and best-selling thrillers--not to mention conventional explanations by social scientists--violence is easy under certain conditions, like poverty, racial or ideological hatreds, or family pathologies. Randall Collins challenges this view in Violence, arguing that violent confrontation goes against human physiological hardwiring. It is the exception, not the rule--regardless of the underlying conditions or motivations.

Collins gives a comprehensive explanation of violence and its dynamics, drawing upon video footage, cutting-edge forensics, and ethnography to examine violent situations up close as they actually happen--and his conclusions will surprise you. Violence comes neither easily nor automatically. Antagonists are by nature tense and fearful, and their confrontational anxieties put up a powerful emotional barrier against violence. Collins guides readers into the very real and disturbing worlds of human discord--from domestic abuse and schoolyard bullying to muggings, violent sports, and armed conflicts. He reveals how the fog of war pervades all violent encounters, limiting people mostly to bluster and bluff, and making violence, when it does occur, largely incompetent, often injuring someone other than its intended target. Collins shows how violence can be triggered only when pathways around this emotional barrier are presented. He explains why violence typically comes in the form of atrocities against the weak, ritualized exhibitions before audiences, or clandestine acts of terrorism and murder--and why a small number of individuals are competent at violence.

Violence overturns standard views about the root causes of violence and offers solutions for confronting it in the future.


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Infuriating to say the least. Collins has absolutely no experience or qualifying credentials to speak about violence. The man has never been on a battle field, on the street with criminals, or in the ring with an opponent. The rich son of an Army Intelligence Officer who spent the majority of his life in academia. Collins is clearly anti-military, anti-police, favors communism, and associates himself with noted anarchists like Noam Chomsky. If violence goes against human physiological hard wiring, then why have human beings engaged in constant conflict since the dawn of time? Violent confrontation could be argued to be what makes humans, in fact, humans. If Collins were to write a similar text explaining how to conduct medical surgeries, or how to construct towering buildings that last eons with the same irresponsible rhetoric in this text, there would be a massive out cry of fraud from the medical and architectural fields. Collins chose to challenge the topic of violence and title members of the military, police, and professional athletes as cowards because he believes he will not be challenged due to his international notoriety, and fathomless academic awards. The realm of criminal justice and military science is a sensitive realm for those who lack the fortitude to face true cowards, and truly violent individuals. I challenge anyone who read this book and agree with Collins: enlist, wear the badge, climb into the ring. Fight, serve, and sacrifice. All who fail to do so are the true cowards. You enjoy your peace and freedom but refuse to pay for them your self. Instead, you willingly let others fight, serve, and sacrifice so you don't have to. Collins wouldn't dare write an entire book claiming to know how to perform surgery, because he has no training or experience in that field. What makes him qualified, then, to write about violence since his whole experience is solely based on movies and books, rather than personal experience. This book was a travesty and a fraud.  


The Microsociology of Violent Confrontations
Confrontational Tension and Incompetent Violence
Forward Panic
I Domestic Abuse
II Bullying Mugging and Holdups
Staging Fair Fights
Violence as Fun and Entertainment
Sports Violence
How Fights Start or Not
The Violent Few
Violence as Dominance in Emotional Attention Space

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About the author (2009)

Randall Collins is the Dorothy Swaine Thomas Professor of Sociology and a member of the Department of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania. His books include Interaction Ritual Chains (Princeton) and The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change.

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