Theories of Violence

Attached you will find the Class 4 Summary document, Reading 1. Make sure you read the Class Summary document first, it contains all the instructions you will need and details the posting that you are required to make in the Discussion Forum. In the Discussion Forum you should write at least one or two sentences in response to the question…………………………………………….1. Which, if any, of the explanations that have been presented do you think are useful for understanding the causes of violence? What do you think are the causes? Justify your response.
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Theories of Violence
To Do:
*Read the summary below
*Go to the Discussion Forum: Answer the Questions on ‘Theories of
Violence’ by 1/7
Note: if you have problems downloading the readings, please get in
touch immediately
Theories of Violence
Key Concepts: popular theories of violence, sociological and
criminological theory
If you have completed SOC203 you might find it useful to refer back to your notes
and source material on theories of crime. Useful theory text books include Lilly R et
al (2007) Criminological Theory: Context and Consequences, Sage; Newman T (2007)
Criminology, Willan; Beirne P and Messerschmidt J (2006) Criminology, Roxbury.
In this section from my book Gender, Violence and the Social Order (2000) I discuss
the importance of theory and popular theories of crime. Everyone has an opinion on
the causes of violence. If you ask one of your friends and family members ‘What do
you think causes violence?’, they are unlikely to say, ‘I don’t know’. Last week when
we focused on serial killing we began to consider some of the explanations for
violent behavior. Theories of violence can roughly be divided into two groups: those
that focus on the individual and those that focus on the social structure.
1
2
Here are the explanations that women gave for men’s use of domestic violence in my
study which I have grouped into individual factors and cultural and social factors:
Individual factors:
“They could have been exposed to the same behaviour when they were a child and
their subconscious mind is therefore conditioned into reaction with violence when
faced with problems etc”
“They are mentally unstable”
“They are immature emotionally”
“Some men become violent when intoxicated with alcohol or drugs”
Cultural and Social Structural Factors:
“Because society, tv, popular press, adverts, porno magazines present a picture of
women as subordinate objects for men’s pleasure”
“It is because of the general inequality between men and women in society”
“The stresses of poverty, unemployment”
“Society teaches them that it is OK to use violence against a woman in the home”
“To give them a feeling of power and control over the woman”
“Because society allows them to get away with it – poor sentencing, not treated
seriously by the criminal justice system”
3
In this section I have applied the major criminological theories to the study of
violence:
Those holding a classicist perspective would argue that the violent
individual is a rational actor who has weighed up the costs and benefits of
committing the act. The emphasis in classicist thought is on the act of
violence rather than what led up to it.
A positivist, in contrast, believes that the violent individual is determined
by forces which impinge upon them and affect the degree to which they
are socialized into society. Thus violence is caused by biological,
psychological or social factors.
4
Those holding a sociological perspective would look at the social
structure in order to explain violence. Here violence is often seen as a
response to the person’s position in the social hierarchy, thus
deprivation, marginalization are considered to be especially relevant.
A feminist would largely explain violence as a feature of patriarchal
society, a way in which men can control and dominate women. For a
feminist in order to understand violence we must examine the
construction of masculinity in sexist society.
Reading:
Barak, Chapter 5
In Chapter 5 of the course text book Violence and Non Violence, Gregg Barak
develops our discussion of theory by providing an overview of adhoc, life course,
developmental and integrated models of explaining violence. His application of
these ideas to the subject of school shootings, terrorism and genocide helps to
clarify the points he makes (p. 162-8).
Theories of Violence: Reading 1 – Attached
In this extract from Elliott Currie’s The Roots of Danger: Violent Crime in a Global
Perspective. He argues that violence is endemic and is ‘bred by a complex mix of
social inequalities and deprivations’ .
5
Discussion Forum: ‘Theories of Violence’ Due 1/7
Go to the discussion forum and answer the following question. Submit your
response by:
1. Which, if any, of the explanations that have been presented do you think are
useful for understanding the causes of violence? What do you think are the causes?
Justify your response.
6
Theories  of  Violence  Reading  
 
 
Currie,  E.  (2009)  The  Roots  of  Danger:  Violent  Crime  in  Global  Perspective  
 
1  
 
 
2  
   
 
3  

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