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Why Violence? Leading Questions Regarding the Conceptualization and Reality of Violence in SocietyWilliam E. Thornton, Lydia Voigt, and D.W. Harper Carolina Academic Press Durham NC Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.
Chapter 1: What is the Meaning of Violence?Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.
What is the Meaning of Violence?Common Definitions Violence as Physical Force Violence as Violation Levels of Violence - Interpersonal Violence - Institutional Violence - Structural Violence The Social Construction of Violence in Society Informal Consensual Realty v. Formal Consensual Reality Common Stock Knowledge Cultural Indicators of Violence: Language and Metaphors Mass Media Images v. the Reality of Violence Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.Competing Perspectives on Violence - Criminal Justice Perspective - Public Health Perspective - Human Rights Perspective - Commercial/Commodity Perspective The Scientific/Criminological Construction of Violence Violence and the Law The Measurement of Violence Violence Victims Violence Typologies The Etiology of Violence Criminology, the Criminal Justice System, and the Political Order Debunking Violence Myths References Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.
What is the Meaning of Violence?Violence is a conceptual enigma wrapped in a social paradox. Few concepts or terms are so widely applied, representing such a broad range of meanings and interpretations, and refer to such a vast spectrum of phenomena. Violence has countless forms of expression and appears in all social settings (e.g., homes, workplaces, schools, places of worship, and communities) as well as across all levels of public and private institutions. Violence is noted not only for its ubiquity and ambiguity, but also its political exploitation; e.g., some particular acts of violence may be considered legitimate and illegitimate at the same time, depending on who is applying the label and who is being labeled. For instance, during the war with Iraq, people in the U.S. referred to Iraq’s military defense arsenal as “weapons of mass destruction” while referring to their own as “peacekeepers.” Since the concept of violence lacks concrete specificity and often functions to emotionally charge and politically define debates or legitimacy of actions, it is important to approach any discussion or study of violence cautiously. Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.Common Definitions Violence as Physical Force Most commonly used definition of violence. The exercise of physical force so as to inflict injury on, or cause damage to, persons or property. Leaves out many acts of violence, including threats of violence and other non-physical injury/harm. General bias against recognizing nonphysical forms of injury (thus denying victimization and ultimately justice) has been associated with cases of abuse such as intimate partner abuse. Violence as Violation Refers to failure to keep or observe or to violate the law. Problems exist with this definition. Most legal violations are not violent; this is also true of violations of the criminal code—most criminal offenses are not violent. There are many forms of violence that are not part of any legal or criminal code, including a range of regulatory violations committed by corporations, businesses, and public officials resulting in public injury and even deaths (e.g., safety violations, toxic waste dumping, and political corruption and human rights violations). Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.Levels of Violence Determining whether violence is understood as an interpersonal, institutional, or structural problem is important. Interpersonal Violence Interpersonal Violence refers to acts of violence that occur between and among individuals interacting in a wide range of contexts. Types of criminal interpersonal violence include homicide, rape, robbery and assault. However, other forms of interpersonal violence in varying degrees may be allowed or tolerated (e.g., parents spanking children, sports violence, sibling violence). By focusing chiefly on micro-level or interpersonal forms of violence, public attention is deflected from other macro-level types of violence (e.g., state or political forms of violence). Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.Institutional Violence Institutional violence refers to acts of violence that emanate in the context of definitions and patterns of interactions and relationships within the social milieu of the fundamental institutions of society (such as the family and familial organizations, schools and educational institutions, workplace and economic organizations, places of worship and religions organizations, and the state and the political/legal and public agencies or organizations). For example, some cases of institutional violence, such as forced intercourse in the context of a marital union, may not be regarded as a form of criminal rape. Gross negligence committed by a corporation’s violation of safety rules or environmental pollution may be handled in civil courts rather than criminal courts. Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.In the context of schools, examples may include ignoring abusive treatment of students by school authorities or failing to offer an adequate education through discriminatory educational practices. In the context of the military, acts many range from hazing of recruits to war crimes such as torture and killing of civilians or non-civilian populations. In the context of State or political institutions, examples may include human rights violations by persons in authority or implementation of policies that work against certain groups by violating their fundamental human rights. Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.Structural Violence Structural violence refers to acts of violence that have been accepted as being necessary for the maintenance of the overall established pattern or organization of society. This form of violence is used to protect and reinforce the hierarchical patterns of society, which determine the power relationships across all spectrums of society. The maintenance of structural violence is so important that it is rationalized and protected both physically (by the military and police) and psychologically (by dominating political ideology and philosophy). Structural violence may include violence by either commission or omission (Iadicola and Shupe, 2003). Poverty and homelessness in the context of affluent societies such as the U.S. represent archetypical illustrations of structural violence. Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2013, Thornton et al. All rights reserved.
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