- Paperback: 584 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (August 23, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691143226
- ISBN-13: 978-0691143224
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #854,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Violence: A Micro-sociological Theory
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Winner of the 2011 Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award, American Sociological Association
Collins's Violence is a sourcebook for the oft-ignored and usually unseen obvious: We humans are bad at violence, even if civilization makes us a bit better at it.---David D. Laitin, Science
Violence is a rare academic work, with both a convincing reappraisal of its scholarly terrain, and enough accessibility and useful advice to attract laymen. The writing is clear and direct--sometimes with a welcome touch of the colloquial--and well illustrated with photographs and charts.---Graeme Wood, New York Sun
Offering a wealth of observations...Randall Collins's overall theory is neat: violence is not easy, hence relatively rare. It is a compelling argument.---Jane Kilby, Times Higher Education
Insofar as his analysis has sought to highlight its micro-situational aspects, he must be applauded. In the future, only interdisciplinary research will be able to approach this topic with the same vigor, and coherence as Collins has provided us in this book.---Paul Armstrong, Canadian Journal of Sociology
The book is a superb commentary on how the emotional energy created by the situation of forward panic produces violence. . . . Collin's exhaustive treatment of the forward panic is a major contribution to the literature and the term is certain to become a standard part of our vocabulary on violence.---John M. Hagedorn, Anthropos
Professor Collins has initiated a much needed discussion of violence, unencumbered by myth and make-believe. . . . After reading this excellent and highly readable volume, there are few myths left remain standing!---P. A. J. Waddington, Policing
[T]he book is a notable attempt to develop a general sociological theory of interpersonal violence, and anyone interested in violence and peace can learn a great deal from it.---Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, Journal of Peace Research
[A] deeply learned, thoughtful, and erudite book. . . . [T]he complexity of thought and the clarity of exposition of this first volume leave the reader both fulfilled and eager. Like the greatest of classical sociological thinkers, Collins is both pointillist and abstract expressionist, synthesizing micro and macro, and always asserting the power of the social.---Michael Kimmel, American Journal of Sociology
Violence overturns standard views about the root causes of violence and offers solutions for confronting it in the future. (World Book Industry)
From the Back Cover
"Covering infinitely recurrent strips of social action running from blustering confrontation to intimate physical attack, Violence is peppered with breakthrough insights, demonstrating the power of systematic theory and even concluding with that rarest of sociological contributions, a short list of eminently practical suggestions. The concept of 'forward panic' alone makes the book indispensable. This book is a milestone contribution to criminology, to micro-sociology, to the sociology of emotions, and to a field that knows no academic boundaries: the history of efforts to control violence. Randy Collins has developed a framework that should guide a generation of research."--Jack Katz, University of California, Los Angeles
"I have no doubt that this book will be hailed as one of the most important works on violence ever written. After reading it, it is difficult any longer to imagine that all that is needed for violence to occur is a motive to engage in violence. Collins argues persuasively that the situation must also be right if violence is actually to occur."--Donald Black, author of The Social Structure of Right and Wrong
"A masterful study of the microdynamics of violence. This book will undoubtedly provoke excitement and controversy among a wide group of readers, including educated nonspecialists as well as academics, journalists, law-enforcement professionals, and policymakers. Truly an original book."--Eiko Ikegami, author of The Taming of the Samurai
Top customer reviews
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As for Randall Collins, I hate this book. It's oversimplifying crime. He basically says the crime equivalent of "people eat when they are hungry". No, really?? I disagreed with this book so much but it was interesting and he gave interesting examples that often went off on tangents. I will give this book 4 stars because even though I think the author is full of it, it made me think and question him and myself a lot. So eliciting that kind of emotion from a person (even though I learned nothing) is worth some stars. But the book is super redundant and could have been substantially shorter if the author quit repeating himself.
I will say, however, that VIOLENCE is not as well written as RITUAL CHAINS. There is a great deal of repetition, especially in the first several chapters, that a good copy editor (where have they all gone?) would have eliminated. I found the repetition annoying, which is why I did not give the book five stars. Perhaps other readers will be able to overlook this issue, but given the brilliance of Collins' previous work, I know he (and his pubisher) can do better.
You also come away with a different view of human nature after reading the book. You begin to think that what separates humans from animals might not be language or tools after all, but our capacity for emotional mirroring. Collins' book makes the world look kindler and gentler even when he's discussing the ugliest violence, because he shows how unnatural it is for us and how the situation has to be just right for it to occur.
After being raised in American culture with its love for violence from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to SWAT teams, it's really interesting to find out that it's all based on macho and bluster. Reading this book is like someone raised in Sparta going to modern-day Sweden and finding out the world isn't innately violent after all.
Collins's primary assertion is that people rarely act violently, that virtually everyone is reluctant to damage another person. The reason is that violent confrontation is fraught with tension and fear, which act as a protective emotional barrier against inflicting harm or being harmed. Collins regards this confrontational tension/fear as hardwired into the human brain. When violence does occur, tension and fear usually ensure that attacks are brief and incompetent. Terrified riflemen on a battlefield are unlikely to hit a target, if they shoot at all; clashing gang members are more bluff and bluster than lethal attackers. This picture completely contradicts the portrayal in action movies, where violence is perpetrated easily and efficiently, often over extended periods, usually free of anxiety.
Given the emotional barrier to violence, Collins asks, how does violence occur at all? He answers that the perpetrator must follow one of a few "pathways" that lead around the barrier of confrontational tension and into a "tunnel of violence." One such pathway, according to Collins, is to attack a weak victim. Audience encouragement is another pathway to violence, rather like the mob in the Coliseum urging on its favored gladiators, or bystanders shouting encouragement to students in a fistfight, or fans at a college football game. "Forward panic," a third path, is Collins's most intriguing contribution. These pathways lead into a "tunnel of violence" through which the perpetrator is entrained into actions that he would normally not commit.
This is an erudite yet highly readable synthesis of enormously diverse kinds of violence, but most grabbing are the individual analyses of each category of violence. The pages turn very quickly.