THE CONCEPTUALIZATION OF POLITICAL VIOLENCE
HENRY CLARKE DOLIVE
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE
COUNCIL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL
FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Henry Clarke Dolive
To Linda and Liescnen,
The author wishes to express his great appreciation to
Professor Manning J. Dauer for his guidance and patience in
directing this dissertation. Appreciation is also in order
to committee members Professors O. Ruth McQuown, Keith R. Legg,
Larry C. Berkson, and Richard P. Haynes for their reading of
the manuscript and helpful suggestions. Such appreciation
should, perhaps, be extended to include almost the entire
politicAl science faculty who, at one time or another, of-
fered suggestions. In addition, the writer wishes to thank
two persons who provided both help and encouragement early in
the formulation process: Professor Thomas L. Page and
colleague Samuel W. Taylor. Lastly, the writer thanks his
typist, Marcia E. Rogg, for her conscientiousness in editing
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGC 'TS .. . .. .. . . . ..
ABSTRACT . . . . . . . . . . .
INTRODUCTION . . . . . .
Providing the Framework . . . .
Previewing the Development . .
TOWARD A DEFINITION OF VIOLENCE . .
Violence as Social Action . . .
Violence: Action and the Actor . .
Violence: Action and the Victim . .
Disorientation: Victims and Perpetra-
tors . . . . . .
Disorientation as Orientation: The
Question of Subcultures . .
What Violence Is Not . . . .
Summary: What Violence Is . . .
TOWARD THE CONCEPTUALIZATION OF
POLITICAL VIOLENCE . . . . .
Common Ways of Conceptualizing Violence
as Political . . . . .
Stepping Back: The Societal Conse-
quences of Violence . . .
Stepping Further Back: Political
Violence as the Distribution
of Violence . . . . . .
THE OPERATIONALIZATION OF POLITICAL
VIOLENCE . . . . .. .
As Pre-Theory . . . . . .
Nature of the Data .. ......
Geographical Area and the Sample .
The Indicators, As Drawn From Police
Records . . . . . .
Weighting of Selected Indicators .
Omissions and/or the Potential of the
Framework . . . . .
PERSONAL, PROPERTY, "POLITICAL" AS
VIOLENCE TYPOLOGIES . . . . .
Personal Violence . .
Systemic Violence . . . . .
Property Violence . . . . .
"Political" Violence . . . .
Summary . . . . . . .
VIOLENCE: VICTIMS AND ASSAILANTS .
THE DISTRIBUTION OF VIOLENCE IN
SOCIETY: POLITICAL VIOLENCE ..
The Evidence . . . . . .
Making Political Violence Comparable.
POLITICAL VIOLENCE AND CHANGE OVER
TIME . . . . . .
CONCLUDING REMARKS: WHERE WE HAVE
BEEN AND WHEhE WE ARE GOING . . .
The Approach . . . . . .
The Findings: Summary . . . .
Uses of the Conceptualization. . .
Implications of the Conceptualization
Implications of the Transcendent or
"Objective'" Referent . . .
APPENDICES . . . . .
BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . .
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . .
. . . .
. . . . .
. . C .
. . . C C
* . .
* . .
. . . .
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the
Graduate Council of the University of Florida in Partial
Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
THE CONCEPTUALIZATION OF POLITICAL VIOLENCE
Henry Clarke Dolive
Chairman: Manning J. Dauer
Major Department: Political Science
This study has close ties with a growing body of post-
behavioral literature. It deplores the seemingly inherent
behavioral tendency toward total identification of indicator
and concept, and it questions the inability of behavioralism
to assess political significance beyond the notion of change.
It also accuses the behavioral school of thought for an
avoidable lack of creativity in its concepts, of failing to
live up to its potential both in terms of concept formation
and data collection; too often concepts are formed because of
data which is seen as "there." In the area of political vio-
lence, this critique is seen as describing what is here
referred to as the riot study perspective.
The attempt of this study to break away from this riot
study perspective centers in the philosophical analysis of
the concept of political violence, the examination of the con--
cepts of violence and "political," separately and combined.
The analysis includes how the terms are normally used and how
they should be applied for consistency, clarity, and usefulness.
The essence of violence is found to be approximately described
as socially disorienting action; that working definition
expands the categories of actions to be called violence
although it restricts the inclusion of property destruction
within the concept of violence. The concept of "political"
is delineated with emphasis upon its distributional, rather
than power, aspects. The concept of political violence thus
is seen as centering in the societal distribution of actions
of violence. Violence having been developed as a negative
value, political violence is the unequal or nonrandom allo-
cation of socially disorienting actions upon those population
elements having little actual or latent political power.
The validity and usefulness of the above philosophical
analysis is demonstrated through empirical operationalization
and testing. Violence is operationalized through the use of
Gainesville, Florida, police arrest and general incident report
records for the years 1960-1961 and 1970. Specifically in-
cluded are persons (1) arrested for crimes of violence, (2)
reporting crimes of violence, and (3) subjected to a "card
arrest" or an arrest not resulting in a conviction. The
distribution of these actions of violence is operationalized
through the socio-economic, demographic characteristics of
the persons involved and of the Gainesville population as a
whole, as reflected in United States census data. Since the
data represent nominal or ordinal measurement at best,
statistical comparisons rely heavily upon the Chi-square
statistic and the Kolmogorov-Smirnov t.v:o-sample test.
The purpose of this study is to systematically review
and analyze what is meant by violence and political violence,
to empirically support the resulting conceptualization
within a specific local context, and to demonstrate within
that context the usefulness of the conceptualization and its
operationalization for further research.
Providing the Framework
Concepts of political violence, like most concepts,
are not specific statements to be proven true or false,
but analytical constructs encompassing whole categories of
events and statements in the attempt increase our under-
standing of them. Thus the relevant question in regard to
the conceptual chapters proper is not "is each step in its
development proven," but "is the concept and the framework
of analysis it provides useful in aiding our understanding
of phenomena and their related concepts." Chapters II and
III of this study are directed toward developing such a
framework. The usefulness of the framework is to be found
in its ability to identify strong similarities among various
social actions and to relate those categories of actions to
concepts concerning the operation of the political system.
Par too often in contemporary political science, the
existence and nature of frameworks of analysis have been
determined by the easy availability of quantifiable data.
In terms of the existence of concepts, this legacy of
behavioralism has been recognized by many postbehavioralists.
Christian Bay bemoaned the reluctance of behavioralists to
deal with what he saw as a very central concept of human
needs.1 Peter Bachrach and Morton Baratz likewise scorned
the avoidance of a concept they referred to as nondecisions.2
Members of the Caucus for a New Political Science have
published a book of "dissenting essays" exploring such
usually-excluded concepts as community, authority, and
legitimacy.3 Corresponding to the above critiques, most
political scientists have found a need, as scientists, to
avoid the concept of political violence and substitute a
more readily categorized "civil violence" or "collective
Where there is quantifiable data, it tends to closely
define related concepts. Political scientists in such cases
show a startling lack of creativity in dealing with the form
and structure of the data. Most often, our concepts and our
thought patterns become prisoners of the process of quantifi-
cation.4 Our indicators invariably become synonomous with our
This transition appears to have occurred in the case of
the riot studies of the late 1960's. By skimming off the
readily-quantifiable aspects of obviously politically
relevant violence, those studies resulted in the distortion
of the whole concept of political violence. To a political
scientist in the United States who is discussing the domestic
scene, political violence means riots, usually racial riots.
To the degree that violence and political violence are cast
in any conceptual framework, they are usually understood
through the tradition of common law with much of its emphasis
on offences against private property or through an emphasis
on subcultural variation and autonomy. As is demonstrated in
the two following chapters, both alternatives are inadequate.
To avoid the pitfalls outlined above, the framework
herein employed for understanding the concept of political
violence will emanate from systematic analysis, philosophical
rather than behavioral.5 Distinctions as to what violence
and political violence are or are not must be made carefully.
Not to make sound distinctions results in, as Hannah Arendt
has stated, not only "a certain deafness to linguistic
meanings, which would be serious enough, but it has also
resulted in a kind of blindness to the realities they corre-
spond to."6 Toward the end of developing a conceptual
framework with sound distinctions, this study views political
violence as the union area between the concepts of what is
violence and what is political and proceeds with those
Previewin g the Development
The concept of violence is developed in Chapter II by
examining relevant writings from numerous sources in an
attempt to isolate the essence of what is meant by violence.
For purposes of analysis, violence is viewed as an action
involving an actor and an object of the action. Each of
these parts is examined to determine if it offers any
central meaning to our understanding of violence. The
ramifications of viewing violence as action and as a
particular type of social action are contrasted with the
ramifications of viewing violence as a state of being.
Approaching violence from the standpoint of the actor,
concepts such as intentionality, rationality, illegality,
illegitimacy, responsibility, and blame are examined for
contributions they might have for a working definition of
violence. From the standpoint of the person acted upon,
violence is discussed in the context of a violation of
human rights. Within that context, terms such as intensity,
harm, and pain are applied in sharpening the ongoing concept
delineation. That delineation is carried beyond the stage
of physical interaction to that of mental disorientation of
social behavior expectations. The possible applicability
of that disorientation to legally-defined perpetrators as
well as victims is also discussed.
In Chapter III, the concept of violence developed in
Chapter II is transformed into a concept of political
violence. The approach aims at providing a conceptual
framework in which to cast the empirical analysis of later
chapters. The framework draws upon the views of political
writers as diverse as Aristotle, Harold Lasswell, and
David Easton in developing an elitist view of the political
system emphasizing the unequal distributions of values.
Within this context, political violence is conceptualized
through the use of a Marcusean "objective referent"
stressing difference from a random distribution.7
The development in Chapters II and III must be considered
in the realm of macro-.theory, raising questions about direc--
tions, assumptions, and approaches within the discipline
and its concepts on a broad scale. Yet much of the usefulness
of conceptual frameworks stems from their correspondence to
and consistency with what we know as the real world.
Chapter IV serves as a transition chapter, reducing the
concepts which have been developed into concrete actions
within a specific context, allowing the concepts to be
empirically evaluated. Utilizing Gainesville, Florida,
Police Department records, various categories of violence
are operationalized. Data recorded on various socio-economic,
demographic characteristics are transformed into an ordinal
scale representing political powerlessness within a context
of social class.
Chapter V begins the micro-level analysis of the concept
of violence in Gainesville. It is primarily oriented toward
evaluating the empirical consistency of various parts of the
conceptualization and their operationalization. Support for
the various manifestations of violence must be sought in th*
similarity of their distributional patterns. Chapter VI
continues the concept verification by empirically testing
the theoretical suggestion that legally-defined perpetrators
should be included along with victims as persons experiencing
The theoretical conceptualization contains two stages.
The first derives the essence of violence and hence the
type of actions to be counted as violence. Chapters V and
VI, discussed above, examine the consistency of the distri-
butional patterns among various actions counting as violence,
the objective being the support of theoretically-defined
similarities through the isolation of empirical similarities.
The second stage of the conceptualization goes beyond making
statements about what counts as violence to a statement
about what the distribution of violence phenomena is among
social class/political power differentiations in society at
large. The two stages of the conceptualization, what violence
is and especially what its distribution is, are not only part
of the conceptual framework but are subject to empirical
verification. Utilizing United States Census-data for
comparisons with violence data, Chapter VII undertakes this
analysis. Is violence in Gainesville, Florida, in fact,
political in the sense of a nonrandom distribution?
With the empirical verification of the conceptualization,
the remainder of Chapter VII moves to another phase in the
organization of this study, the demonstration of possible
uses of the conceptualization/operationalization in further
research. Having tested whether or not violence in
Gainesville is political, a test statistic is suggested to
place the political nature of its violence on a continuum.
Such a continuum would allow cross-sectional comparisons
with other communities. Chapter VIII continues t:e exami-
ation of the usefulness of the conceptualization/
operationalization by analyzing Gainesville political
violence longitudinally. Such analysis has the potential
of demonstrating most clearly the distortion in our perception
of -political violence brought about by the riot-oriented
studies of the middle and late 1960's.
Chapter IX, the conclusion, reviews the parts of the
threefold development and their relationship to each other:
a) the conceptual framework; b) its empirical support, and
c) its uses in further research. It also examines the
implications of accepting the conceptual framework as
supported by'empirical analysis within a local context.
It is hoped that this preview will help orient the
reader in-his understanding of the chapters to follow.
]Christian Bay, "Politics and Pseudopolitics: A
Critical Evaluation of Some Behavioral Literature," The
Am eri can Political Science Review, LIX, No. 1 (March, 1965),
2Peter Bachrach and Morton S. Baratz, "Decisions and
Nondecisions: An Analytical Framework," The Anerican
Political Science Review, LVII, No. 3 (September, 1963),
3See Philip Green and Sanford Levenson, eds., Power and
Community: Dissenting Essays in Political Science (New York:
Vintage Books, 1970). There have been some traditionalists,
like Hannah Arendt, who were never incorporated within the
behavioralist movement and who continue to write about such
aforementioned concepts in a traditional-philosophical way.
For the most part, however, their insights have had little
effect on the mainstream of the discipline. It would seem
as though in order to move political science into a "post-
behavioralist" stance, one must first have been encompassed
by the behavioralist movement. One has to have been there
to find the way out.
4For a general discussion of the replacement of concepts
by indicators see Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man (Boston:
Beacon Press, 1964), pp. 84-123. For a specific example of
the domination of concepts by readily quantifiable indicators,
see Alfred B. Clubok, Norman M. Wilensky, and Forrest J.
Berghorn, "Family Relationships, Congressional Recruitment,
and Political Modernization," The Journal of Politics, XXXI,
No. 4 (November, 1969), 1035-1062. Accepting the concept of
political family ties in the United States as defined by
the number of Congressmen who had relatives in Congress,
this study concluded that the United States confirmed an
established pattern of political modernization along with
other related modernizing components. However, the exclusion
of the United States population as a part of the kinship
variable was nowhere adequately covered. The only consideration
of a relationship between kinship and population was presented
as a goodness of fit test. Because that test did not demon-
strate any statistically significant relationship between
population and Congressional kinship, the latter was seen as
a viable variable in its own right (rather than asking why,
in the United States, the logical relationship was not to be
found). The number of Congressmen who had relatives in
Congress was seen as hard data; it was important information
to be analyzed because it was available-- it was there.
Nowhere did the article recognize that the number of
Congres.omen r'ho had relatives in Congress is as much a
conceptualization as the number of Congressmen who have
relatives in Congress divided by the United States population
(or some other estimate of Congressmen having Congressional
relatives if those officeholders were selected randomly).
Had one of the latter alternatives been chosen, the United
States would, in all probability, have shown an increase in
the importance of family ties. Thus the study could have
raised some valuable and interesting questions for the concept
of political modernization.
5That analysis (of the framework) falls in Cnudde and
Npubauer's second level of theory "...definitional or
conceptual expositions,, examinations of. the logical implic.-
tions of concepts and their relationship to other concepts."
Such concept delineation, those authors feel, is necessary
before one moves to the third level of theory which is
empirical. See Charles F. Cnudde and Deane E. Neubauer, eds.,
Empirical Democratic Theory (Chicago: Markham Publishing
Company, 1969), pp. 1, 10.
6Hannah Arendt, "On Violence," in Crises of the Republic
(New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1972), p. 142.
7For the derivation of this term, see Marcuse, pp. 135-142.
TOWARD A DEFINITION OF VIO LECE
In developing a definition of any concept, the serious
scholar, it would seem, is forced into one of two emphases:
essence-seeking or boundary--defining. The former dictates
a search for common denominators in the usage of the concept
and establishes the definition from that core, leaving the
boundaries somewhat hazy. The latter attempts to draw a
circle around the concept, delineating what is included and
what is excluded, but never really getting to the heart of
the concept.1 The macro-level analysis presented in this
study is biased toward the essence-seeking approach. Some
boundary definition of violence is of course both necessary
and unavoidable to discovering its essence, but that emphasis
will be supplementary, not primary. The actual definition of
violence presented here contains several aspects: it is first
a consolidation of the way the term is used today; second, it
is a creative effort as is inherent in any conscientious
conceptualization; and third, it is an implied recommendation
that the concept in the future be understood as presented.
Thus the definition, at one and the same time, tells how
violence is used, how it is, and how it should be used.2
Violence as Social Action
At its most basic level, the term violence is almost
always used to describe an event, a happening, which is
bounded in time and space, having a relatively discernible
beginning and end. This characteristic is highly visible
in the paradigm case of aggravated assault resulting in
physical injury. The actual physical confrontation specifi-
cally describes the event in time and place.
Yet it would also seem clear that violence describes
something more definitive than any happening or event.
Drawing upon the Latin root of violence translated as to
"carry force" we might speak of a violent storm or a violent
earthquake, but we would not refer to these events by them-
selves as violence. Rather, violence as a noun would seem to
be appropriate only as applied to human events or happenings,
not phenomena of nature.3 By human events two dimensions are
implied. First, each event is a human action, a form, direct
or indirect, of human behavior, with the human being attaching
subjective meaning to his behavior.4 Second, the ultimate
object of the action is another human being who is acted upon.5
Both dimensions must be present before violence can be
said to have taken place. Absence of the first dimension is
illustrated by the previously mentioned earthquake which,
even in the case where it resulted in injury to persons,
would not be called violence, being a phenomenon of nature.
Absence of the second dimension, on the other hand, is
illustrated by the man who clears land using dynamite.
Outside the effect of the explosions on other persons, no
violence can be said to have been done. Even the argument
that property damage is violence is based upon that damage
effecting another individual, usually the owner, in certain
undesirable ways. The physical destruction is, in itself,
irrelevant to the designation of violence even within this
context. The same building explosion could be the action of
a student radical or a professional wrecker paid by the
owner. Similarly, if an individual destroys a sandcastle
which he built himself, no one would call that action violence.
But is the same sandcastle had been built by a neighborhood
child who was admiring it at the time, the term would probably
be applied. Whereas this illustration may broaden the notion
of property or ownership, it makes clear that even according
to the destruction-of-property-as-violence thesis the differ-
ence between violence and nonviolent action lies in the
ultimate object of a person. The value and meaning of the
property to that person and his rights in connection with it--
not an independent monetary appraisal of the physical
destruction-- is the justification for the label.7
It is, however, not always easy to identify the specific
individuals involved in each of these dimensions in real
actions, as will be evident in the discussion of systemic
violence later in this chapter.8 Also, in the common case
of fighting, it is extremely difficult to label one party
as actor and the other as object; violence is not always
and perhaps not usually a one-way street; the arrows go both
ways.9 The difficulty of identifying the actor especially in
the case of systemic violence is the primary reason for using
the term action rather than behavior in describing violence.
In some instances of systemic violence, the immediate police
behavior is not in itself sufficient to describe the particu-
lar social action; public policy defined by city officials
makes them as much the actors as the police. The term action
would seem to accommodate such notions better than behavior.
The concept of violence as action can be delineated
one step further at this point. In the preceding paragraphs,
we have described violence as an interaction process between
persons, although some of the persons may not be easily
identified. This description alone would be grounds for
describing violence as social action.10 At the risk of
redundancy, however, it would also seem to be a social action
in that the subjective meaning of the action to the actor
takes account of and is oriented by the behavior of others.11
This "social" nature would seem to be manifest in all
incidents we know as violence, including the actions of
a psychopathic killer.
Violence as social action can be sharpened by a
brief look at what is excluded from the concept. If
violence is social action, actions which are not social
and phenomena which are not action are not violence.
Nonsocial actions are probably best seen as a continuum of
degrees due to a ubiquitous socialization process. Yet, on
the level of trivia, it would be hard to imagine a man
scratching his head in private as a social action. Yet this
exclusion is not very useful, for if the same individual
committed suicide we would automatically see that action as
influenced by the behavior of others-- hence, a social action.12
In contrast, the exclusion of phenomena which are not
action is highly relevant. The prime category of phenomena
which are not actions are states of being, both on a societal
and an individual level.13 Few scholars speak of violence
in such a way as to include social states of being without
reference to specific actions. One who does recognizes that
what he refers to as structural violence is equivalent to
social injustice.14 Whereas- some violence may be social
injustice, violence as social action dictates that all mani-
festations of social injustice are not violence. Some states
of being illustrating social injustice may be better described
as repression, oppression, or exploitation.15 Systemic,
institutional, or structural "violence" is violence only when
it is expressed in social action.6
Individual states of being which are excluded from
violence are best illustrated by a person suffering from
the psychosis of paranoia. There is definitely an object or
victim and in all probability there are persons present
putting him in a state of fright who could be loosely
considered actor's (thus making the state of being a social
phenomena), but there is no connecting action. 411 ingre-
dients are present for violence except the action. The
paranoic feels that violence is being committed, but there
is no action to correspond to his feelings. Similarly,
after playing the role of spectators at a mass streaking
rally, two psychologists described for me feelings which
all agreed were identical to those encountered in violence
involvement, but there had been no action so there was
In describing violence as social action, it is necessary
to recognize that there is a back door into states of being,
particularly on the societal level. Just as political
scientists have come to accept nondecisions as a form of
decisions,18 so must social inaction, if it can be limited
in time and space, be considered a form of action. If social
inaction is a form of social action, then under conditions
which will be discussed, social inaction may be a form of
violence. Thus the need for further development of the
concept is indicated, along with the value of beginning
the definition with the notion of social action.
Violence: Action and the Actor
1f we were to diagram violence as it has been presented
up to this point, analytically, we could distinguish three
separate components: an actor or perpetrator, an action
(social), and an object or victim. Description so far has
centered in the action with brief forays out to establish
the existence of the other two elements. In order to further
investigate the nature of violence it is necessary to link
or analytically associate the action with the other two
elements. Under this strategy, violence as a social action
will be associated first with the actor and second with the
object. The goal will be to ascertain which characteristics
often assigned to violence are applicable to all its mani-
festations and useful in isolating it from other social
Violence as Intentional Versus Responsibility for Violence
Academic literature on violence has focused almost
exclusively upon intentional or purposeful acts of violence.
That this generalization is applicable to all social science
disciplines suggests that the intentionality of the actor in
committing the act may be a useful ingredient in delineating
what is meant by violence. If, in fact, intent on the part
of an individual was a necessary and sufficient condition for
violence, it would be de fact a part of the definition.19
The idea that intent could be so intertwined, however,
can be quickly dispelled. It would seem that by raising
hypothetical cases we can reach a point where intent to
commit violence becomes disassociated from any action we
could understand as violence. In a case of intent including
premeditation, A waits in an alley for B to pass on his way
to work and, when he does, A steps from his hiding place and
fires a pistol at B, seriously wounding him. In a slight
variation, A waits, steps from the alley, fires, and misses
B. In a third variation, A waits in the alley, but drifts
off to sleep and does not see B pass. Fourth, A waits, but
B calls in sick and does not go to work and is thus saved.
Lastly, A does not hear his alarm clock and does not wake
up in time to intercept B. In all these cases, A intended
to perform an act of violence, shooting B, but only in the
first case did he succeed. Yet we would call the first two
cases violence, and the last three we clearly would not.
The intent was the same in all cases; only the action differed.
Surely intent is neither synonomous with violence nor a
sufficient cause of it.20
If, as we have said, there can be intent without
violence, can there be violence without intent? Is intent
a necessary and defining aspect of violence? The existence
of actions which would be commonly called violence but with
no intent on the part of an actor would dispel this connection.
In searching for such examples precaution must be taken.
Often an aggravated assault, a paradigm of violence, is a
development from a fight which neither party anticipated.
The violence, however, while not premeditated, was definitely
intentional. Intentionality is inclusive of all actions
except accidents (which may or may not be the result of
negligence). Also, we should be aware that many times
violence, once entered into, escalates to a level not intended
by either party.21 In the case of the above aggravated
assault, serious injury may not have been the intent of
either party to the fight. This case does not illustrate
the presence of violence without intent, however; uninten-
tional escalation or consequences or violence already engaged
in are not the same. In contrast, if, upon witnessing an
individual running through an alley in the vicinity of a
ringing burglar alarm, a policeman shouted halt and then
fired a warning shot over the running person's head which
was so inaccurate as to strike him, that unintentional
shooting would almost universally be called violence.22
If more examples are brought into play, it becomes
evident that most unintentional actions which involve negli-
gence are (upon meeting other yet undiscussed criteria)
subject to the label of violence. Examples of unintentional
nonnegligent action are much less subject. If a man speeds
his car through a residential area at sixty miles per hour
and strikes a child in a crosswalk, it is violence; if he
is driving twenty and the child darts from between two
parked cars and is struck, it is not. If an individual
unintentionally shoots a friend through horseplay with a
supposedly empty gun, that is much more likely to be thought
of as violence than if the friend tripped on a hunting
expedition and was accidentally shot by the first individual
who attempted to catch him.
It would seem that violence is an appropriate label
for some actions whether or not they are intentional.23
Rather, it seems much more determining if an outside
observer can attach responsibility in the sense of blame
for the action on a person or persons.24 If there is no
blame, responsibility, or negligence, then it is doubtful
that there would be much agreement on the label of violence
for the action. Perhaps this distinction helps us under-
stand why acts of nature are not described as violence; it
is difficult to affix the blame.25 In conclusion, it does
seem true that the social sciences concentrate their
attention on the narrower category of intentional violence,
but that seems to be because intentional violence offers
much greater potential in terms of predictability and
explanatory value, not because all violence is intentional.
The notion of responsibility as blame is much more central
in defining the concept.
Violence as Rational
Much social science literature also speaks of ration-
ality and violence being closely tied together. Hannah
Arendt states that all violence must be understood as
instrumental in nature, i.e., useful in bringing about desired
goals and hence rational action.26 Harold Nieburg, taken
literally, results in at least an equivalent position where
all violence has a rational aspect for someone involved.27
Another orientation of riot studies views riots as activities
which not only furthered desired policies but were encouraged
by persons who saw the connections between violence and
policy.28 As in the case of intentionality, it is
imperative that we examine the rationality of actions to see
if any clues are offered for our definition of violence.
The analysis must take into account the fact that the
meaning of the term rational is not always defined precisely,
and may take one of several connotations when applied to
violence: (1) to be the result of a process of reasoning
[subjective], (2) to be the result of a correct, efficient,
or pragmatic reasoning process [dependent upon the objective
situation as much as the subjective evaluation of it], and
(3) to enhance someone's interest [when viewed from a stand-
point outside of any one of the participants]. It is
necessary to see if any of these meanings is useful in
developing a definition of violence.
Rationality is at its broadest when associated with
violence in the third interpretation, since it does not refer
to any mental process of a participant, but only to a situa-
tion in which violence is present; in addition, it pretends
to be applicable in all cases of violence. There is doubt
if this view of violence as rational is accurate. It
requires us to see violence as a zero sum game in the sense
that someone always wins and someone always loses. It seems
more likely that, in many cases of violence, all participants
lose. If, however, the "game" is amended to a point where
we say violence is rational because one party does not lose
as much as another, then violence as rational seems a
reasonable formulation. However, accepting this position
to be accurate, does looking for rational actions in this
sense help us to identify violence? Or, suspecting violence
has occurred, does the fact that the action was rational con-
firm or verify our suspicions? It is hard to imagine any
social action which is not less or more helpful to one
party's interest than another's. Looking for rationality
in social actions thus helps us no more than looking for
social actions. This connotation of violence as rational
is not useful to the degree that "not all social actions
invoke blame" is useful.
At the opposite extreme is the first connotation
which sees the rationality in violence solely as a result
of the subjective reasoning process of a participant.
Simply, violence is rational because, as a result of a
reasoning process, someone believes it is beneficial for
him to act in that manner. Certainly most premeditated
crimes of violence fit this pattern, as does much of the
violence done by protest movements. Yet this connotation of
rationality can be rejected as an aid to definition primarily
because, as was the case with intentionality, rationality in
this sense is not present in all manifestations of violence.29
At one level, violence as a rational action in this
sense can be rejected by claiming that violence is prerational
or instinctive behavior that is best explained without
reference to any conscious reasoning process. Robert Audrey
makes this type of explanation by analogy of human behavior
to animal instinctive behavior. Man is violent because of
innate aggressiveness associated with a territorial defense.30
The notion of innate human aggressiveness closely related to
violence is found in writings by authors as diverse as
Thomas Hobbes and Sigmund Freud. Whereas violence may be
viewed as hereditary, a close variation can be found in
tracing violence to early childhood experiences or to
tendencies ingrained in societal living prior to the action--
experiences and tendencies so deeply ingrained as to be
almost instinctive in their manifestations. Marcuse's
ideas of the United States as a repressive society damming
up spontaneous and necessary human actions comes close to
requiring the labeling of violence when it does erupt as
Large numbers of crimes of violence seem to fit more
closely under the "crimes-of-passion" category than result
from reasoning.32 Collective violence has historically been
associated with psychological rather than rational motivations.33
One recent riot study dealt with the concept of "issueless
riots," riots where there was no generalized belief among
the participants and their action was not instrumental in
solving the group's problems. These were, in.effect,
examples of collective violence without reason as a thought
process.34 All manifestations of violence which could be
described as spontaneous or automatic or reactive demonstrate
the inapplicability of the term rational in its connotation
as the result of a reasoning process.
The second connotation of violence as rational is a
combination of the two notions just discussed. Rationality
as a correct, efficient, or pragmatic reasoning process
combines the notions of reasoning and of a beneficial outcome.
Since both elements of this combination have demonstrated
their inadequacies in describing all manifestations of
violence, the combination is even more restrictive in its
application.35 For one, it is often cast solely in the
context of individuals reasoning about violence outcomes in
an instrumental ends-means sense and excludes the concept of
violence as an end itself.36 Certainly some violent crime
is planned and beneficial to the actor in material or status
respects. Certainly some riots demonstrate both generalized
beliefs and usefulness in furthering group goals.37 Rational
violence in this sense describes a significant subclass of
acts of violence, but it is not helpful in defining the
Violence as rational action, in all connotations
discussed here, can be considered important types or classes
of violence. To the degree that the positions of Arendt and
Nieburg alluded to earlier call upon the investigator to
examine all violence to see if or how it fits into these
subclasses, the admonition that violence be understood as
rational or instrumental must be applauded.38 However,
violence as rational in any or all of these senses is,
like intentionality, not useful in developing a definition.
Violence as Illegal, Illegitim.te, Unjustifiable or Wrongful
Violence, as used in ordinary speech, has taken on
connotations associating it with, at the worst, criminality
or immorality and, at the best, inappropriateness.39 The
connotations in turn can determine our use of the language,
with the result that we become instruments of the language
rather than vice versa. Inevitably the language becomes
ideological to the point of excluding particular thought
channels or processes.40 Academicians, especially social
scientists, geared to consensus as truth, become an integral
part of the established order and the language of stability.41
Regardless of the role these connotations may play, they are
real and must be examined to see if they offer any help in
Beginning our analysis at the worst connotation level,
it is easy to demonstrate that, regardless of its relationship
with the established order, not all violence is illegal. An
individual who does violence in self-defense is not judged
criminal. Neither are many persons who initiate the violence:
the shopkeeper who kills a would-be burglar, the police who
use "excessive force" in quelling a demonstration, or even,
perhaps, the professional boxer who steps into the ring and
attacks. Certainly much, probably most, of the overt personal
violence which forms the stereotype is illegal, but the
exceptions are too common to define violence as illegal
Somewhat more complex is the association of violence
with actions that are illegitimate, wrongful, or unjusti-
fiable. These concepts are much broader than simple
illegality. Violence is commonly defined as the "illegit-
imate use of force" in contrast to Weber's concept of the
state as entailing the legitimate use of force.42 In this
country, seeing violence in this sense is reinforced by a
Lockian heritage which, while it may permit the use of
violence to establish a democratic government, views violence
as unnecessary and inappropriate behavior while that govern-
ment is functioning.43 Legitimacy reduces to a general
agreement with the values of the status quo. Rioters commit
violence, but overzealous police officials do not.
Two basic points need to be made concerning the
relationship between violence and legitimacy. First, and
more obvious following the case of rationality, the relation-
ship depends upon the definition of legitimacy.4 If
legitimacy is thought to hinge about citizen consensus,
which is usually translated into acceptance or acquiescence,
then to think of violence as only illegitimate actions would
exclude thousands of racial lynchings or Indian massacres in
United States history and the Nazi extermination of Jews
under Hitler in German history from the concept of violence.
On the other hand, if legitimacy is defined primarily as a
right or entitlement to action, it becomes extremely
difficult to operationally distinguish legitimacy. At one
extreme, it could be argued that all actions of the state
are made legitimate by periodic elections, but the previous
examples would apply and militate against this position.
At the other extreme, it could be argued that legitimacy is
only an ideological defense and is possessed by no political
authority.45 If all actions of the state are illegitimate,
the concept of legitimacy means nothing and is of no use in
Second, legitimacy is only used in cases where it
appears the state is clearly either the actor in violence or
the object of the action. If a man used violence in self
defense against a personal physical attack, it would be
stilted or inappropriate speech to say his violence was legit-
imate or illegitimate; we would probably say his actions were
justifiable or not. Thus the label of illegitimate, even if
it rather than legitimate, were exclusively applicable to
violence, is not an appropriate label to apply to all social
actions we would call violence.
A step broader than illegitimacy are the characteristics
of unjustifiable and wrongful; these characteristics would
seem to be linguistically appropriate to violence both between
representatives of the state and other individuals and between
private persons. However, it is reasonable to assume that,
given the large volume of literature written justifying
violence in the abstract to the justification of specific
instances, some violence is justifiable.46 The justifications
often include balancing of harm done between not doing and
doing violence, the immediacy of the end toward which the
means of violence are directed, and the theoretical public
advocacy of the action to society.47 For whatever reasons,
most persons would say that a physical assault upon a
complete stranger is unjustifiable, but self defense is
justifiable. Most persons would say that the necessary police
use of violence to halt a serious crime is justified, but the
excessive use of force by the police is not. Some violence
is justifiable and some is not-- a fact which does not aid
in the development of a definition.
Furthermore, even in the broadest sense that we could
call a justifiable action wrongful or evil, our definition of
violence is not advanced. If wrongful was simply a defining
characteristic of violence, surely pacifists would not feel
called upon to develop elaborate arguments explaining what
are complex moral judgments. Also, if violence meant
wrongful, we would not continue to use the term to describe
an action we had come to believe was "rightful." If we
witnessed a policeman beating a man with club, we would call
the act violence. However, if we learned that the victim of
the beating had just knifed a woman on the street and was
attempting to cut the policeman and escape, and that the
policeman was unarmed except for his club and had no other
means to make the man submit to arrest, we v:ould be convinced
of the rightfulness of the act, but we would still call it
violence.48 Furthermore, within particular subcultural
contexts, violence may be the rightful in contrast to other
Violence is not necessarily legal or illegal, justifi-
able or unjustifiable, legitimate or illegitimate, wrongful
or rightful. These terms, often used to describe violence,
have advanced our understanding of the concept of violence by
forcing us, in Socratic method, to consider and reject them
as useful in a definition.
Violence as Force or Intense Action
In the discussion of illegitimacy, it was suggested that
violence involved the use of force; in a recent argument, we
referred to police "excessive force" as though it were
synonomous with violence. Because of the common use of the
concept of force in referring to actions classifiable as
violence, it is imperative that we investigate the relation-
ship between the two terms.
We should begin by recognizing that there is a difference
in meaning between the noun, force, as in the use of force,
and the verb, force, as to force someone to do something.
The latter concept implies (1) an end toward which one's
behavior pattern is changed through the application of varying
degrees and types of pressure and (2) success in reaching
that end. In this sense, to force is equivalent to the verb
form of coercion and has no direct relevance to violence. 1
Persons are forced and coerced often without any violence
having been done, and very little violence entails coercion,
much violence being an end in itself. The very fact that
there is no analogous verb form for violence is instructive-
you can force someone, but you cannot violence him. In
contrast, definitions of violence as force refer to the noun
meaning the application of physical strength.50
Force is broader than the concept of violence in the
sense that its application is not limited to human actions.
Whereas violence is inappropriate to describe hurricanes or
earthquakes, force is an appropriate word. Yet even when
applied to human social actions, force has many uses where
violence could not be substituted. Knocking a child from
the path of an approaching car would be an act of force but
not of violence.
The demonstration that some force is not violence does
not rule out the possibility that all violence might involve
force, a more substantial question. Surely force is used in
the paradigm cases of violence such as murder and assault.
Force would even seem to be present in squeezing the trigger
on the gun which projects a bullet into a person's body,
since the application includes the bullet striking. The
problem with force as a defining characteristic of violence
comes in the categories best described as mental violence.53
Suppose the above bullet missed. We would still call the
action violence, but there was no physical strength applied
to another person. Similarly, the terrorist who throws a
bomb which subsequently fails to explode into a crowded
theater does not use force but surely his action is violence
In a very common case, robbery, no physical strength need be
applied at all; the overt or implied threat of force is
sufficient for the United States Department of Justice to
classify the action as violence; a similar classification
is included in the definition of aggravated assault.52
In addition, many scholars consider a verbal assault
as constituting violence.53 In this case, there may not be
even an implied or inferred threat of force. Also, the
category of systemic violence rarely involves the use or
threat of force.54 A police arrest and detention of an
innocent person could be considered an act of violence,
but no force may have been used or no threat of force
conveyed by the action. Thus it becomes evident that vio-
lence cannot be defined as the use or excessive use or even
the threatened use of force because not all violence entails
force or its threat.
Similar to, yet independent of, the concept of force
is that of intensity. Many definitions of violence contain
within them some notion of minimal intensity an action must
have before it can be classified as violence. Terms such as
great force, severity, vigorous, or in the case of psycho-
logical violence, sharp, caustic, and savage, all connoting
a great expenditure of energy are used in the definition.55
One author states that while all examples of acting violently
are not violence, all examples of violence include the idea
of acting violently.56
Certainly, just as there is a need to distinguish
violence from states of being, so is there a need to distin-
guish violence from less intense forms of social action.
Violence is not having a conversation or making a purchase.
Even including the notion of blame, violence is not ordinarily
walking into someone physically or berating them verbally.
Yet attempting to make the intensity criterion applicable
to the actor side of the action raises more questions than it
answers. Is murder by poison violence? How much vigor or
great energy is required to place poison in food or drink?57
The issue of intensity is made extremely complex by techno-
logical sophistication.58 Is slowly pulling two pounds with
the right index finger vigorous? Is it if what is being
pulled is a trigger of a sniper's rifle? Is assembly of a
time bomb vigorous? Is leaving it in an airport locker?
Another set of examples makes resolution of the issue
clearer. Individual A is in a hurry to get to his favorite
team's baseball game before the opening pitch. In his haste
he shoves three people, all with the same expenditure of
energy. The first is a young man on the sidewalk in line to
board the bus. The second is in the aisle of the bus, an
old wcman who falls to the floor. The third is a young man
leaving the bus who consequently trips on the steps and lands
on the pavement below. In all cases the action, the shoves,
was identical in intensity from the standpoint of the actor.
Obviously, however, the intensity of the action varied from
the perspective of the object or victim. Thus there is a
need to include the element of intensity in the definition
of violence, but this element is best approached from the
victim side of the action.
Summary-- Action and the Actor
The attempt to define the social action of violence
from the actor side of the action is enlightening primarily
in demonstrating ways violence cannot be defined. Violence
cannot be confined to the intentional, the rational, the
illegal, the illegitimate, the unjustifiable, or the wrong-
ful. Examples of violence cut across all of these confines.
On the other hand, violence does imply actor responsibility
in the sense of blame. This notion of blame is broader than
legal guilt but narrower than the general responsibility for
most actor behavior such as shaking hands or handing someone
an object. Lastly, although violence cannot be defined as
force, before a social action can be appropriately called
violence it must exhibit a minimal amount of vigorousness or
intensity, but this characteristic can best be approached
from the perspective of the victim.
Violence: Action and the Victim
Early in this chapter, violence was described as having
three analytically distinguishable parts: actor, action, and
object. In analyzing the object side of the action, the term
victim will be used instead of object. As has been presented,
the object of the particular social action of violence is a
person. "Victim" portrays this personal aspect of violence
much better than does objectt." A second clarifying statement
needs to be made, dealing with emphasis. Very few defining
characteristics of violence were discovered by the investiga-
tion of the actor side of the action. This realization must
lead to the conclusion that the essence of violence is much
more entwined with the concept of the victim than of the
Violence as a Violation
Looking at violence from the ways people can be
victimized involving blame and intensity moves our attention
from the "carrying force" root to the derivative, violation.
It would seem that violation may be more helpful in our
definition than was the concept of force.60 But in what ways
does it make sense to speak of violence as a violation?
Certainly it cannot be considered a violation of any restric-
tions originating outside the individual: it has been shown
that violence is not defined by formal rules or social norms.
The violation must be of the person or something inherent in
him. But in what ways does it make sense to talk about a
violation of a person? What within a person is violated
if a man sticks a knife between his ribs? Obviously, he is
cut and hurt, but does it make any sense to say his rib cage
was violated in the sense of being entered? It makes sense
only if you accept the notion that the individual had a right
not to be knifed in the ribs. The concept of violation and
consequently of violence is dependent at some level of
consciousness upon acceptance of a person as having rights
which are intimately connected with his being a person,
rights which cannot be given or taken away.61
That violence involves a violation of specific human
rights is a theme that runs through many attempts to conscien-
tiously define violence. The list of rights which are violated
by the action of violence is, perhaps, as long as the list of
authors delineating them. High on the list are dignity,
autonomy, and the fulfillment of one's potential.62 However,
it can be argued that most of these rights can be violated
without violence also. Furthermore, this author would not
advocate defining violence by listing rights susceptible to
blamable, intense violation. The point is that the concept
of human rights is necessary to understand the ingredient
of blame. In the sense that there is no list of human rights
to be found any.here and a new right can be created for each
situation, specific rights are superfluous. The concept of
rights, while it may not be an overt part of the definition
of violence is necessary for understanding that definition.
The development thus will proceed without directly mentioning
actions of violence as right's violations.
The Con:ion Denominator of Violence Victimization
"When sex is lied about, the result is pornography;
the pornography of violence results from the denial of pain."63
Indeed, the concept of violence seems to be intimately entwined
with the notions of pain and suffering. To deny this aspect
is to denigrate violence in a way analogous to not recognizing
the object of violence as a person; it is to dehumanize and
remove the sting from our pictures of what violence is all
about. It would seem, however, that most definitions of
violence, centering about the perpetrator, emphasize this pain
dimension only when attempting to restrict the justification
of violence.64 Pain and suffering are more than consequences
of violence. They are an integral part of the concept.
Similar to pain and suffering, yet having an independent
aspect of its own is the notion of harm or injury. Pain and
suffering are indicators of harm, yet the term introduces a
more objective element into violence. All violence is harm-
ful to the victim in some way, but it may, in addition, have
beneficial effects. The boxer, knocked out in the first
round, is harmed by action most would describe as violence,
yet he is also benefited by the loser's part of the fight
proceeds. The ascetic who has himself whipped to bleeding
is harmed, but he benefits from an increase in status among
his colleagues. In violence, the harm must be present;
the benefits may or mny not be. Thus Ronald Miller includes
the words harming and injuring in developing his definition
of violence.65 Implicit in Robert Audi's definition of
violence is that it tends to involve or cause suffering or
injury or both.66 Robert Holmes' delineation of violence
revolves around the diminishing of someone as a person by
inflicting mental harms.67 Bernard Harrison's essay cn law
and violence centers about uhat can count as suffering an
injury.68 Eugene Walter restricts the term, violence, "to
the sense of destructive harm."69 However, despite its
almost universal inclusion in the definition of violence,
as in the case of pain and suffering, there is harm and
injury outside of violence.70 Yet combining harm and pain
and suffering with blame and intensity seems to be sending
us in the right direction. At this point it is essential
to further specify this description, since there are many
ways to be harmed or suffer pain: some ways may not be
violence, some may be examples of violence but not essential
to a definition, and some ways may be violence and be present
in all manifestations of it and thus contribute to our
Perhaps the most obvious way a person may be harmed and
caused pain and suffering from an action is to be physically
injured by the action. In fact, as one author states, many
alternative ways of describing violence are inseparable from
the notion of physical injury. To blow open someone's leg
does not result in the blowing open of his leg; injury to
the leg is inseparable from the violence in its impact on
the victim.71 Indeed, most actions we commonly think of as
violence involve physical injury of a person: assaults,
homicides, fights, bombings (from planes and by radicals),
and "legal" shootings. Yet there is an impressive body of
literature which would lead us to believe that violence
manifests itself in other ways than physical injury; the
harm and pain and suffering we associate with violence may
be mental as well as physical.72 In fact, one author notes
that we use the same terms to describe mental as we do
Some of the literature sees violence as having a dual
dimension in an "either or" sense. Violence involves either
physical or mental harm.74 Another branch of the literature
sees the concept of violence as singular with different ways
the phenomenon can be manifest; our essence-seeking bias pulls
us toward the latter. Whether a person is harmed and suffers
physically or mentally is immaterial because the essence of
violence is the same in both cases. For Johan Galtung, all
violence is "the cause of the difference between the potential
and the actual."75 All actions or conditions which frustrate
individual potential are violence. Thus Galtung transcends
the distinctions between physical and mental harm through
his concept of human potential. He accepts neither type
of harm as the essence of violence. In contrast, Chalmers
Johnson seems to view the essence of violence as a form
of mental anguish which is inflicted whether the action was
primarily physical or ncntal.76 For Johnson, the harm, pain
and suffering associated with violence are less complex ways
of describing what is, at its basic, social disorientation.
Violence is action which prevents the development of stable
social expectations. Violence is thus not precisely social
action, but anti-social action which is by definition dis-
orienting action.77 The pain and suffering of violence is
the pain and suffering of the individual's disorientation to
the world around him.
Accepting Johnson's formulation, the mental anguish
which defines violence may be the result of a physical con-
frontation, a direct personal threat of physical injury, a
verbal assault, or an action resulting directly from social
organization, such as unwarranted incarceration.78
Illustrating different types of disorienting actions is a
task undertaken in the operationalization of violence in
Chapter III. At this point, it is necessary to return and
elaborate on the idea of violence as socially-disorienting
Violence as Disorienting Action
"Violence," says Johnson, "is not necessarily brutality,
or insensitivity, or the antithesis of empathy; ...the capacity
of human beings to adjust and orient themselves to these forms
of behavior is almost limitless...."79 Violence is distinct
in that, by definition, it includes only those actions to
which it is impossible to orient oneself.80 On the surface,
one reason why there exists such a group of actions to which
orientation is impossible has to do with the arbitrariness,
irregularity, or unexpectedness of its occurrence.81 Even
if a person's situation is such that he recognizes his
presence on the front line in battle or membership in a
violence-prone social grouping, the actual occurrence of
violence cannot be anticipated. The issue of anticipation
of violence is not a very complete explanation for why it is
disorienting to the individual. To be more complete, it is
necessary to isolate the feelings of the individual victim of
violence. Violence, as we have been leading up to saying, is
not an objective phenomenon apart from the individual.82
Since psychological research has not been able to
adequately recreate and study violence, much o'f the following
analysis will be phenomenological,83 utilizing descriptions
of persons involved in violence. There are no right ways to
get inside of actions of violence. As Norman Mailer makes
clear, describing the aftermath of violence is simple, but
describing the action in terms of a person experiencing it
is not possible using normal techniques. In experiencing
violence, an individual loses his professional consciousness
and cannot observe it. The difficulty, according to Mailer,
is enhanced by the fact that violence does not create a mood,
but rather shatters a series of moods. To describe the
disorientation that is violence is in large part, then,
by necessity, an act of creative writing.84 While lacking
scientific rigor, this approach seems to be the only way to
capture the dynamism of violence in relation to the individual.
Perhaps the most easily-identifiable element present
in violence victimization is an outcome which is crucial for
the participant. "...One of us has got to get dusted, man,
and it's better him than me."85 That outcome most often
involves his physical well-being but it may also involve his
mental well-being, his physical freedom, or his family's fate.
Not only is the outcome crucial, but it is unknown in the
sense that it is uncontrollable by the victim.86 If he is
attacked, he does not know whether he will come out of the
encounter alive, nor is he able to automatically control and
direct the course of the encounter and perhaps ensuing fight.
In addition, the involvement of the individual in the
violence victimization experience is total,in large part
because of the crucial or vital outcome.87 An individual
can lose money on the stock exchange or have his car stolen
while he is having a telephone conversation, but he will not
casually talk on the phone while he is the object of violence.
We cannot say that disorientation can take place without the
total involvement of the victim. Totality of involvement
would seem to approximate the notion of intensity which we
attempted to analyze from the standpoint of the actor. The
definition of violence is better served by the total involvement
of a person struck by a bullet than the intensity of a
person pulling a trigger.
From the point of view of psychology, the most distin-
guishing characteristic of violence victimization is the
immediacy of perception and concern on the part of the victim.
The time dimension of the present and the future are collapsed
into one. The future, as well as the present, has no meaning
except in the immediate involvement. Time has no meaning
within the involvement except as it relates to the end of the
violence. A fight proceeds until it is over, and there is no
meaning and no time outside the fight. The collapse of the
time dimension as perceived by the individual magnifies what
is usually an objectively rapid flow of action. "Yeah. Things
were pretty hot.88 The collapse of time further reduces the
individual's sense of control over the situation.89 "When
violence is larger than one's ability to dominate, it is
existential and one is living in an instantaneous world of
While trying to avoid describing mental anguish by
isolating the presence of anxiety, it is imperative to note
that violence victimization is accompanied by severe mental
and emotional stress, usually.expressed as fear or anger.91
"Well, I was scared actually, I was more scared than any-
In describing what is meant by a disorienting experience,
violence victimization has been presented as action involving
an unknown and uncontrollable outcome, a total involvement,
an immediacy of perception and concern resulting from a
collapsed time dimension, and strong emotional stress manifest
as anger or fear or both. It is an inherent assumption of this
study that the above disorientation does occur in the vast
majority of cases we now call violence. The above presenta-
tion can only make its case as suggestion and recommendation
for our understanding. Likewise, there is no way to prove
that disorientation through the above experience squares with
our commonly held perception of violence as intimately related
to pain'and suffering, although on an intuitive level there
is no doubt that the disorientation of such an involvement
would be both harmful and painful. Certainly much violence
contains physical and mental harm and pain and suffering
beyond what has been described. What is recommended is that
at the present stage we accept the above description as
accurate of all actions we would agree to call violence;
it is the essence of the action.
Implications of Violence as Social Disorientation: Perception
of Action and of Disorientation
Defining violence as action socially disorienting to an
individual has an important implication which cannot be over-
looked. The definition, even including the concept of blame,
is almost totally dependent upon the perceptions of the
victim. If A, a sniper, fires at B, a corporation president,
and misses, we usually call the action violence. Why? The
usual assumption is that B realizes what is done, and thus
we can say he suffers the disorientation which we have just
discussed. In this case, the shooting action would be equiv-
alent to a perceived threat of physical injury or death.
But what if B does not hear the shot and cannot be convinced
that someone attempted to kill him-- would B be the victim
of violence? No, of course not. But would we not insist
that violence had taken place anyway? Itwould be possible
that witness C, who observed the entire action, was disoriented
by it and could be considered a victim of violence, but this
introduction of an actual witness, C, begs the real question.
The relationship between the action and the experiencing of
the action as they relate to violence involves potential as
well as actual observers and victims. In ordinary usage we
would still refer to the shooting action as violence because
we view the action as disorienting to persons in general, to
ourselves as observers of the action or creators of the story
in specific. B, who never perceives the action, is not
disoriented. We, as other human beings who do perceive the
action see it as disorienting both directly to us and in that
it is capable of causing disorientation were it perceived by
the intended victim. The shift in perception comes very close
to the distinction made by Galtung between manifest and latent
levels of violence, the latter being where situations are so
unstable as to require little change to produce actual
Shifting the role of the perceiver from the victim to
us as observers is clearly a perversion of a more simple
concept, yet it remains a more accurate picture of the way
we actually use the concept of violence. Indeed, it would
seem that some perversion is inevitable on the way from
abstract concepts to specific indicators. On the one hand,
using the simpler concept of violence as the actual disori-
entation of a person, upon witnessing a brutal confrontation,
we would technically have to interview the victim before we
could clearly say whether or not the action we had observed
was violence.9.4 If we insisted on applying the pure concept
we could only say that such confrontations were indicators
that violence might have taken place. Obviously in concrete
situations we do not follow such a cautious procedure. We
call all fights violence because we believe that the "average
person" would be disoriented by such action, although not all
individuals in all fights are disoriented.95 Thus, to delin-
eate the way violence is customarily used rather than creating
a new definition, a shift of emphasis in the concept as has
been developed up to this point is indicated.
Socially disorienting action means action which would
cause disorientation in the average individual as victim or
observer if the individual were fully aware of the action.
Instead of violence being action which is, by definition,
impossible to adjust to, it is action to which our average
perceiving individual cannot adjust. Rather than robbing the
concept of its harsh, negative nature, the shift is better
thought of as approximating our use of the term in empirical
applications. Some individuals may be capable of including
some violence and its consequences in their behavior expecta-
tions of others. Some actions which we call violence may not
be disorienting to the victim. The shift in conceptualization
is necessary, however, to incorporate the fact that in normal
usage we call all assaults violence.
In review, acceptance of the definition of violence as
a socially disorienting action is based upon the inclusion of
two variations: (1) actions which would be disorienting if
the victim knew of the action, and (2) actions which would be
disorienting if someone else (the average person) was involved
as victim or witness. Because of these inclusions, the defi-
nition of violence as "socially disorienting action" might
best be modified to "actions which are capable of causing
social disorientation." Because of the first inclusion, the
modification to "actions which are capable of" broadens the
concept of violence much more than it increases our observa-
tions of its manifestations. We are not usually aware of
violence until the victim tells us. If violence is that
action which is capable of social disorientation, then many
specific actions which are never publicly known are violence.
However, application of this modification away from actual
victim perception of actions only makes sense.in the case of
immediate potential physical harm-- the case of the bullet
that missed. Disorientation from nonphysical action must be
actually perceived by the victim before we say violence has
taken place. Otherwise, we would be confronted by the
necessity of labeling all potentially disorienting actions
in society violence. Otherwise, A's sleeping in the alley
when his intended victim walked by would be violence. An
infinite number of intentions accompanied by relatively
inconsequential actions like A's loading a pistol before
going to bed could become violence if we could apply the
"capable of" modification to make B aware of the action.
Such application would not conform to normal usage of the
Caution should also be exercised in limiting the
modification to inclusions (1) and (2) above. It would not
be accurate to say that a professional building demolition
expert who was hired to raze a building does violence in
his work because his explosions are capable of social dis-
orientation if someone were in the building. Altering the
situation or the location of the action is not permitted
under the "capable" modification. In the remainder of this
study the "disorienting action" definition will be used
interchangeably with the "capable of" modification. The
gerund "disorienting" has enough ambiguity in it to include
the perception variations (1) and (2), and even the "capable
of" modification must be qualified as has been demonstrated.
Implications of Violence as Social Disorientation: Perception
of Blame and Systemic Violence
If, in fact, we use the term violence to connote dis-
orientation which may not be felt by the victim, who decides
when the action meets the blame criterion mentioned in the
early part of this chapter? We have said that the particular
type of responsibility is indicated by the violation of rights,
but who decides when rights have been violated? In most actions
that form the stereotype of violence, the victim decides that
blame is appropriate, often in conjunction with the legal
system. But in many cases, as have been pointed out, neither
legal systems nor moral codes help the individual victim in
that determination. In fact, within some contexts, a moral
code might lead a victim to determine that there was no
blame and no violence, when in fact most outside observers
would say definitely the action was violence.96 It would
seem that in common usage the element of blame, like disori-
entation, is assigned by the observer according to a "rational
man" or "average man" thesis.
A very important by-product of this assignment of blame
has been the development of the notion of systemic, institu-
tional, or structural violence. This concept was practically
nonexistent in this country before the popularization of the
concept of institutional responsibility for social injustices
beginning with the publication of Black Power in 1967.97
Before the development of concepts of nondecisions along with
an expanding appreciation of the powers of government and
institutional structures, democratic societies were not
blamed for the consequences of their social organization.
The potential for alternate forms of social organization was
not recognized. Gradually the responsibility of society
for violating individual rights has become accepted, even,
at the extreme, to the point of reifying the "system" into
unitary goals and objectives, thus making it as blamable as
an individual for its actions.98
The fact that blame was not assessed was as much due
to the fact that there were no specific individuals to blame
as because the system was not seen as blamable. Systemic
violence is in Galtung's terminology a truncated version of
violence in which there is no singular actor.99 In a police
sweep which nets an innocent man who is falsely charged with
a crime, who is to blame-- the policeman making the arrest,
the jailer, the police chief, or the state legislators or
city councilmen who wrote or did not write the rules confining
police sweeps? Understanding the institutional organization
of society as blamable, even if not so perceived by the
victim, allows the classification of some system actions
Disorientation: Victims and Perpetrators
In this chapter we have analyzed first the actor, then
the victim side of specific social actions to derive a working
definition of violence as an action capable of causing social
disorientation. Both actor and, to a much larger degree,
victim place constraints upon the types of actions to be
called violence. Yet we would not totally understand the
concept if we did not determine the analytical confines
the action called violence places upon the actor and
The notion of violence as a one way process is both
necessary and misleading as a heuristic device. It is neces-
sary to see violence as an action process between persons,
and it is necessary, as is made clear by analogy to the
legal system, to access blame. On the other hand, the notion
is misleading as it blocks out any notion of an involving
dimension of violence developed by Norman Mailer.100 One
does not use violence without being acted upon by it. Violence
involves the perpetrator as well as the victim. Hans Toch,
in his entire study of Violent Men, presented violence as
enveloping both parties in a web they had to pursue to the
finish. Both the perpetrator and the victim, in the narrow
sense, were trapped in action they saw no way of avoiding.101
This topic was indirectly bridged in the preceding section
when the question of who was disoriented was first asked.
The involving dimension of the action forces us to examine
the evidence and determine if the perpetrator as well as the
victim is socially disoriented.
On one level, the perpetrator can be.viewed as a
victim of violence of a larger scale, of social suffocation.102
His violent actions represent an attempt to fight his way out
of his trap. Those actions represent an attempt to transfer
his own victimization to others. Limiting our perspective
to one particular action, however, the designation of actor
and victim is still inaccurate and misleading. Earlier the
very small percentage of premeditated violence was mentioned,
a fact which supports the position that the vast majority of
violence is unplanned and spontaneous as in the case of a
fight. Both parties employ violence and neither can be said
to be the sole originator of the encounter. The participation
of both parties in terms of action is identical. If a deter-
mination of perpetrator is made at all it is often made after
the fight, on the basis of who receives the most physical
Even if the motivation of persons initiating violence
is different from those using violence in self-defense, if
this distinction can be made in any particular instance, the
actual involvement and disorientation which is violence may
not differ at all. A previous section described the mental
state of persons victimized by violence and thus broke down
elements of the disorientation process. Quotations were
given from Toch, illustrating the elements as described by
persons involved in violence. All of the quotations given
were taken from men who had been convicted as the perpetrator
in crimes of violence. They were the core of Toch's Violent
Men.104 Yet the quotations were probably assumed by you,
the reader, to be of the victims of violence.
What is being suggested is that violence disorients its
perpetrators as well as its victims, that most persons involved
in violence in either capacity are victims. It is not suggested
that this is always the case and thus should be made part
of a definition of violence. There are many cases of violence
where perpetrator involvement is not so intimate. This is
made particularly so by the inclusion of actions of which
the potential victim is not aware. In these cases, the
perpetrator is almost universally not disoriented. However,
in cases which are reported involving physical injury or the
implied threat of injury, it would seem that the action of
violence disorients in both directions. It disorients the
perpetrator, if there is one, through the intimate actuality
or possibility of immediate reprisal in kind. The action
removes the situation from that in which there is any
certainty of control.
Disorientation as Orientation:
The Question of Subcultures
Although there is a definite lack of evidence demonstra-
ting the existence of a subculture of violence,105 few
scholars doubt that various subcultural norms do exist with
varying constraints and sanctions toward the use and nonuse
of violence. Subcultural groups as well as individuals who
share similar values treat violence differently than does
the dominant culture of the United States.106 However
ambiguous that dominant culture may be as to violence,
there is little doubt that subcultures may go beyond it in
permitting, even requiring, violence. The question of
relevance here is whether our definition of violence as it
has been developed is relevant to such subcultural groupings.
Certainly, as Toch points out, some individuals and groups
in society are more likely to be involved in violence than
others. Whereas those individuals saw no alternatives to
violence in their particular situations, we in the dominant
culture tend to view their involvement as a matter of choice.
Does the high propensity toward involvement, perhaps even a
tendency to use violence, make it any less a disorienting
One way to avoid the problem is to emphasize the "capable
of disorientation" modification, i.e., it would be disorienting
if the average man were involved. However to continually
resort to this definition modification is to destroy the
actual victim emphasis of the concept. To attack the issue
directly, one need only recall the quotations of Toch's
convicted violent men. Most came from violent subcultures,
and the prison which was their home was certainly a violent
subculture. Though they resorted to violence frequently,
the disorienting nature of the action was evident. It
continually overturned and redefined social relationships.107
A rather graphic image can be developed of "the slum boy who
seems to worship violence to control his fear of it....108
Whereas an action might need to be perceived more intensely
to totally involve and thus disorient an individual from a
violence-prone subculture or holding violence-prone ideas,
the actual definition of violence as disorientation which
contains the notions of harm and pain is valid.
What Violence Is Not
We have arrived at a definition which describes the
essence of violence and communicates an approximate idea of
which actions are to be included in the conceptualization.
At this point, the conceptualization boundaries will be
sharpened by examining some phenomena which are not violence.109
The first such category to be investigated is that of other
actions, both specific and general.
At the beginning of this chapter, it was argued that
those persons who believed property damage was violence did
so because of the effect of the damage on the owner. It is
now time to return to this issue. Many scholars of violence
have chosen to exclude property damage from their studies.
Wolfgang and Ferracuti dealt only with homicide and other
assaultive crimes. Toch studied only interpersonal violence
on the assumption that "...society is more damaged when one
person injures another than when property is destroyed."110
To Garver, violence as "violating persons" may in one sense
be inclusive of one's property as an extension of a person,
"...but one should always bear in mind that a person can
reconcile himself much more readily to loss of property than
he can to loss of life."'ll Holmes was concerned with vio-
lence against persons rather than against things,112 and
Audi came to the conclusion that violence to property was on
a morally different footing from violence'to persons.113
The question which these authors skirted is here confronted
directly: is property destruction damage violence at all?
Is property destruction disorienting in the manner we
In terms of the disorientation of the perpetrator there
are some obvious differences between property destruction and
interpersonal violence. In the former, there is no involving
dimension created by an immediate apprehension of retaliation.
The destruction is a one-way relationship. In the vast
majority of cases the owner is not present. The only appre-
hension on the part of the perpetrator is a fear of being
caught in the future. An integral part of the disorientation
of violence is that there is no future apart from the present.
The perpetrator of property destruction cannot be included as
a part of the conceptualization of violence.
The real issue is not whether or not the action of
property destruction encompasses the perpetrator, but whether
the action effects or is capable of effecting the victim in
certain prescribed ways. Certainly an individual has a right
to the product of his labor. Certainly destroying a person's
property violates his. rights in a blamable way. But should
we consider the action of property destruction violence?
There are several significant limitations to be made to its
First, most cases of property destruction are vandalism
of a very minor scale. We would hardly expect a businessman
upon arriving at his office and finding a window broken or
obscene writing on his bathroom wall to suffer a painful,
total, and involving disorientation of his behavior expecta-
tions of others. It is true that the degrees of disorienta-
tion vary in interpersonal violence, but the experience of
having one's finger slightly cut is not analogous to the
broken window. As we have seen, interpersonal violence
involves an escalating dimension with an unknown outcome.
A broken window, discovered later, does not. Only nontrivial
destruction would be capable of disorienting an owner.
Second, most property has a monetary value to its
owner and thus can be, and often is, insured. If insured
property of primarily monetary value is destroyed through
violent action and can be replaced at no loss to the owner,
is there disorientation? The act of destruction could be
violence only is the object destroyed was in some way dear
or irreplaceable to its owner.114 Otherwise, if the thing
damaged was insured and replaceable, it would be difficult
to determine the victim in the sense of someone being harmed.
The situation would be, rather, one of business as usual.
Taking an example that avoids both of these objections,
suppose an individual arrives at his or her home to discover
that the house has been burned to the ground. It is safe to
assume in most cases that homes are dear to people in ways
not compensated by insurance, and certainly the destruction
is not trivial. The action is definitely disorienting, but
is it disorienting in the same way as described in inter-
personal violence? Is it disorienting because of the action
or because one has a razed house? The separation is, of
course, analytical, but it is instructive. Would not the
owner be just as disoriented if his house had been burned as
a result of lightning as arson? Disorientation due to
physical consequences appears somewhat different from the
violence we have been describing. By analogy, is an
individual cut in an "unavoidable," i.e., no blame, auto-
mobile accident disoriented in the same way as an individual
receiving the same cuts in a fight? Is the criterion the
cuts or the cutting? In the case of property, the emphasis
is on the former, in interpersonal violence, the latter.
The fourth and final argument against the inclusion of
property destruction in our conceptualization of violence is
a reducto ad absurdum argument. If violence is thought to
include the violation of property rights, then the more pro-
perty one has, the more specific rights one has in relation
to that property. Thus the more property people have, the
greater potential they have for suffering violence and the
infinity of violence they could conceivably suffer is larger
than the infinity of violence which could be suffered by
nonpropertied people. Either this proposition is an absurdity
or the distribution of violence actually suffered compared
to the potential for suffering violence is more disparate
than the mind can realize.
In no study of violence is theft ever considered an
act of violence. This fact is evidence that scholars insist
on viewing property violence as the destruction of things
rather than in terms of impact on owners or users.115 If
violence is conceived as disorienting action, then theft
merits consideration as violence. However, in that case,
the action of theft is subject to the same arguments
These arguments are not designed to say that in no case
is the destruction or theft of property violence. Indeed, if
an owner were to witness the destruction or theft of nontrivial
property which was dear to him, it would be hard to argue that
the action was not violence. Similarly if the action was or
was capable of being interpreted as a personal threat, or even
an immediate threat of more property destruction, the action
could be validly counted as violence with the disorientation
definition. The position of this study is not that the
definition of violence excludes all property destruction, but
that in light of the extreme rarity of the conditions in
which the label could be accurately applied, our conceptualiza-
tion of violence should be limited to interpersonal and
It has already been demonstrated that force was not the
same as violence, but there are other terms often used in
connection with violence which can help clarify the concept
by their own analysis: brutality is such a term. Much
violence we would describe is brutal in the sense of its
being savage or cruel, yet there are obvious cases where
violence would not be described as brutal. To knock a man
who is attempting to stab you to the ground is not brutal,
but it is violence.116 On the other hand, we use brutal in
cases which we would not describe as violence. According to
Johnson, people can orient themselves to brutality, but not
to violence. Therefore not all brutal actions are violence.117
On another track, physical cruelty to animals is appropriately
called brutality, but seldom violence. The use of brutality
is probably the result of our denial of rights to animals
although they may be disoriented due to brutal actions as are
people.118 The fact that brutality is closely approximated
by the excessive use of force idea demonstrates that the term
is not so relational as are conceptslike violence or power.
Aggression is often made synonymous with violence,119
yet the concept of aggression suffers from the last-mentioned
deficiency of brutality-- it is not relational in the same
sense as is violence. There is no minimal response aggression
illicits or is capable of illiciting from the aggressedd."
Aggression is in this sense similar to Arendt's concept of
strength. It is a property of the individual, not of a
relationship between individuals to the degree as is violence.
Aggression is often used with the concept of frustration to
explain the occurrence of violence,2U but it must be kept
in mind that tihe explanation of aggression may not be
adequate as an explanation of violence.
The Causes' Effects Consequences, and Functions of Violence
This chapter has dealt with the philosophical problem
of determining what violence is and what our conceptualization
of violence should include. There are many studies of vio-
lence concentrating on other aspects, such as the causes of
violence.12] It is not in the scope of this study to evaluate,
for example, the frustration-aggression thesis most often
associated in political science with Ted Gurr.122 Suffice it;
to say, such motivational concerns are not necessary or useful
for defining violence. Not only are the causes of violence
somewhat more problematic in an empirical sense than the
concept definition, but the richness of our overall understand
depends upon the relationship of the concept of violence to
concepts outside of it other than those in causal relation-
ship to it.
Similarly, other phenomena causally related to violence
have been excluded from the concept and viewed as empirical
questions over and beyond the examination of how we use vio-
lence in speech. We have ignored the physical destruction
consequences of actions of violence and the effects of its
harm upcn life styles and standards of living. We have
largely avoided the question of the impact of violence upon
the personalities of those involved. Does violence have c
depersonalizing effect on people as Ohandi, Martin Luther
King or A. J. Muste would argue or does it bring out sup-
pressed humanity as Sorel, Fanon, or Jean-Paul Sartre would
emphasize?123 How does violence effect social change? Is
violence the cement behind the state as Max Weber suggests?
Does violence as a special case of conflict contribute to
stability?12. On the other hand, is violence dysfunctional,
in opposition to the power of the status quo?125 Is violence
most often associated with reaction or revolution? All of
these questions are best thought of as empirical, not defini-
tional, and thus are not pertinent to the task before us.
Definitions and causes and effects should be kept as distinct
as possible; otherwise, empirical findings can be criticized
Alternative Frameworks for Violence
In discussing what violence is not, it is important to
be aware of what frameworks for understanding violence have
been eliminated. The conscious development of a conceptual
framework should not conceal the prior existence of possible
To the degree that political scientists have placed
violence in any type of conceptual context, it has usually
been within two broad positions. The first of these positions
is best described through the tradition of common law.
Organized society exists, in a Lockian sense, to protect the
rights of men in a more orderly fashion than would otherwise
be possible. Such rights involve freedoms of speech,
participation in an electoral process, and especially the
ownership of property. Common law thus exists, not to
promote or discourage equality, but to ensure equality of
opportunity in a more narrow sense. Within this framework,
violence is generally viewed as action disruptive of those
rights and the institutions protecting them, and specifically
violence is viewed as action disruptive of property.
Many reasons for rejecting this framework have been
given in this chapter. The entire development of the violence
concept presented here has pointed away from the common law
emphasis on property toward a criminal law emphasis on per-
sonal interactions or confrontations.126 The common law
emphasis on property is simply not useful when large popula-
tion segments are relatively "propertyless." Can we say
that propertyless persons suffer no violence or even that
they suffer less than those who have property? Furthermore,
the common law tradition has become an ideological rational-
ization for the status quo and has lost its value as an
analytical construct because of its foreclosing of social
alternatives.127 In what esteem can we hold the promotion
of equality of opportunity when that value stands in the way
of more substantive equality?
The second broad framework in which political scientists
traditionally conceive of violence concerns the notion of
subcultures or cultural relativism.128 Actions in all
extra-legal societies are the consequence of various norms
and accompanying informal sanctions. Actions which violate
the norm structure of the subculture lend themselves to the
label of violence. Actions which do not violate that norm
structure are not usually called violence. Thus an action
called violence in the dominant, white, upper middle class
is not necessarily violence within the context of the poor,
black, uneducated classes. Within the latter, action labelled
violence within the former may be the expected, even required
behavior in a large number of situations.
This framework has been rejected in this chapter
primarily because it denies the reality of the experience of
violence for large numbers of people. Toch's prisoners,
though becoming trapped in the habitual use of violence, are
not so different from the rest of us that they could not feel
anxiety, fear, pain, and suffer harm. The subcultural thesis
denies a near-universal desire to avoid personal violence
involvement, a desire that is evidenced in the ghetto as well
as suburbia. Success or failure in that avoidance is perhaps
far more indicative of situational factors than one's evalua-
tion of violence as a negative or positive value.
Political scientists have cast violence into these
frameworks largely as residual categories of .violence which
they believe is only marginally relevant for their study.
Insofar as common law is linked to the conservative mainte-
nance of property, political analysts in the common law
tradition are primarily interested in violence as a disrup-
tion or threatened disruption of the entire system which
protects property rights. The residual violence is action
which affects an individual ownership as opposed to the
system of ownership. Political analysts in the subcultural
tradition usually find themselves in the role of system
apologists, emphasizing the lack of system capability to
alter subcultural behavior. The poor and the black are in-
volved in violence because they want to be or are raised
violently, or some other similar variant. Violence only
becomes political when a culture or subculture tries to force
its values upon another, as in the case of riots directed
against "respectable" business establishments. The two
traditions arrive at a similar standpoint, perhaps separable
only by emphasis: does the rioter take the television home
to watch or smash the screen in the store?
Just as this chapter demonstrates the restrictions of
these two frameworks and rejects them in regard to violence,
so will the following chapter analyze the essence of these
frameworks with regard to political violence. As in this
chapter, the analysis proceeds utilizing concepts cross-
cutting the alternative traditions. It is hoped that in this
way the examination will reveal greater depth.
Summary: What Violence Is
Violence, in this chapter, has been delineated as an
antisocial action which disorients or is, in a limited way,
capable of disorienting a person as a victim. It is dis-
orienting action in that it creates chaos in the individual's
expectations of others' behavior patterns. The disorientation
experience is sudden, involving, uncontrollable, total,
crucial, harmful, painful, and blamable. Actions conceptual-
ized as violence under the definition are physical assaults,
psychological assaults including threats of physical injury,
and the above disorientation when caused by institutional
arrangements acting through and on individuals. Persons
conceptualized as having suffered from or experienced violence
are those normally identified as victims and perpetrators and
others who are disoriented by the action.
Chapter II has thus defined violence and given broad
illustrations of what counts within a conceptualization of
violence; Chapter III will delineate how violence should best
be understood as politically relevant. Whereas the delinea-
tion of violence has been largely a careful examination of
how the concept is used, the delineation of political violence
will emphasize more heavily conceptualization in the recom-
-Scholars engaged in conscientious conceptualization
are very sens; tive to "essence-nis sing" criticism and may
raise the question themselves. See Robert Audi, "On the
Meaning and Justification of Violence in Violence ed. by
Jerome A. Shaffer (New York: David McKay Company, 1971),
2For a discussion of definition by stipulation and
attribution, see Cnudde and Neubauer, p. 17.
31Newton Garver, "What Violence Is," in Violence in Modern
Literature, ed. by James A. Gould and John J. Iorio (Boyd &
Fraser Publishing Company, 1972), pp. 46-47. See also Eonald
B. Miller, "Violence, Force and Coercion," ir. Violence, ed.
by Jerome A. Shaffer (New York: David McKay Company, 1971),
See Chalmers Johnson's discussion of Max Weber. Chalmers
Johnson, Revolutionary Change (Boston: Little, Brown and
Company, 196), pp. 7-8.
5See Johan Galtung's discussion of violence as though it
were a mode of influence. Johan Galtung, "Violence, Peace,
and Peace Research," Journal of Peace Research, VI, No. 3
(1969), 169. See also Hans Toch, Violent Men: An Incuiry
into the Psych'flog of Violence (Chicago: Aldine Publishinr
Company, 1969), p. 5.
See Miller, pp. 17-18.
7Once the label of violence was applied, then the question
of how much violence might be answered by an estimate of the
physical destruction, but the physical destruction would not
determine the application of the label. More will be said
about property damage later. See Galtung, p. 170.
8This is an observation parallel to Galtung's notion of
truncated versions of violence. Galtung, pp. 169-171.
9See Toch, p. 5. See also Alan Little, "How Violent is
Our Crime?" Tentieth Century, CLXXIII (Winter, 1964/65), 23.
See also Rollo May, Power and innocence: A Search for the
Sources of Violence TNew York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.,
1972), pp. 210-211.
10Toch, p. vi.
11Refer again to Johnson's discussion of Weber. Johnson,
120f course while all violence is social action, obviously
not all social action is violence. The types of social action
which are violence have yet to be isolated. Only upon their
identification could a determination be made as to whether or
not suicide is violence.
13See arguments by Ernest van den Haag, Political Violence
and Civil Disobedience (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers,
1972), p. 66.
14Galtung, p. 171.
15For the separation of violence and oppression, see Audi,
16Acceptance of this position on the centrality of action
requires rejecting mortality rates as measures of individual
or societal violence. Whereas these rates are effected by
violence, they may also be the result of other social injus-
tices. See Michael Haas, "Toward the Study of Biopolitics:
A Cross-Sectional Analysis of Mortality Rates," Behavioral
Science, XIV (1969), 257-280. See also Galtung, p. 177.
17In this connection, see Audi's distinction of violence
as something done. He develops the distinction to separate
doing violence from acting violently. Audi, p. 50.
18See Bachrach and Baratz.
19Fred M. Frohock, The Nature of Political Inquiry
(Homewood, Illinois: The Dorsey Press, 1967), p. 67.
20Basically, this argument is parallel to Miller's "ways
of failing to injure, damage or destroy." Miller, p. 15.
21This fact seems valid for both individual level violence
and violence between groups of individuals committing organized
mass violence as in war.
221n many cases, though, it might be justified morally
and legally. For further elaboration and examples, see
Audi, p. 58.
23See Johnson, p. 8.
24See Audi, p. 58, and Galtung, pp. 171-172. See also
Bernard Harrison's discussion of responsibility as H. L. A.
Hart's defeasiblee" concept. Notice the comparatively broad
list of legally acceptable "defeating pleas." Bernard
Harrison, "Violence and the Rule of Law," in Violence, ed. ly
Jerome A. Shaffer (New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1971),
p. 1 9.
251f it turned out that acts of nature were under the
control of persons who either intentionally or negligently
released those destructive acts upon individuals, then the
label of violence would begin appearing to describe those
acts-- whether they involved the release of germs or the
seeding of clouds.
Unintentional violence may require some sophistication
in affixing blame and therefore the actor in the violence.
(For psychosis and blame, see Audi, p. 58. For law and
blame, see Harrison, p. 149.) If a soldier clumsily drops
a crate of antipersonnel mines he is unloading from a truck,
killing himself and several civilians, has he done violence
in his negligence, or the packers who crated the mines in
their negligence, or the factory managers who set the policy
allowing mines of such a fragile nature to be produced for
shipment? In cases where the blame for the violence is too
fragmented, the label of violence will probably be avoided.
In cases where blame is easily affixed-- the irate shopkeeper
who in his zeal to stop a fleeing thief shoots one of his own
customers-- violence is readily applied as a label.
Galtung also makes the link between the intentionality
of the violence and what he refers to as guilt-- the notion
we are advancing but with more obvious ties to Judeo-Christian
ethics and Roman jurisprudence. Galtung, pp. 171-172.
26Arendt, p. 106.
27H. L. Nieburg, "The Threat of Violence and Social
Change," in Conflict: Violence and Nonviolence, ed. by
Joan V. Bondurant (Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, Inc., 1971),
28The groundwork for such a view can be found in Peter H.
Rossi and Richard A. Berk, "Local Political Leadership and
Popular Discontent in the Ghetto," The Annals of the American
Academy of Political and Social Science, CCCXCI (September,
1970), 111-127. See also Neil J. Smelser, Theory of Collective
Behavior (New York: The Free Press, 1962).
29We also disposed of intentionality on the "sufficiency
condition," that not all intentionality was violence. This
argument does not seem necessary in the case of rationality.
30See Robert Ardrey, African Genesis (New York: Atheneum,
1961) and The Territorial ImDerative (New York: Atheneum,
1966). See also Konrad Lorenz, On Aggression, trans. by
Marjorie Kerr Wilson (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World,
31See Sam Keen and John Raser, "A Conversation with Herbert
Marcuse," Psychology Today, IV, No. 9 (February, 1971), 37,
62, 66. See also Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization, A
Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (Boston: Beacon Press, 1955).
32For example, Wolfgang and Ferracuti cite the figure of
5 percent as the proportion of "rational' homicides. Marvin
E. Wolfgang and Franco Ferracuti, The Subculture of Violence
(London: Tavistock Publications, 1967), p. 189.
33See Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd, intro, by Robert K.
Merton (New York: Viking Press, 1960).
34Gary Marx, "Issueless Riots," The Annals of the American
Academy of Political and Social Science; CCCXCI (September,
35An interesting illustration of the restrictive applica-
tion of the concept of rationality is the fact that in Great
Britain one half to one third of all homicide offenders are
classified as legally insane (compared to 2 to 4 percent in
the United States). See Wolfgang and Ferracuti, pp. 201-202.
Can murder as a form of violence de facto be an indication of
irrationality and insanity?
3Miller, pp. 22-23.
37Marx, pp. 26-30.
38See Arendt, p. 176. It is, in fact, one of the themes
of this study.
39Robert Paul Wolff, "On Violence," The Journal of
Philosophy, LXVI, No. 19 (October 2, 1969), 61i-~15. Wolff
details four distinct connotations of violence in the United
States, corresponding to socio-economic class, -of which
three fit into the above description. See also Lynne 3.
Iglitzin, Violent Conflict in American Society (San Francisco:
Chandler Publishing Company, 1972), pp. 25-26.
40Marcuse, One Dimensional Man, pp. 84-87.
4lChristian Bay, "Violence as Negation of Freedom,"
The American Scholar, XL, No. 4 (Autumn, 1971), 635. Bay
uses the phrase semanticall fortifications for oppression"
and states that a regime's "...scholars and teachers become
more essential in its defense than its cops and soldiers."
See also Garver, p. 45.
2See Arendt, pp. 134, 151. See also Wolff, p. 606.
43Harrison, pp. 139-140.
44For a more complete discussion of the breakdown of
legitimacy, see John H. Schaar, "Legitimacy in the Modern
State," in Power and Community: DissentinEss ._ssas_ in. Po.iical
Science, ed. by Philip Green and Sanford Levinson (New Yor,:
Vintage Books, 1970), pp. 282-290.
45Wolff, pp. 606-610, 613.
46By the same token we must also recognize that much
violence is not justifiable since it is only necessary tc
raise the issue of justification in questionable actions.
See Bernard Gert, "Justifying Violence," The Journal of
Philosophy, LXIV, No. 19 (October 2, 1969), 617-620.
47See Audi, pp. 74-99; Arendt, p. 151; and Gert, pp. 622-
8For both of these arguments see Miller, pp. 23-24.
49For example, notice the use of the gerund, forcing, at
the end of the previous paragraph. See Miller, pp. 27, 31-33.
50Violence as the application of strength is close to the
Arendt definition of violence but, recognizing the dual mean-
ings of force in its noun and verb forms, she declines the use
of the term. Arendt, pp. 142-145. This formulation differs
somewhat from Miller, who includes the notion of "overpowering"
within force. Miller, pp. 31-33. In the present formulation,
force would not have to be overpowering or intended to over-
power. The present formulation also differs from an inter-
pretation offered by Robert L. Holmes, "Violence and
Nonviolence," in Violence, ed. by Jerome A. Shaffer (New York:
David McKay Company, Inc., 1971), p. 68. If force were simply
the expenditure rather than the application of energy, all
violence would involve force, but so would every other action.
Force as the application of physical strength also seems
consistent with the concept presented by Bachrach and Baratz.
51See Holmes, pp. 111-113, and Galtung, pp. 169-170.
52Uniform Crime Reports Guide Manual: Florida Uniformr
Crime Reports (Tallahassee, Florida: Florida Department of
Law Enforcement, Uniform Crime Reports Bureau, 1971), p. 2.2.
53See, for example, Audi,.p. 54.
54For a broader understanding of this cat gory, see its
rudiments in Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton,
Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America (New York:
Vintage Books, 1967), pp. 41-44. For more contemporary usage
see Galtung, pp. 170-171.
55See Miller, pp. 19-20, and Audi, pp. 54-56, 60.
56Miller, p. 19.
57Audi, p. 53.
58Miller, pp. 20-22.
59The reader is reminded that the definition development
being presented is essence-oriented. This orientation requires
that violence has only one essence. Violence is something,
not violence is this or this or this. Audi is concerned lest
his definition of violence be seen as missing the essence and
introducing three subsidiary concepts of violence.(pp. 62-63).
The present definition development will not result in an Audi-
type defense of separate violence concepts. There will be one
concept with multiple manifestations. The rejection of "either
or" definitions assures the rejection of actor-side character-
istics which can be used to describe particular manifestations
of violence but which are not definitional.
60Garver, p. 47.
61Ibid. Only if rights are viewed as capable of being
given up, are right's violations not descriptive of violence.
In this case the boxer who voluntarily enters the ring suffers
no violence since he waived his right not to be beaten. See
Audi, p. 59.
62See Garver, p. 48; Galtung, p. 168; and.May, p. 31.
Violation of dignity or integrity also explains some common
derivative uses of the term violence concerning human actions
and nonhuman objects. Examples are doing violence to the
truth, to someone's intentions, or to a piece of music. See
Holmes, p. 111.
63Charles Thomas Samuels, "Doing Violence," The American
Scholar, XL, No. 4 (Autumn, 1971), 695.
6hSee, for example, Audi, pp. 80-81.
65Miller, p. 17.
6Audi, p. 60.
67Holmes, p. 112.
6Harrison, pp. 141-142.
6Eugene V. Walter, "Violence and the Process of Terror,"
in Conflict: Violence and Nonviolence, ed. by Joan V.
Bondurant (Chicago: Aldine Atherton, Inc., 1971), p. 92.
70For an illustration of the difference between harm and
violence, see Audi, p. 65. The difference in Audi's example,
though, hinges from centering the definition of violence closely
around the intensity of the actor's action, thus not taking
into account technically efficient means of doing violence.
7-Audi, p. 61
72See Galtung, pp. 169-170; Audi, pp. 54-55; Holmes, pp.
111-113; Garver, pp. 52-53; Johnson, pp. 8-10; and Iglitzin,
3Galtung, pp. 169-170.
74Audi, pp. 54-55; Holmes, pp. 111-113; and Walter, p. 93.
75Galtung, p. 168.
76See Johnson, pp. 8-10. Johnson also viewed violence as
the attempt to create mental anguish, i.e. to disorient, but
that part of the definition must be rejected on the basis of
the inadequaces of the characteristic of intentionality in
77See Johnson, p. 8. Social action is action which is
oriented by the expectations of the behavior of others. Vio-
lence and most other actions are social in this sense.
Submeanings have more of a future than past connotation. In
this context, social action is action which creates stable
behavior expectations, and antisocial action prevents the
development of such expectations. It is in the latter case
.that violence as a social action becomes violence as an
antisocial action, i.e., a disorienting action.
78Iglitzin, pp. 26-27; Garver, pp. 49-58; Audi, pp. 52-53;
and Galtung, pp. 169-172.
79Johnson, p. 8.
80If Johnson's use of intent is limited to actions which
are taken, rather than referring to a decision to commit a
particular action, intent becomes more useful than its meaning
rejected in note 75 and earlier in the chapter. Intending
to shoot someone thus becomes broken down into components,
firing the gun at the person and the desired result of dis-
orientation, and only after the former can the possibility
of violence based on the latter criterion be suggested.
Intent becomes, not just intent of the perpetrator, but intent
of the action which was taken. However, this modification
requires the inclusion of trivial actions when accompanied by
misjudgment on the part of the perpetrator. It also is inac-
curate in imputing such sophistication on the part of the
perpetrator. Most actors intend by their actions something
far more concrete than disorientation.
81See Arendt, p. 106, and Wolff, pp. 612-613.
82Norman Mailer, "Talking of Violence," Twentieth Centur.,
CLXXIII (Winter, 1964/65), 109-114. Mailer views violence,
as the epitome of the existential experience-- an epitome
which this chapter hopes to capture.
83For a concise discussion of the phenomenological approach
see Michael Weinstein, Identity, Power, and Change (Glenview,
Illinois: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1971), pp. 213-214.
4Mailer, p. 113.
85See May, p. 188. May believes the importance of the
physical aspect of violence in large part rests upon its
symbolic representation of the totality of involvement.
86In contrast to an earlier discussion, in the very
immediate sense of not being subject to control through
reason, all violence involvement has a strong irrational
element. This element is also present in the time dimension
to be discussed.
87Quoted in Toch, p. 22.
88Toch, p. 28.
89May, p. 188.
90Mailer, p. 111.
91May attempts to separate "fight, aggression, and vio-
lence" from "flight, anxiety, and fear." May, pp. 182-184.
In contrast, Wolfgang and Ferracuti state that it is physio-
logically difficult to distinguish between anger and fear and
that the emotion exhibi-ed may be the result of chance.
Wolfgang and Ferracuti, pp. 142, 196. For the purposes of
this study, it is here suggested that violence victimization
results in emotional stress which may involve either response
92Toch, p. 28.
93Galtung, p. 172. See also his discussion of truncated
violence, p. 170.
94For a parallel situation and argument see Audi, p. 59.
950bviously, this shift simply moves part of the ambiguity
of violence to the ambiguity or relative portrayal of the
average person. It cannot be helped. The general notion of
who is disoriented helps bring the case of homicide and
instant death under the label of violence. In one sense,
the physical victim can be seen as having undergone the
ultimate in disorientation asnd collapsed time dimension, but
since there is no evidence or what is felt in instantaneous
death such a statement borders on the absurd. The action is,
however, disorienting to all who are close to it. It is
disorienting to us as observers, as average individuals.
96Such a situation might exist where A insulted B and
knew that B was required to redeem his status.
97Carmichael and Hamilton, pp. 41-44. See also Johnson,
p. 10. A variation of systemic violence is the primary theme
of Barrington Moore, Jr., The Social Origins of Dictatorship
and Democracy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966).
98Iglitzin, p. 107.
9Galtung, pp. 169-170.
100Mailer, pp. 109-114
102Mailer, pp. 109-114.
103Uniform Crime Reports Guide Manual, p. 2.2.
104For Toch's sample see Toch, pp. 15-16.
105See Wolfgang and Ferracuti, pp. 140-163, 312.
106For a view denying any difference in cultural and
subcultural uses of violence, see Iglitzin, pp. 92, 99.
107Toch, p. 44.
108William A. Westley, "The Escalation of Violence through
Legitimation," The Annals of the American Academy of Political
and Social Science, CCCLXIV (March, 1966 120-126.
109See the discussion of definition by exclusion or negative
differentiation in Cnudde and Neubauer, pp. 17-18. For an
example, see Giovanni Sartori, "What Democracy Is Not," in
Emoirical Demrocratic Theory, ed. by Charles F. Cnudde and
Deane E. Neubauer (Chicago: Markham Publishing Co., 1969),
110Toch, p. 34.
111Garver, pp. 48-49.
112Holmes, p. 109.
l13Audi, pp. 98-99.
14Galtung, p. 170
1151n spite of the arguments advanced in this chapter, p. 12.
Sll6ee Audi, p. 69.
117Johnson, p. 8.
118Peter Singer, "Animal Liberation," New York Review of
Books, XX, No. 5 (April 5, 1973), 17-21.
ll9Wolfgang and Ferracuti, p. 187, and May, pp. 182-183.
120See Ted Robert Gurr, "Psychological Factors in Civil
Violence," in Anger Violence, and Politics, ed. by Ivo K.
Feierabend, Rosalind L. Feierabend, and Ted Robert Gurr
(Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972), pp. 31-57.
121For an emphasis similar to the present chapter, see
Garver, p. 46.
122See Ted Robert Gurr, The Conditions of Civil Violence
(Princeton University: Center of International Studies, 1967),
pp. 3-14. A similar perspective was accepted by both the
Kerner Commission and the Violence Commission reports to be
covered later in this study.
123See especially Sartre's "Preface" to Frantz Fanon,
The Wretched of the Earth, trans. by Constance Farrington
(New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1966), pp. 7-26.
124See Lewis Coser, The Functions of Social Conflict
(New York: The Free Press, 1956), p. 8.
125See Johnson, p. 10. For a slightly different phrasing
of the question, see Arendt, pp. 150-155.
126This same shift is discernible even in some concepts
employed to understand violence as riots.. See the discussion
of the shifting "patterns" of violence from Negro-dominated,
property-oriented to Negro-dominated, person-oriented in
Louis H. Masotti, Jeffrey K. Hadden, Kenneth F. Seminatore,
and Jerome R. Corsi, A Time to Burn? (Chicago: Rand McNally
and Company, 1969), pp. 98-134.
127See Herbert Croly, The Promise of American Life (New
York: The Macmillan Company, 1909). For more general
development of the common law tradition, see also Benjamin
Cardozo, The Nature of the Judicial Process (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1921); Henry J. Abraham, The Judicial
Process, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968);
.V. C. Robinson, Elementary Law (Boston: Little, Brcvn, & Co.,
1882); F. W. Maitland and F. C. Montague, A Sketch of English
Legal Hi's t ory (New York: The Knickerbocker Press, 1.915)
and Joh n Austin, The Province of Juris-_ruudence Determined
(London: Weidenfeld and Nichclson, 1954),
128For a concise discussion of the subcultural thesis and
its implications with regard to violent subcultures see Marvin
E. Wolfgang, "A Preface to Violence," The Annals of the
American Academy of Political and Social Science, CCCLXIV
UMarch, 1966.), 1-7.
TOWARD THE CONCEPTUALIZATION OF POLITICAL VIOLENCE
Literature attempting to squarely confront the question
of the political significance of violence is practically non-
existent. As a rule, political scientists are much more
likely to work within a more limited framework which specif-
ically confines attention to particular aspects of the topic.
Hence the literature abounds with references to collective
violence, or mass political violence, or purposive political
violence. Few authors have addressed themselves to the
question of how violence can be most usefully conceptualized
as political. In this chapter, a review of the various ways
political violence has been viewed will attempt to isolate a
trend, albeit not chronological, toward a more eclectic under-
standing of all the manifestations of the phenomenon. Such
an understanding necessarily entails an overall view of how
the political system operates as well as the place of violence
in relation to that system. Such a view is necessary in terms
of trends in the discipline described by Iglitzin.
...that political violence is an integral part of
politics, that it does not consist of isolated acts
done by 'sick' people but is institutionalized in
the most basic structures and values of the society
with effects which have ramifications upon us all--
reflect one ripple of the 'new wave' of political
Common Ways of Conceptualizing Violence as Political
However inadequately articulated, most studies of
political violence derive those specific acts of violence
they feel are relevant by emphasizing the particular nature
of one of the analytical parts of violence presented in
Chapter II. Analogous to the actor-action-object trichotomy,
violence is-considered political because of who is doing it,
the nature of the violence being done, or to whom it is being
done. The scope of the violent acts considered political is
drastically reduced by applying criteria related to one or
more of these areas.
Political Violence as Based on Who Does It: Political
Violence as Collective Action
One important way of answering the question of which
violence is political can be traced back to the nineteenth
century and Gustave Le Bon's The Crowd.2 Accepting the notion
of politics as collective action, it perceives the violent
activities of crowds or mobs as inherently political.3
There are actually two distinct dimensions of this mob or,
in contemporary terms, riot, perspective of political violence.
The first concerns the number of individual actors involved--
the violence must be collective. Ted Gurr's work defines
"civil violence," his substitution for the more problematic
"political violence," as "referring to at least twenty
people...."4 In a more recent study, Douglas Hibbs, dealing
with mass political violence, makes a somewhat redundant
criterion that the activity must be "collective" or "mass"
even though he recognizes that nonmass violent activity may
be both the result of political arrangements and public
issues in their own right.5 Ernest van der Haag states
that group violence is always political in effect.
The second dimension of political violence as collec-
tive action adds to the notion of the crowd as mob, having
a mind of its own apart from individual mores or legal
confines. The collective action of violence is political
because, at least for a short period of time, it does not
acknowledge the power relationship of the state or society
over it.7 It is precisely this aspect which, perhaps
more than any other factor, led political scientists to
the study of riot behavior in the late 1960's. The rioters
did not appear to be bound by the rules and norms of the
dominant society in which they normally operated compatibly.
An important off-shoot of this dimension has been its
development beyond spontaneous riots. Politically relevant
violence usually includes the concept of subcultural systems
discussed in Chapter II-- systems whose norms .not only
permit but may require the action of violence in a variety
of situations. The problem of political violence in society
thus becomes less temporal in terms of specific actions.
Persons acting within their own normative subsystem struc-
ture against dominant values as well as persons temporarily
exceeding their own value structure are said to be engaged
in political violence. Black violence against the status
quo is political violence even if it is required of blacks
within their own value subsystem.
A somewhat less structural variation of the crowd
mentality differing from the subcultural theme can be
found in the belief that political violence is intimately
connected with an audience to which the actors play for
encouragement and support. Ghetto riots might be a sub-
cultural manifestation of violence, but the violence of
the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) is forced-to rely
upon and encouraged by individuals sharing some of the SLA
values but not living in a subcultural situation with its
accompanying norms and sanctions. That this idea of
encouragement of violence by group values is an outgrowth
of the collective behavior notion of political violence
is indicated by the inclusion of assassinations on these
grounds in Hibbs' study of mass political behavior.0
Iglitzin, speaking in the context of collective violence,
also assumes this perspective in her attempts to dis-
tinguish between the violence values of various radical
groups. In summary, political violence, defined from
the standpoint of the actor, revolves around numbers of
persons participating in value encouraged or value over-
ridden unrestrained activity.
Political Violence as Based on the Nature of the Activity:
Violence Aiming for Political Objectives
If political violence is often conceptualized around
numbers of people engaged in unrestrained activity, it is
just as often hinged to the nature and objectives of the
actions. For Hibbs, the violence must be in opposition to
governmental policy, antisystem in nature.12 The Gurr
study sees the relevant form of violence as "nongovern-
mental."l13 Van der Haag sees it as political "...when used
to control or influence collective policies or the distri-
bution of power. Violence by individuals is political only
when it has such social aims.14 Iglitzin sees political
violence as "rational purposive behavior closely related to
social change."15 Such behavior is possible by governmental,
pro-governmental, and antigovernmental forces.
The paradigm of violence as political in the sense of
aiming for political objectives is revolution. Riots staged
for the purpose of drawing national attention to poverty are
another example since the rioters have the objective of
changing governmental policy. As is the case in collective
violence, political violence as aiming for political objec-
tives excludes violent crime in the usual sense of homicide,
assault or robbery. It does so on the grounds that revenge
or a personal readjustment of finances is not a political
objective. Conceptualizing political violence in this way
leads to seeing the confrontations of the sixties as
relevant insofar as they were "provoked confrontations"
in an attempt to bring about political goals. This
description might be illustrated by student violence at
the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Political Violence as To Whom It Is Done: Involving
Political ?e ole
The notion that political violence as a special case
of violence might be delineated by the identity or role of
the victim has not received much overt attention among
political scientists. Yet if the delineation has not been
articulated, it would seem to underlie the increased
academic awareness of violence and academic interest in
it. The concept of who qualifies as a "political people"
in this way of defining violence as political is broad
and has two aspects. On the one hand, if the victim
is a public official, the violence may be thought of as
political in a context similar to that described in the
preceding section, i.e. an attack directed at changing
public policy. An example would be assassination. How-
ever, more central to this notion is violence to persons
who are in turn capable of fairly directly influencing
public policy, whether they are public officials or not.
In this sense, violence to powerful private individuals,
or even the upper and middle classes of society would be
political. Not just assassination but the kidnapping of
corporation executives would be considered political
There is an illustrative analogy which can be made
with drug control and transferred to aid in understanding
this way of seeing violence as political. In the early
1960's, as long as drugs were confined to the ghettos
and slums, there was no "drug problem." It was only when
white, middle-class teenagers became hooked that the
problem was "discovered." Similarly, in the 1960's,
politically influential people at many levels, however
weak the objective basis, began to have anxieties about
their possible involvement in violence, and violence
became an increasingly popular topic of study among po-
Summary of Common Ways of Conceptualizing Violence as
Delineating political violence as that violence which
victimizes politically influential people greatly increases
the scope of acts which can be considered political vio-
lence. It and the other common ways of delineating political
violence, however, have numerous limiting restrictions.
Playing the numbers game with actors is artificial, even in
terms of operationalization. Why cannot .ten or five per-
sons or one person be engaged in political violence? And
what about actors rationally aware of laws and social norms,
cannot they be involved in political violence? In the case
of aiming for political objectives, intentionality seems
more unnecessarily restrictive than it was in defining the
original concept of violence.17 Are not "issueless" riots
political?18 Political violence based upon the person vic-
timized makes possible the inclusion, as the other ways do
not, of "normal" criminal violence and systemic violence in
certain instances. Yet even this perspective is exclusive
of repressive violence of the state used against persons
who are not or who are only potentially politically influ-
ential in a very broad sense.
Placing violence in the influence model to determine
its political nature can isolate important types or subtypes
of political violence, but to'do so is to inevitably ignore
phenomena of violence with important political implications.
Reducing description to a highly developed level may obscure
as much as it enlightens.19 The common ways of viewing
violence as political are too deeply steeped in specific
aspects of the concept to grasp any overall meaning. Po-
litical violence may vary in its manifestations, but in our
essence-seeking bias we are forced to step away and look
from and for a broader perspective.
The Societal Consequences of Violence
One of the few attempts to systematically isolate and
elaborate the overall relationship of violence and the
political process, written by H. L. Nieburg, sees political
violence in terms of its societal consequences. Political
violence is that violence
...whose purpose, choice of targets or victims,
surrounding circumstances, implementation, and/or
effects have political significance, that is,
tend to modify the behavior of others in a
bargaining situation that has consequences
for the social system.
If we ignore a rather inadequate treatment of what violence
is, we can attach Nieburg's concept of political violence to
the concept of violence presented in this study. As such,
political violence would incorporate the disorientation,
suffering, and harm of violence, but would go beyond imme-
diate disorientation to other social effects. Recognizing
that violence is both functional and dysfunctional in its
social effects,21 Nieburg conceives of social effects or
consequences in terms of bargaining relationships. In a
sense, this notion of bargaining consequences is analogous
to the influence relationship which structured the develop-
ment of the definition of violence. Two characteristics
seem sufficient to distinguish between the two constructs.
First, the effects on bargaining do not form a stereotype
where the actor enhances his position by his use of violence
on a victim. The improvement of a bargaining position in
any particular case may belong to the victim or to an unin-
volved third party who finds his position enhanced vis-a-vis
his noninvolvement. Second, the disorientation of violence
is emphasized in its social, rather than personal, context.
Violence is intimately connected with a larger dynamic con-
text than its immediate situation. Political violence
from this perspective is not perpetrators or victims or
actions, but an impact of these manifestations upon more
generalized social relationships.
The usefulness of the Nieburg conceptualization is that
it permits a high level of integration of political violence
with what we know as the political system. That system is
identified with a continual, dynamic bargaining process over
concrete policy alternatives and outcomes.23 Violence, to
Nieburg, should not be seen as merely chaotic behavior, de-
viant to that.prescribed by social norms. Rather violence
and its accompanying disorder is a part of the political
process which includes a continuum of political behavior.2
Implicit in this formulation is not only a continuum of
political acts of which violence is a part, but also a con-
tinuum of violence, part of which is political. In other
words, not only is violence a phenomenon which is often a
part of the political process, but there are varying degrees
of how political that violence is. The ability to say "if"
or "how" political an act is apart from highly restrictive
characteristics of the act itself (such as numbers of parti-
cipants) would seem to be a useful conceptualization. It
recognizes, for instance, that normal criminal violence may
be political. It recognizes that some level of violence is
to be expected in political life.
We are led to doubt the Nieburg conceptualization,
however, primarily because of the particular perspective of
the political system it forces us to accept. We are led to
doubt the bargaining equation conceptualization of political
violence not first because of what it says about political
violence but because of what it says about the political
process. Nieburg was right in integrating political violence
with the political system, but can we accept, first, his
political system and, consequently, his conceptualization
of political violence? Are we, as he suggests, a democratic
state which encourages pluralist power structures thus in-
suring that violence will not just shift the bargaining
advantage, but change the bargaining equation? Is our
society so responsive to political behavior, especially on
the high risk violence end of the spectrum, that only token
or potential or threatened violence is enough to change the
bargaining equation? Is this sensitivity and responsiveness
to inputs so high that a few instances of violence inputs are
greatly exaggerated?25 To consider political violence as
primarily instrumental in this way, as recommended by
Nieburg as well as Arendt, is to miss the meaning of politi-
cal violence by accepting completely the myth of plural-
democracy. If political violence is instrumental to some-
one in the dynamic social bargaining advantage sense Nieburg
suggests, it is hard to explain why the relationship among
the users of violence, the victims, and the noninvolved has
remained so static.26 Political personalities have varied
and the form of laws has been altered, but in a Marxian sense
the economic and social realities of which the state is a
reflection show little significant change.
Stepping Further Back:
Political Violence as the Distribution of Violence
Politics and the Political System
Most conceptualizations of politics and the political
system revolve around two dimensions: (1) the gaining and
exercising of power and authority and (2) the distribution of
scarce goods or values, i.e., what the power is used for and
what are the consequences of its use. Nieburg, Arendt,
Johnson, and most other political scientists have tended to
view political violence from the first dimension. Political
violence is a method to be used in gaining, influencing, or
maintaining political power or access to persons with poli-
tical power. As has been discussed, such a view often leads
to an overestimation of the dynamism of our own political proc-
ess. If it does not, it must confirm the instrumental insigni-
ficance of political violence in the United States. This study
will conceptualize political violence as a part of the second
or distributive dimension of the political system.
Awareness of the distributive dimension of politics can
be traced to the writings of aristotle. Aristotle recog-
nized this dimension when he made one of the two classifi-
cation criteria for government "in whose benefit" the rulers
ruled.27 Governments made decisions which affected, at a
minimum, all persons living in that society. Looking at
governments around him, Aristotle could see that those deci-
sions inherently contained a bias. The bias of those decisions
and the very issues which were decided revealed the govern-
ments' role in the distribution of the objects of public
decision-making. Aristotle saw that one man, a few men, or
many men could rule in their own interest or in everyone's
The same bias of political decisions has been noted
throughout history. It is reflected in Anatole France's
famous line, "The law, in its majestic equality, treats rich
and poor alike for stealing bread and sleeping under
bridges." It is also emphasized in the contemporary
writings of E. E. Schattschneider. The bias was given
preeminence as the very reason for the existence of the
state by Harold D. Lasswell who saw politics as the process
whereby the influential determined who got what, when and
how.29 Such a perspective of the political process is often
presented in any of a number of elitist positions as dichoto-
mized against legitimacy/consensus positions. The former
have received their most persistent support from the writings
of Neo-Marxists such as C. Wright Mills, although elitist
positions are certainly not limited to ieo-Marxist thought.
The suggestion that violence might be one of the "whats"
being distributed forces an analysis of what the distribution
aspect of the political system entails. David Easton defines
the distributional dimension through his perception of the
"allocation of values."30 Values as used in this context
may refer to regulations demanding behavior reflecting abstract
concepts such as loyalty or integration, or it may refer to
more material goods such as subsidies or income taxes. As
this latter example indicates, value allocations may be
either positive or negative. The political system is usual-
ly linked to the allocation of collective goods, allocations
which are nonexclusive in nature like law and order in con-
trast to market goods like Cadillacs or color televisions.-
However, the distinction is quite blurred. Structural
mechanisms can encourage individuals or groups to supply
collective goods and, more importantly, all societies are
"nonoptimal" in supplying collective goods. Political
decisions make the exploitation of some groups of people
probable, and determine which groups.32
However vast the scope of values distributed by the
political system, there are-two descriptive or defining
characteristics of political allocations: the values are
scarce or in limited supply, and they are distributed
unequally throughout the society. Scarcity is easily
visualized in the sphere of material goods. Obviously,
not everyone can be given tax breaks or depletion allowances;
to do so would destroy the state's income and make impos-
sible the relative encouragement of one sector of the
economy. Similarly, the relationship between scarcity and
allocations can be seen in environmental controls. There
were no political decisions on air pollution until clean
air came to be viewed as a scarce resource.
Distribution by regulation is a scarce commodity in a
more subtle way.33 On the surface, there is no limit to
the number of regulations which could be passed altering
values. How is integration or a loyalty oath or new addi-
tions to the criminal code scarce? If political regula-
tions simply codify existing value structures, they are
superfluous and not really value allocations at all. If
they allocate new values, as in the case of integration or
prohibition or even Miranda decisions, there are enforcement
costs. Given, however, that there is a large proportion of
the population who, on a given range of issues, would accept
a new distribution of values and require no enforcement costs,
the scarcity of these regulatory decisions requires another
explanation. It would seem that their scarcity can be best
understood through Easton's concept of a reservoir of dif-
fuse support.34 There is a very finite number of such regu-
lations which can be passed in any area without seriously
eroding this reservoir of support. Thus nonmaterial regula-
tion to allocate values is a scarce resource also, as former
President Nixon discovered when he tried redistributing
values within the Civil Rights Division of the Department
Lasswell described the influential as those who get the
most of what there is to get.35 By "what there is to get"
he referred to the fact that the resources or values of
society are unequally distributed. This latter point is so
obvious as to be a truism. No matter which stratification
system is analytically applied, societal benefits will be
unequally allocated. Whereas a given level of personal
inequality is dictated by scarcity, patterns of inequality
are established through the political process. It is a
mistake to visualize, as is often done in pluralist-
democracy frameworks, a neutral government responding to the
loudest voices which belong to those we consequently refer
to as influential. Rather, "...the state could be defined
as an institutional complex which is the political embodiment
of the values and interests of the dominant class."37 It em-
bodies these interests primarily because of the unequal
distribution of our first aspect of politics, power, as mani-
fest in access to or control over decision-making agencies
and other institutions.3 Thus, whereby it is possible to
say that from some point of view bias and inequality are
inherent in all political systems, the particular bias of
any given political system cannot be viewed as accidental.
Whereas some biases may be the unanticipated consequences of
another decision, most specific biases and the overall pat-
tern of bias must be viewed as intended and purposeful and
political. Distributions are the result of distributing;
they are, in a very real sense, allocations.
There are a number of issues implicit in what has just
been said. First, seeing the political system as unequally
allocating scarce values is easy in the abstract, but in
thinking about concrete actions, is inequality really the
raison d'etre of the system's existence? Do all political
systems act in this way? These questions are inherent in our
own socialization which includes myths about the state as the
ally of the poor in controlling the rich. Is the direction
of state functioning toward inequality or equality? Should
we define political systems by their idealistic dimensions
or by their actual operations? Are the qualities suggested
by the supposedly nonexclusive nature of collective goods
indicative of political direction or concessions perpe-
tuated to protect and maintain a status quo?
Underneath these questions is another dimension pre-
viously mentioned in the discussion of an elitist perspec-
tive of political systems. The development so far has
centered around the distribution of values and who benefits
from that distribution. Perhaps underlying this sociologi-
cal emphasis is the Neo-Marxian assumption that all capi-
talist governments are illegitimate in that any consensus
on basic values which might exist is the result of a false
consciousness. That is, that the politically poor would
not, if aware of alternatives, freely choose and adhere to
a system of values which required their own inferior status
and political impotency. The important issue, from the
Neo-Marxist perspective, would be legitimacy, which is not
synonymous with consensus.39 The question of whose values