Two features have marked the sociological analysis of violence: () disparate clusters of research on various forms of violence that have been the object of urgent social concern, and relatedly, () an overwhelming focus on forms of violence that are socially deviant and motivated by willful malice. The resulting literature is balkanized and disjointed, and yet narrowly focused. The systematic understanding of violence as a broad genus of social behavior has suffered accordingly. I examine the issues that have clouded the analysis of violence: the importance of physical injuries vs. psychological, social, and material injuries; the weight placed on physical vs. verbal and written actions; the role of force vs. victim complicity in the infliction of injuries; and the emphasis on interpersonal vs. corporate agents and victims. That discussion highlights the widely varying forms of violence in social life, including many instances that are neither driven by malicious intent nor socially repudiated. I consider the diverse motives that drive violent actions and the variant social acceptance or repudiation that they meet. I propose a generic definition of violence, freed of ad hoc restrictions, that encompasses the full population of violent social actions. This directs us to more systematic questions about violence in social life.

Keyword(s): devianceideologyinjuryintent

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  • Article Type: Review Article
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