Racial Violence in the United States

Racial Violence in the United States

Racial Violence in the United States

Racial Violence in the United States

Excerpt

My purpose in this introduction, which is not directed to an audience of professional sociologists, is to try to indicate some of the questions about social violence which have seemed important to sociologists and some of the ways in which sociological answers to these questions differ from those of other interested students. The sociologist is interested both in an understanding of the phenomena of violence themselves and, as an exercise in the sociology of knowledge, in the ways in which different varieties of explanations for these phenomena have emerged from the perspectives of the several disciplines which have studied them. Principally, I wish to distinguish social violence as a social process which occurs predictably and understandably from the social structural arrangements of the societies in which it appears; contrasting this view to one that sees it as the sum of a collection of instances of individual behavior. In doing this I am showing my sociological bias and training -- just as psychologists reveal their professional predispositions by their emphasis on the importance of the individual and of individual characteristics in the generation of collective violent disturbances.

After defining social violence I turn to a classification of principal theoretical perspectives (commenting in passing on some of the theoretical and practical defects of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders' [Kerner, 1968] criticizing "white racism" as the "root source" of violence involving black citizens). In the second section of the Introduction is a brief sketch of the organization of this book.

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