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Warriors and Peacemakers: How Third Parties Shape Violence

Mark Cooney
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 222
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  • Book Info
    Warriors and Peacemakers
    Book Description:

    Why do some conflicts escalate into violence while others dissipate harmlessly? Under what circumstances will people kill, and why? While homicide has been viewed largely in the pathological terms of "crime" and "deviance," violence, Mark Cooney contends, is a naturally-occurring form of conflict found throughout history and across cultures under certain social conditions. Cooney has analyzed the social control of homicide within and across over 30 societies and interviewed several dozens of prisoners incarcerated for murder or manslaughter, as well as members of their families. Violence such as homicide can only be understood, he argues, by transcending the traditional focus on the social characteristics of the killer and victims, and by looking at the role played by family members, friends, neighbors, onlookers, police officers, and judges. These third parties can be a source of peace or violence, depending on how they are configured in particular cases. Violence flourishes, Cooney demonstrates, when authority is either very strong or very weak and when third-party ties are strong and boundaries between groups sharply defined. Drawing on recent theory in the lively new sociological speciality of conflict management, Mark Cooney has culled a vast array of evidence from modern and preindustrial societies to provide us with the first general sociological analysis of human violence.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2367-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-21)

    These events occurred in a city in Virginia in the late 1980s. They were related to me by a young man, Tom,¹ who was serving time in prison for his involvement in the killing. Cases like this are quite common in America, where about seventy people are killed every day (MacKellar and Yanagishita, 1995: 1). But, then, few societies or large groups are free of lethal conflict. Violence, including lethal violence or homicide, is a fact of human existence.

    Nevertheless, the incidence of violence per head of population (its rate) can vary sharply from one place to another. Take homicide,...

  5. 2 The ∪-Curve of Violence 1
    (pp. 22-44)

    In the official version of the case, the narrator, Stephanie, and Chuck were arguing outside her house because he had not supported her in the earlier confrontation. Regardless of the exact details, Stephanie admits she killed Chuck in the course of a dispute.

    Every homicide is a mixture of the unique and the typical. One of the typical features of this case is the disadvantaged background of Stephanie and Chuck. In all modern societies that we know about, violence, especially intense violence like homicide, is largely confined to people of low social status. Curiously, though, this was not so in...

  6. 3 The ∪-Curve of Violence 2
    (pp. 45-66)

    This account of homicide among the Ju/’hoansi of the Kalahari desert (formerly known as the !Kung San) collected by the anthropologist Richard Lee illustrates a problem that all human societies must confront at some point: How can an incorrigibly violent person be rendered harmless? In state societies, the government bears the responsibility of removing the dangerous from circulation by imprisonment, banishment, or execution. In stateless societies, the task of containment falls on ordinary people. They typically lack the overwhelming coercive force of states and so will usually be less able to overpower violent deviants without further bloodshed. Thus, the Ju/’hoansi...

  7. 4 Configurations of War and Peace
    (pp. 67-106)

    What occurred next is unclear. The narrator, Paul, claimed that after they were all inside the house his brother bumped into his arm, setting off the gun he was holding and causing him to kill Mikey accidentally. Whether it happened like that or not, Paul concedes that he shot the victim.

    Perhaps the central feature of this case was that after Charles stabbed Cal, third parties joined in on both sides, creating a collective struggle. The partisanship (i.e., taking sides) of the third parties changed the conflict in several ways: it intensified the dispute (making it a group rather than...

  8. 5 Foundations of Honor
    (pp. 107-132)

    At one level, this case is just another dispute between rival drug dealers. But to see it simply as an instance of the elimination of a business rival is to miss the underlying conflict over pride, respect, or honor. Dividing the narrator, Peter, and Calvin was not just a squabble over drug turf but a more fundamental disagreement over personal honor. In this respect, the case is typical of a great many homicides, in modern and premodern societies alike.

    Honor is a complex concept that means different things to different people (Stewart, 1994). Today, it often refers to honesty or...

  9. 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 133-154)

    More than four hundred years ago, the English writer John Donne ([1624] 1959: 108) coined the famous aphorism “No man is an island.” Donne’s simple statement expresses not just a human truth but a working sociological principle: To understand people’s actions, look at those around them, the groups familiar with their affairs, the kinds of networks in which they are enmeshed. Human behavior is not the result of individual decisions alone; it is profoundly influenced by other people, the advice and support they give, the manner and style in which they intervene, the enthusiasm or indifference they exhibit toward different...

  10. Appendix A: Moralistic Homicide
    (pp. 155-157)
  11. Appendix B: The Virginia Study
    (pp. 158-160)
  12. Appendix C: The Cross-Cultural Study
    (pp. 161-164)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 165-172)
  14. References
    (pp. 173-194)
  15. Author Index
    (pp. 195-200)
  16. Subject Index
    (pp. 201-209)
  17. About the Author
    (pp. 210-210)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 211-211)