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P OL I T I CS: 2002 VO L 22(2), 109117

State of the Art The Logic of Violence

Diego Muro-Ruiz
London School of Economics

To date, there is no synthetic, general theory of violence able to integrate the less complete theories of violent behaviour. There is little agreement among researchers about the causes of violence (not to mention what to do about it) and the eld has become vast in terms of literature. This paper reviews theories of violence, mostly from sociology, political science and psychology both at the level of the individual and the collective. The paper is divided in two parts: the rst deals with theories that see violence as a reaction, the second deals with those theories that see violence as a mean to attain goals.

The word violence derives from the Latin root, vio, referring to force. It generally refers to physical force but is mostly applied to human actions [Barash 2001: vii]. Violence is distinguished from other phenomena such as aggression, force or authority by its instrumental character. Whereas aggression refers to an unprovoked action, violence has a reason (however obscure this might be). As a rational action, violence continues to be so to the extent that is effective in reaching the end that must justify it [Arendt 1970: 46]. Whereas violence is as old as mankind, before to the 1960s, violence was scarcely treated as an academic object of study. Theories of violence were generally fashioned by the psychologist to t the individual or were applied by the political scientist to conicts between nations. Violence was taken for granted and neglected. However, in the wake of the American riots of the 1960s, studies exploring the nature, causes, and consequences of violence assumed a new importance in the social sciences. Scholars from political science, psychology, sociology, history, anthropology, and psychiatry contributed with their jargon and theories to a eld that has become vast in terms of literature [See Barash 2001, Beissinger 2001, Brubaker & Laitin 1998 and Feierabend, Feierabend & Gurr 1972]. In the eld, there is a general agreement on the rationality of violence (however misguided that can be) but there is little agreement on its causes. This paper reviews theories of violence according to a major cleavage between those who see violence as a reaction of an individual or group who have had their sense of justice offended and those who see violence as a conscious and instrumental act.1 In the rst part, I will outline those theories that see violence, mainly at the individual level, as a response of the individual to both psychological and social factors. Here is included the work of psychologists and social scientists with psychological inclinations. Then, I will deal with theories that tend to see violence as an action.
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This view argues that violence is a strategic choice to obtain certain goals. Here, the work of political scientists and sociologists on group behaviour is prominent.

Violence as a Reaction
A rst generation of theories of violence sought to explain human behaviour principally in terms of instinctual forces. During the period when psychological theories were in vogue, many writers advanced the view that man is by nature aggressive. Although eventually the instinct doctrine fell into disrepute, the belief that man is innately endowed with an aggressive drive still enjoys a sizeable following. Psychoanalytic Instinctual Theory Sigmund Freud (18561939) initially believed that aggression was a primary response to the thwarting of pleasure-seeking or pain-avoiding behaviour. His explanation of aggression changed markedly, however, as he modied his instinct theory of motivation. Freud originally assumed that human behaviour was regulated by two contrasting tendencies: the pleasure principle and the reality principle. The pleasure principle was described as the sense of impelling the organism towards immediate, impulsive and wish-fullling gratication, whereas the reality principle allowed the organism to tolerate delays or deferments of gratication. Freud recognised that the pleasure and reality principles are not really antagonistic, since both aim at the discharge of tension. Freuds dual instinct theory understood the increases of tension as unpleasant and relief from excitation as pleasant but could not successfully explain compulsive repetitions of unpleasant experiences such as masochism. After World War I, Freud became deeply pessimistic about human nature and came to believe that all man ultimately wants is not the gratication of fundamental biological needs but death [Appignanesi & Zarate 1992: 52]. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle he adopted a new instinctual system of motivation based on a dialectic relationship between life instincts (Eros) and death instincts (Thanatos). The idea came from the European war he witnessed between civilised countries: a war between life and death instincts. The life instinct, or Eros, which aims at enhancing and prolonging life contains within it a measure of optimism borne by the ideology of progress or evolution. On the other hand, Thanatos continuously strives for destruction of life in two possible ways: when it is directed at the self it results in self-destructive behaviour and when it confronts external obstacles it results in aggression. It is important not to confuse the death instinct or Thanatos with a wish to kill others; rather, it is the individuals own innate selfdestructive drive. By introducing this new framework, Freud explains specic actions by a mixture of the two instinctual impulses, moving away from the mechanistic one-drive one-action previously outlined. In this conceptual revision, violence is originated internally. However, the lack of evidence for a physiological drive mechanism in violence is either dismissed as unimportant because the instinctual drive is only a construct, or it is assumed that an internal drive will be discovered by future research. At the moment, research on biological determinism is being carried out by those interested in neurological and biochemical mechanisms and the role of hormones.
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Aggressive Drive Theories The rejection of instincts as the driving force of violence pushed theorists to construct a model that could solve the motivational problem. This is how the most popular theory of aggression2 in the social sciences was born: the frustrationaggression theory. Developed by a group of Yale University social scientists, the book Frustration and Aggression (1939) which originated the theory soon became a classic. According to this theory people are driven to attack others when they are frustrated: when they are unable to reach their goals, or they do not obtain the rewards they expect. The work of Dollard, Doob, Miller, Mowrer, and Sears dened frustration as an external condition that prevents a person from obtaining the pleasures he or she had expected to enjoy. Dollard and his colleagues believed that every aggressive action could ultimately be traced to a previous frustration [Berkowitz 1993: 31]. Moreover, the greater the frustration, the greater the quantity of aggression against the source of frustration. This postulate provided the motivational base for an initial proposition about political violence. A number of criticisms can be made of this theory. The standard explanation of violence in terms of frustration assumes that frustration can be recognised and measured scientically. Anthropologists have shown that our understanding of violence is cultural and no typical response to frustration can be recorded. It also depends on the source of frustration: if a burglar enters our home and takes x amount of money, the level of frustration it will produce is not equivalent to that which it would produce if the state takes from us the same money with taxes. Legitimacy, in this case, has been introduced to show how different reactions can be to the same amount of frustration. Individuals will resort to violence only if they see it as a legitimate means (e.g., last resort, self-defence, etc.). Finally, the theory only works a-posteriori. Once an act of aggression has been made, it is easy to trace back the individual to some frustrating event in the criminals record to explain his present behaviour. But this does not explain why not everyone that has a difcult childhood becomes a law-breaker. As Albert Bandura has pointed out, the widespread acceptance of the frustration-aggression notion is perhaps attributable more to its simplicity than to its demonstrated predictive power [Bandura 1973: 33].

Theories of Social Discontent A further step in the understanding of violence came from the theories of social discontent which applied the frustration-aggression theory at a societal level. This new approach once commanded the study of violence and has its paradigm in the seminal work by Ted Robert Gurr, Why Men Rebel (1970). His study of political violence refers to all collective attacks within a political community against the political regime, its actors including competing political groups as well as incumbents or its policies [Gurr 1970: 3]. Drawing examples from psychological experiments, case studies of rebellions, and comparative evidence, Gurr aims to describe the uniformities of violence throughout time. Gurr points to those objective conditions and changes within political, economic, and social systems that are likely to predispose the human psyche to political violence. As he says, violence, like those who use it, is complex, but it is not undecipherable [1970: ix]. Central to Gurrs argument is the concept of relative deprivation, which is dened in
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psychosocial terms as a perceived discrepancy between mens value expectations and their value capabilities. Value expectations are the goods and conditions of life to which people believe they are rightfully entitled. Value capabilities are the goods and conditions they think they are capable of attaining or maintaining, given the social means available to them [1970: 13]. According to Gurr, the rst step in the sequence of political violence is the development of discontent, the second is the politicisation of that discontent, and nally its instrumentalisation in the form of violence against political actors. He also makes clear that not everybody who is discontented is a revolutionary: most of them probably prefer peaceful means for the attainment of their goals to the privations and risks of revolutionary action [1970: 355]. Gurrs theses are based on the frustration-aggression hypothesis and suffers from the same kind of shortcomings. One of the main problems with drive theories of aggression is the difculty of empirical verication. Most of them are formulated in such broad terms that they do not generate specic predictions that could be put to experimental tests. David C. Schwartz (1972) seemingly postulates a different, although equally psychological, approach. In his view, political alienation precedes the revolutionary outburst. As he notes, all revolutionary organisations are composed both of persons: (1) who have been previously socialised to accept a political system from which they became alienated; and (2) whose loyalties have never been effectively tied to the polity [1972: 58]. Political alienation itself results from a psychological conict between an individuals own value hierarchy and the contradictory values that he perceives to be operative in the political system. In other words, psychological conict occurs when the values that guide the behaviour of the regime are perceived by the citizens as violating their own individual values. The consequent loss of community constitutes an essential aspect of mass society, the high availability of a population for mobilisation by lites, because people who are atomised tend more readily to be mobilised [1972: 60]. Schwartz makes the point that those who move the political system from widespread passive alienation ... to organised revolutionary activity ... will be among those individuals who rst move from passive to active alienation [1972: 66]. Another author worth noting is John Burton who has used insights from cognitive psychology to establish his own theoretical approach. Burtons framework is based on Human Needs Theory, which understands that human needs (such as personal status, recognition and identity) demand constant gratication. The distinctive feature of needs is that they are assumed to be inherent in human beings as well as in other species and, therefore, universal and not just cultural. These needs are dened as drives, the violation of which leads to conict and crime, while the satisfaction of them prevents violence. For Burton [see Burton 1979 and 1997], such needs are not in themselves sources of conict, but only become so as they are suppressed by societal institutions. Echoing Johan Galtungs concept of structural violence [Galtung 1969], Burton ascribes fault to structural continuities which constrain human development The three authors reviewed in this section, Gurr, Schwartz and Burton, base their explanations on placing the individual in a wide political and social framework. However, degrees of deprivation are not easily compared. Experimental tests
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have showed that frustration is neither necessary nor sufcient for individual aggression to occur, and that a variety of other factors must be present for frustration to follow an aggressive path [Beissinger 2001: 856]. For them, political violence will emerge out of larger conicts, and they will reect, in however distorted form, the political beliefs and aspirations of a larger segment of society. As Charles Tilly has put it, the presence of violence will be at a given time one of the best signs we have [of knowing] what is going on in a countrys political life [Cited in Feierabend 1972: 34].

Violence as Action
The attraction of violence is that it is easy for people without political resources to initiate. This section presents the generation of scholars which believe that violence more commonly occurs at the instigation of small and tightly organised groups than at hands of unruly mobs. This view is hegemonic among studies of terrorism and political violence from which this section draws several examples.

Psychological Theories Psychological explanations emphasise power relations and contend that individuals are drawn to the path of violence as a consequence of psychological forces. The people that would t into this kind of explanation would be individuals with a damaged self-concept that have never fully integrated the good and bad parts of the self. These aspects of the self are split into the me and the not me. An individual with this personality constellation idealises his grandiose self and splits out and projects onto others all the hated and devalued weakness within. Individuals who place high reliance on the mechanisms of splitting and externalisation look outward for the source of difculties. They need an outside enemy to blame [Ferracuti 1990: 27]. Beliefs that belonging to a group and remaining isolated from society at large reinforces the individuals ideology and strengthens their motivations: deviants tend to group together and to cut their ties with society which is seen as the alien and hostile enemy and to engage in a fantasy war with it a war whose reality seems enhanced when that society engages in repressive actions [Ferracuti 1990: 61]. The above example shows the acceptance among investigators and journalists of insurgent groups of the fact that their members generally suffer from distorted or distressed personalities, if they are not in fact insane. Scholars that defend the psychological approach accept that there is no single personality type, but it appears [Ferracuti 1990: 31] that people who are aggressive and action-oriented, and who place greater-than normal reliance on the psychological mechanism of externalisation and splitting, are disproportionately represented among terrorists.

Rational Choice Theory Rational Choice Theory is, before anything else, a normative theory. It tells us what we ought to do in order to achieve our aims as closely as possible. It does not tell us what our aims ought to be. Thus, a rational action is efcient conduct in the
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sense of the actors most effectively pursuing their wants [Elster 1986]. Actors, namely individuals, are the level of analysis. As Steven Lukes [1973: 15] has pointed out, individuals are pictured as given interests, wants, purposes, needs, etc and constitute independent centres of consciousness, they are independent and rational beings, who are the sole generators of their own wants and preferences, and the best judges of their own interests. The abstract individual is no less a presupposition of economic individualism in the form of economic man,3 rationally seeking to maximise utility what Weber called rational economic conduct. Rational Choice Theory explains violence as a display of collective rationality: groups employ violence strategically as a means to produce their joint goods [Hechter 1995: 62]. Organisations arrive at collective judgements about the efcacy of their strategies through a process of learning (theories of social learning). This way of looking at violence as a rational outcome faces the problems of collective rationality such as the free-rider. The free-rider is someone who wants to travel for free when others pay for it. The free-rider acts on his selshness and does not contribute to the community with his effort. Why should an activist risk his life to obtain a collective good when the danger is overwhelmingly superior to the benets? The free-rider problem can be explained by the psychological benets of participation and the possibility of having an aggregate collective rationality from rational individuals [Crenshaw 1983, 1990]. Members of a collective are sensitive to the implications of free-riding and perceive their personal inuence on the provision of public goods to be high. And when the same people face collective action problems over and over again, it may be in their self-interest to co-operate, out of hope of reciprocation, fear of retaliation or both. Therefore, it is possible for the economic man to have several sets of motivations coexisting and reinforcing themselves at the same time. Violence can be considered as a rational, and often effective, way of pursuing extreme interests in the political arena. Strategic conceptions, based on ideas of how best to take advantage of the possibilities of a given situation, are an important determinant of oppositional violence, as they are of the government response. Generally, small organisations resort to violence to compensate for what they lack in numbers: the choice of terrorism involves considerations of timing and of the popular contribution to revolt, as well as the relationship between government and opponents. Radicals choose violence when they want immediate action, think that only violence can build organisations and mobilise supporters, and accept the risks of challenging the government in a particularly provocative way [...] Furthermore, organisations learn from their mistakes and from those of others, resulting in strategic continuity and progress toward the development of more efcient and sophisticated tactics. Future choices are modied by the consequences of present actions. [Crenshaw 1990: 19] Both Rational Choice and Psychological Force explanations give us a sense of how can we grasp the character of aggressive behaviour. Violence, according to them, can be cold and calculated, an instrumental action carried out deliberately and to achieve a purpose other than injuring the victim, or it can also be an emotional reaction governed primarily by the desire to hurt someone. However rational those explanations might be, the truth is that it is difcult to see any predictive power in them. Progress in the understanding of human behaviour can only be
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accelerated if theories can identify causal factors, as shown by the fact that varying the postulated determinants produces corresponding changes in behaviour. Social Learning Theory Developments in learning theory have shifted the focus of causal analysis from inner determinants to detailed examination of external forces. Traditionally, violence has been analysed in terms of the stimulus events that evoke it and the reinforcing consequences that alter it. However, researchers repeatedly demonstrated that response patterns generally attributed to underlying forces could be induced, eliminated, and reinstated simply by varying external sources of inuence. These impressive ndings led many psychologists to the view that the causes of behaviour are found not in the organism, but in the environmental forces. The idea of mans actions under external control was not welcomed. Albert Bandura describes how the world of the academe reacted to the new developments in Aggression: A Social Learning Analysis: by associating the term behaviourism with odious images of salivating dogs and animals driven by carrots and sticks, critics of behavioural approaches skilfully employed Pavlovian conditioning procedures on their receptive audiences to endow this point of view with degrading properties [Bandura 1973: 42]. The view that behaviour is environmentally determined contradicted the rm belief that people possess generalised personality traits leading them to act rationally. But human beings are neither driven by inner forces nor handled by environmental inuences. Rather, psychological functioning is best understood in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between behaviour and its social setting. Early attempts to incorporate both individual and environmental determinants in personality theory simply depicted behaviour as caused by these two sets of inuences. The problem with this type of formulation is that it treated response dispositions and the environment as independent entities. Thus, the environment represented a xed condition that inevitably affects the individual who has no other option but to adapt. Moreover behaviour partly creates the environment and the resultant environment, in turn, inuences the behaviour. In this two-way causal process the environment is inuenceable, just as it controls behavior.4 The most rudimentary system of learning, rooted in direct experience, is governed by trial and error. Depending on the rewards or the punishments, individuals adapt their future behaviour to the environment and select the responses that bring successful outcomes. However, this solitary experience can prove to be very laborious. Most of us have learned through the inuence of example. Observation of others behaviour and the consequences to them have proved to be the most effective system of learning. Inuential models are imitated throughout the life-experience either consciously or unconsciously. The social learning approach, though, works much better with organisations than with individuals. To date, it seems that it is the most elaborate theory as it is able to integrate the individual (or groups) in a social setting and be able to examine the relationships between the individuals (or groups) of that social setting. Thus, it continues the work on structuration and overcomes the agent-structure dichotomy. According to this approach, violence can be learned by the observation of a role model. Violence is not carried out at no cost, it is a behaviour under constant stimulus (often negative) and the reinforcement and maintenance of such behaviour must have a cause. It has to be explained why the model is maintained.
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One of the virtues of this approach is that power relations can be included and openly discussed. Those who expect this theory to make moral judgements on violence, though, should be discouraged of using it. On the other hand, those who believe that violence always has a cause should take in account this view. This approach can be widely used by those who see violence as an instrumental feature of both human life and politics.

In popular memory, the most common fomenters of violence were the mob and the crowd. The image of the dangerous classes that developed in nineteenth century Europe was based on the fear that, once violence erupted, hordes of people would destroy the social order. Today, the modern image of that irrational mob is the terrorist, who is often seen as less sane and less rational than other individuals. Terrorists are depicted as fanatics, demented, or, at best, misguided. Once a government or society has dened a terrorism, counter-terrorism seems the only sensible course of action. Violence is, most of the time, a wilful choice, especially if it is made by an organisation. Individuals present the scholar with a more difcult case to argue for. Scholars of violence have now a wide variety of perspectives they can use from sociology and political science, to psychology, psychiatry and even biology and should escape easy judgements. However, the fundamental difculty for all of us is the absence of a synthetic, general theory able of integrating less complete theories of violent behaviour. In the absence of such a general theory, researchers should bear in mind that violence is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that resists mono-causal explanations. Future research on violence will have to take in account the variety of approaches, since they each offer some understanding of the logic of violence.

1 Two schools of thought are consciously left out of the article. The rst is the feminist approach to violence. A growing feminist literature has developed in the last decades which explains violence as a function of male dominance/culture/aggression. However, this literature is rarely concerned with violence at the group and/or international level [See Fawcett, Featherstone, Hearn & Toft 1996, Jalna 1981 and Jalna & Itzin 2000]. The second school comprises the post-modernist work on violence. Most of this genre is concerned with labeling and coding violence; especially the processes by which certain kinds of violence are labelled as legitimate and others are not, and the role that representations of the other play in the generation and legitimisation of violence. In other words, after this paradigm the distinction between violence as action and violence as discourse has become increasingly blurred. This second approach is complementary since a discourse with elements of violence precedes violence in itself. However, posmodernists are rarely concerned with death in itself but with symbolic violence [See Mertus 1999]. 2 Aggression has been dened by Talcott Parsons [1947: 198] as the disposition on the part of an individual or a collectivity to orient its action to goals which include a conscious or unconscious intention illegitimately to injure the interests of other individuals or collectivities in the same system. 3 Rational Choice Theory uses the notion of the economic man to explain human behavior. To achieve this, it must proceed in two steps. The rst step is to determine what a rational person would do in the circumstances. The second step is to ascertain whether this is what the person actually did. If the person did what the theory predicted he would do, it can add the case to its credit side. Similarly, the theory can fail at each of the two steps. First, it can fail to yield determinate predictions. Second, people can fail to conform to its predictions they can behave irrationally. 4 According to Bandura [1973: 43] the immediately preceding act of one person was the major determinant of the other persons response. In approximately 75 percent of the instances, hostile behav Political Studies Association, 2002.



ior elicited unfriendly responses, whereas cordial acts seldom did. Aggressive children thus created through their actions a hostile environment, whereas children who displayed friendly interpersonal modes or response generated an amicable social milieu ... People thus play an active role in constructing their own reinforcement contingencies throught their characteristic modes of response.

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