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In this assignment, the discussion on Collins (1974: 418) will be made before critically
discussing the relationship between violence and morality with reference to Fanon’s (1967)
discussion of violent resistance to colonialism. For the purpose of this assignment, this writer will
not be going into definition of violence or arguments of what is violence and what is not violence
because it is clear that the topic has among other things to do with domination and liberation.

Collins (1974) argues that group boundaries determine the extent of human sympathy and makes
a connection between moralities and the boundaries on inclusion and exclusion. He is also of the
understanding that social group are internally stratified into in-group and out-group. That is to
say stratification is made up of “we” (inclusion) and “them” (exclusion). Whatever “we” do is
morally right while what “they” do is morally wrong. In this wise, it is morally right for the
dominant class to use force over other groups to uphold their power. In the other hand, the under-
class see morality in the use of violence to rebel against the dominant class. Also, the moral
boundaries may organise confrontations that make violence morally motivated (Collins, 1974).
There is solidarity within the group to engage in violence and there is moral justification for
every action taken by either of the groups to outdo one another.

Moreover, morality may determine violence in a positive or negative way. In a positive way,
“punishment of transgressors against the group’s standard reunifies the group in its righteous
indignation” (Durkheim in Collins, 1974: 418). In a negative way, it does determine violence “in
the sense that boundaries of the group mark the limit outside of which violence is allowed”
(Durkheim in Collins, 1974: 418). Above all, violence is practiced by one group against another
to show that human relations extend only to a certain limit, and that person outside the group of
the perpetrators are alien and subordinate. Meaning, anyone outside of the perpetrators is seems
to be inferior. In this case, no group want to become a victim to the other group (Collins, 1974).

“Force” in this context is used as deterrence so that the subordinate or under-class will be law
abiding and submissive to the dominant classes. The dominant class should be seen as a role
model and whatever they say or deem right is the only thing that matters in the society, which the
under-class must not question. In the other hand, the under-class conscious of the fact that the
dominant class may not be all that right in their decisions, whims and caprices means that they

can be challenged and the only way to do that is through “violence”. In most cases, the use of
violence, which is a greater force, is usually successful leading to compromise and topple of the
dominant classes. So, domination by use of force does not usually last as violence normally lead
to liberation of the citizens. All manner of colonisation was by use of force and decolonisation
was done through violence (Collins, 1974 and Fanon, 1967).

In discussing the relationship between violence and morality with reference to Fanon’s (1967)
discussion of violent resistance to colonialism, it is important to note that the first encounter
between the coloniser (settler) and the colonised (natives) was marked by violence. Also, the
maintenance of the unhealthy relationship between the two groups was through violence or
“force” as the case may be (Fanon, 1967).

The settlers used physical and structural violence to keep the natives in check. The exploitation of
the native by the settler was done through both physical and structural violence. The police and
the military maintain order by terrorising, beating and dehumanising the native. These security
personnel are used also as advisers and go between by telling the natives not to budge. The native
has to respect the settler and all the law put in place. Through structural violence, the colonial
world is divided into compartments. The coloniser’s town is strongly built, brightly lit and well-
fed while in the native’s town, people are starved of bread, meat and food. It is a town on its
knees and wallowing in mire (Fanon, 1967).

The result of the actions of the settler is that the native learns to stay in his place and not to go
beyond certain limits. The colonised does not have much of a choice in this case at the initial
stages of colonisation. Therefore, dreams of the native are always of muscular prowess, dreams
of action. The native realises that colonialism is violence in its natural state and it will only yield
when confronted with greater violence. That is to say, counter-violence should be used for
violence and counter-terror for terror. As a result, the natives first manifest aggressiveness against
own people while getting ready to confront the situation they found themselves (Fanon, 1967).

For the settlers, their actions are morally correct and see the natives as inferior beings. They even
go to the extent of setting up a judicial system to put the natives on trial and punish the natives

even further. In the midst of all the adversities, the natives refuses to be inferior or victim to the
settlers without complaining to anyone but rather resolve to rebel against the settlers with the use
of violence. From the native’s point of view, it is morally correct to counter the settlers by use of
force to take back their land (Fanon, 1967).

When the colonisers are cornered, they appeal to culture and value with the native representing
the absence and negation of values. “The colonial world is a Manichean world” (Fanon, 1967:
31). The native is given all sorts of arrogant nomenclature. For the colonised, the essential value
is land which brings bread and dignity. The colonised will do anything and everything to get their
land back, which include use of violence. “As far as the native is concerned, morality is very
concrete; it is to silence the settler’s defiance, to break his flaunting violence- in a word, to put
him out of the picture” (Fanon, 1967: 34).

Furthermore, the coloniser uses violence to separate the native. The violence reinforces and
separate ethnic groups and tribes. However, violence from the perspective of the native frees the
native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction. Also, those who have
taken a violent part in the nation’s liberation will not allow anyone claiming to be the liberators.
So, violence has a reward in a positive way. So, some good comes out of violence from both the
coloniser and the colonised, which is decolonisation. In the end, the end justifies the means
(Fanon, 1967).

In conclusion, the world is full of violence and there will continue to be violence even in this
post-colonial era. First and Third world countries have continue to experience violence and the
only difference is that “force” is now legalised and can only be used by the state whereas
“violence” by citizens of the state are punished. Apparently, it is no longer force and violence for
dominant classes and the under-class respectively but that between the rich and the poor in
medieval society. However, there still exist violence between the rich versus the rich and the poor
versus the poor. People usually come up with moral justification for their actions even when their
actions are immoral and that in itself is very problematic. Violent conducts by individuals or
groups must not go unpunished depending on what each society defines as violence.


Collins, R. (1974). “Three Faces of Cruelty: Towards a Comparative Sociological Violence”,

Theory and Society, 1, San Diego: University of California, pp. 415- 440.

Fanon, F. (1967). The Wretched of the Earth, London: Penguin Books, pp. 27-74.