Southern Culture Of Violence Thesis

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As opposed to the random and anomalous violence of the “mainstream” world, this particular strain of violence, they argue, is a collective phenomenon, a normal experience for poor, non-white men.

The proposed methodology in focuses on identifying “proviolent” values.

With regard to explaining how subcultures cause violence, Wolfgang and Ferracuti argue that violence is a product of conformity to a pro-violent subculture that is in direct conflict with the dominant culture.

While they do not suggest that subcultures are in total conflict with the societies of which they are a part, the authors note that the “overt use of force or violence, either in interpersonal relationships or in group interaction, is generally viewed as a reflection of basic values that stand apart from the dominant, the central or parent culture” (Wolfgang and Ferracuti, 1967: 158).

Amongst these various explanations, few have been as durable as the explanation of culture.

Cultural explanations for violence first emerged in the works of American delinquency theorists in the 1930s who were attempting to account for the concentrations of crime and violence in poor, urban African-American neighbourhoods in the 1930s.The key objective of their work is to develop a way to identify and measure subcultures of violence in order to scientifically prove their existence.In order to do so, the authors propose an integrated methodological and theoretical approach, which involves drawing from a variety of existing criminological theories as well as from insights from sociology and psychology.In this sense, violent values act as a mechanism of social control, given that they require members of a subculture to engage in violence for their own protection and survival.As a result, equipped with the values to justify their violent actions, subcultural offenders engage in violence frequently and guiltlessly, with little provocation (Wolfgang and Ferracuti, 1967: 314).Finally, in order to examine whether a variance exists between suspected subcultural offenders and middle-class individuals, Wolfgang and Ferracuti propose measuring “social values using a ratio scale (as in psychophysics) focused on items concerned with behavioural displays of violence” (Wolfgang and Ferracuti, 1967: 315).Although they do not actually apply their methods or test their thesis in , the authors express certainty regarding the potential of their method to identify subcultural offenders, predict who might become a subcultural offender, and ascertain the location of such offenders (Wolfgang and Ferracuti, 1967: 315).Rather, rates of crime and violence vary spatially and demographically.The endeavour to understand these patterns has generated a range of theories that highlight various social processes, including how crime is learned and taught and how it emerges from social inequalities.With this in mind, Wolfgang and Ferracuti propose the following: We suggest that, by identifying the groups with the highest rates of homicide, we should find in the most intense degree subcultures of violence; and, having focused on these groups we should subsequently examine the value system of their subculture, the importance of human life in the scale of values, the kinds of expected reaction to certain types of stimulus, perceptual differenced in the evaluation of stimuli, and the general personality structure of the subcultural actors (Wolfgang and Ferracuti 1967: 153).Thus, following the identification of a potential subculture of violence based on statistics indicating concentrations of violence amongst marginalized men, whether “pro-violent” values are in existence should be assessed through determinations of whether there is collective approval, encouragement and reward for engaging in violence.


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