Robert Jackall
Class of 1956 Professor of Sociology and Social Thought, Williams College; HFG grantee
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Interpersonal Violence

Classes 16 & 17: Describe in detail the wrath of Achilles and its genesis in the Greeks' conception of personal honor. What are some of the other meanings of honor that guide people's social behavior, especially in relation to violence? What are the particular attributes of the American South's culture of honor?

Class 18: What are the roots of Clytaemestra's rage against Agamemnon? Is it rooted in her rejection of his conception of public duty and his sacrifice of their daughter Iphegenia to appease the gods? Or is she simply an agent of the gods to fulfil the ancient blood debt between Agamemnon and her lover, Aegisthus? What, according to Lefkowitz, were the meanings of seduction and rape for the Greeks? How do such conceptions of the relationship between the sexes compare with those documented by Gregor in the Amazon? Analyze the use of rape, as documented by Murphy, and genital circumcision, as seen in Lightfoot-Klein, as part of systems of social control. What are typically the precipitating causes of violence by women? What are the patterns of violence against women in the United States?

Class 19: What are the types and characteristics of suicide as analyzed by Durkheim? What, according to Durkheim, is the relationship between integration into social structures and self-destructiveness? What roles do different religions play in effecting or not effecting such integration? Contrast the kind of suicide described by Alvarez with that described by Seward.

Criminal Violence

Class 20: What is the ethos of street criminal violence as described by Katz and Jackall? Compare this ethos with the ethos of early nineteenth-century criminals in England described by Rudé. Comment on Dostoyevsky's famous portrait of obsessive criminal violence. How much contemporary criminal violence is rooted in such irrationality and how much stems from rational occupational orientations?

Class 21: In what sense is the behavior of Adolf Eichmann, of soldiers in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, and of soldiers at Son My "criminal?" What light does the notion of "war crimes" shed on our conceptions of street criminal behavior?

Class 22: Contrast the nature and meaning of punishment in ancient Rome and in the Florentine Renaissance. Why was punishment such an important subject of artistic representation during the Renaissance? Comment on the notion of moral retribution as an aspect of punishment for criminal misdeeds. Consider the problem of torture from several angles. What is the purpose of most torture from the perspective of the torturer? How do victims experience torture? Finally, many people make the moral argument that punishment itself is "criminal." Make the argument for that position using Lewin's Bandiet as your case-in-point.

Part IV: Forces of Order and Peace

This section explores the social-structural roots of societies with little violence. It examines the roots of personal and social resistance to authority considered illegitimate. It also explores the role of force in preventing or minimizing violence, and the institutional bases of modern societies that necessitate and ground compromise between inevitably opposing interests.

Class 23: What are the social-structural characteristics of peaceful traditional societies? How important are rituals and symbols of peace in maintaining such societies? How do such societies cultivate valued self-images of peacefulness, cooperation, and nonviolence? How do such societies allocate and control power and authority, linchpins of all institutional structures?

Class 24: Analyze Franz Jagerstätter's heroic resistance to Nazi rule. What exactly were his motivations? On what inner strengths did he draw while socially isolated? What are the philosophical and moral bases of nonviolent resistance to authority or laws that one considers illegitimate? What are the practicalities of nonviolent action? With the materials provided, compare nonviolent movements in Europe and the United States.

Class 25: What roles do the use of force or the threat of force play in preventing violence and maintaining domestic and international order? Discuss the role of police in preventing criminal violence in modern society. Using Smith's account, analyze the failure of the United Nations to stop Idi Amin's savagery inside Uganda and the legitimacy of Tanzania's invasion of that country to depose Amin. Discuss the importance of the credible threat of force in resolving the Cuban missile crisis.

Class 26: What roles do law and bureaucracy play in the prevention and containment of violence in modern societies? How do law and its bureaucratically organized administration unintentionally lay the groundwork for some kinds of violence? Discuss the image of modern society delineated in Weber's essay on "Religious Rejections of the World and their Directions." In particular, how do we maintain a civil public order given the social-structural and experiential centrifugality that, Weber argues, marks modern bureaucratic societies? How do pluralistic societies achieve and maintain tolerable compromises?

Part V: Conclusion

Throughout the course, instructors should note the major points of student interest and use the last two classes to draw them together.

Classes 27 & 28: Against the backdrop of the materials considered in the course, construct a conceptual continuum of the types and meanings of violence in contemporary society. What accounts for American society's fascination with violence?

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