In the popular misconception fostered by blockbuster action movies and best-selling thrillers--not to mention conventional explanations by social scientists--violence is easy under certain conditions, like poverty, racial or ideological hatreds, or family pathologies. Randall Collins challenges this view in Violence, arguing that violent confrontation goes against human physiological hardwiring. It is the exception, not the rule--regardless of the underlying conditions or motivations. -/- Collins gives a comprehensive explanation of violence and its dynamics, drawing upon video footage, cutting-edge forensics, and ethnography (...) to examine violent situations up close as they actually happen--and his conclusions will surprise you. Violence comes neither easily nor automatically. Antagonists are by nature tense and fearful, and their confrontational anxieties put up a powerful emotional barrier against violence. Collins guides readers into the very real and disturbing worlds of human discord--from domestic abuse and schoolyard bullying to muggings, violent sports, and armed conflicts. He reveals how the fog of war pervades all violent encounters, limiting people mostly to bluster and bluff, and making violence, when it does occur, largely incompetent, often injuring someone other than its intended target. Collins shows how violence can be triggered only when pathways around this emotional barrier are presented. He explains why violence typically comes in the form of atrocities against the weak, ritualized exhibitions before audiences, or clandestine acts of terrorism and murder--and why a small number of individuals are competent at violence. (shrink)
cis is presented of Randall Collins's book, The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change. It presents a sociological theory of intellectual networks that connect thinkers in chains of masters and pupils, colleagues and rivals, and of the internalized conversations that constitute the social processes of thinking. The theory is used to analyze long-term developments of the intellectual communities of philosophers in ancient Greece, ancient and medieval China and India, medieval and modern Japan, medieval Islam and Judaism, medieval (...) Christendom, and modern Europe through the early 20th century. (shrink)
Sociology is split into two antagonistic or mutually oblivious wings: quantitative and nonquantitative. Statistics does not occupy a privileged methodological position vis-a-vis qualitative, verbal sociology. Probability is a theory like any other, and each statistical method contains its particular theoretical bias. Such biases should be brought into the open and tested. Statistics may continue to be useful, though, as a substantive theory of change processes in the social world. A reorientation in our views of statistics may bring mathematical and antimathematical (...) branches of sociology back into a common enterprise. (shrink)
Based on historical comparisons among master-pupil chains and other aspects of social networks among philosophers, some prmciples are suggested regarding long-term intellectual change. The higher the eminence ofphilosophers, the more tightly they are connected to mtergenerational chains of other eminent philosophers, and to horizontal circles of the intellectual community. Intellectual creativity proceeds through the contemporaneous development of rival positions, dividing up the available attention space in the intellectual community. Strong thought-communities, those that have strong external support for their institutional base, (...) subdivide to maximize internal distinctiveness; weakly supported thought-communities disappear or amalgamate by syncretism. External conditions thus affect the content of ideas indirectly by affecting the space available in the mternal field of the intellectual community. The content of philosophies, the degree of abstraction and self-conscious reflection upon intellectual operations, depends on how many generations intellectual networks maintain continuity under conditions of creative rivalry. New positions are produced by competitive appropriation of prior ideas and by negation of preexisting positions along the lines of greatest organizational rivalry. (shrink)
A stringent criterion for a public intellectual is proposed: persons who are simultaneously major creative intellectuals, and successful political leaders. Using data from the careers of 2700 philosophers throughout world history, and social scientists in recent centuries, the article concludes that three kinds of political failure by intellectuals are prominent: (1) failure to attain political office; (2) failure while in office; and (3) failure of political influence from adoption of one’s ideas. On the whole, major intellectuals are not good at (...) politics; and politicians do not make outstanding intellectuals. The skills and pressures of the two spheres are too different. (shrink)
Collins comments on status groups, micro-macro links, failures of peace dialogue, violence and confrontational tension/fear, educational credential inflation, creativity in intellectual networks, time-dynamics of nationalism and populism.
Spectacular but very rare violent events such as mass killings by habituai non-criminals cannot be explained by factors which are very widespread, such as possession of firearms, being a victim of bullying, an introvert, or a career failure. A stronger clue is clandestine preparation of attack by one or two individuals, against randomly chosen representatives of a hated collective identity. Mass killers develop a deep back-stage, obsessed with planning their attack, overcoming social inferiority and isolation by an emotion of clandestine (...) excitement. (shrink)