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)
Conflict produces group solidarity in four phases: (1) an initial few days of shock and idiosyncratic individual reactions to attack; (2) one to two weeks of establishing standardized displays of solidarity symbols; (3) two to three months of high solidarity plateau; and (4) gradual decline toward normalcy in six to nine months. Solidarity is not uniform but is clustered in local groups supporting each other's symbolic behavior. Actual solidarity behaviors are performed by minorities of the population, while vague verbal claims (...) to performance are made by large majorities. Commemorative rituals intermittently revive high emotional peaks; participants become ranked according to their closeness to a center of ritual attention. Events, places, and organizations claim importance by associating themselves with national solidarity rituals and especially by surrounding themselves with pragmatically ineffective security ritual. Conflicts arise over access to centers of ritual attention; clashes occur between pragmatists deritualizing security and security zealots attempting to keep up the level of emotional intensity. The solidarity plateau is also a hysteria zone; as a center of emotional attention, it attracts ancillary attacks unrelated to the original terrorists as well as alarms and hoaxes. In particular historical circumstances, it becomes a period of atrocities. (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)
Does the experience of cultural consumption have its own sui generis attraction and value in itself, or is it an index of external social ranking? Four criteria are proposed that are observable in microsociological detail: (1) bodily self-absorption in the cultural experience, creating an intense internal interaction ritual; (2) collective effervescence among the audience; (3) Goffmanian front-stage self-presentation in settings of cultural consumption; and (4) verbal discourse during and around the cultural experience. Data from highly committed opera fanatics in Buenos (...) Aires are used to document the extreme pole of cultural consumption that rejects external social hierarchies in favor of pure musical experience. This individualized and internal style of music consumption resembles religious mysticism, and what Weber in his typology of orientations to religious experience called virtuoso religiosity, as distinct from typical social class orientations to religion and to music. (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)
Discussions of modes of analysis, as well as the received wisdom about which categories to place scholars in, often obscure the breadth and nature of inquiry a particular figure engaged in. This examination of Reinhard Bendix's various uses of comparison suggests that, beyond the sociohistorical comparison he was known for, one should also consider his reflexive works, his work on the role of social science and claims for knowledge, and his reflections on the history of ideas, the need for conceptual (...) clarification of terms, and the search for regularities and universals. (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.
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)