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Considering violentization toward the societal scale

Studies in Symbolic Interaction

ISBN: 978-1-84855-124-4, eISBN: 978-1-84855-125-1

ISSN: 0163-2396

Publication date: 1 October 2008


A number of international relations' mid-level theories about violence are inadequate to the task of explaining societal and group violence. Many of these theories, for example, confuse causality with correlation, or breakdown and then cannot explain why they fail. Building upon the theories of criminologist Lonnie Athens, both in their particulars and in their spirit of practical solution rather than entrenched debate, this article considers whether those theories of individual violence are suitable for extrapolation to the societal level. It explores some problems with the current theories in international relations, and reviews the theoretical foundations offered by Athens and some others, who have also laid strong groundwork for scaling Athens' theories to the societal level by considering their applications to communities. A number of those theories, although based upon analyses of individual dangerous violent criminals, lend themselves particularly well to groups and communities, suggesting strong suitability of scaling to these levels, and to the societal one as well. Also considering critiques of Athens' and Rhodes' work, this article ultimately argues that Athens' theories of violence, and those building upon them, constitute a strong foundation for theories of violence in international relations that relate to the societal scale.


Spohn, M. (2008), "Considering violentization toward the societal scale", Denzin, N.K., Salvo, J. and Washington, M. (Ed.) Studies in Symbolic Interaction (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 31), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 101-132.



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