Violence: Reflections About a Word

  • Pieter Spierenburg


The starting point for my reflections about the word “violence” comes perhaps unexpected. In his book Kindly Inquisitors, the journalist and philosopher Jonathan Rauch outlines a radical defense of free inquiry against all forms of censorship, whether traditionally authoritarian or rooted in the modern notion of “political correctness.” This defense of free inquiry leads him to oppose all possible restrictions on verbal expression. In a chapter entitled “The Humanitarian Threat” he reviews measures, proposed and devised, against “assaultive speech,” quoting a professor who had stated “To me, racial epithets are not speech. They are bullets.” Rauch’s reaction is eloquent and uncompromising: “you do not have to be Kant to see what comes after ‘offensive words are bullets’: if you hurt me with words, I reply with bullets, and the exchange is even.”


Physical Integrity Homicide Rate Verbal Abuse State Violence Psychological Violence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aijmer, Göran, & Abbink, Jon, eds. (2000). Meanings of violence: A cross cultural perspective. Oxford, New York: Berg.Google Scholar
  2. Dinges, Martin (1994). Der Maurermeister und der Finanzrichter: Ehre, Geld und soziale Kontrolle im Paris des 18. Jahrhunderts. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.Google Scholar
  3. Dunning, Eric, & Sheard, Kenneth (1979). Barbarians, gentlemen and players: A sociological study of the development of rugby football. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Egelkamp, Margarethe Maria (2002). Inflation von Gewalt? Strafrechtliche und kriminologische Analysen von Qualifikationsentscheidungen in den Niederlanden und Deutschland. Groningen: University of Groningen.Google Scholar
  5. Galtung, Johan (1969). Violence, peace and peace research. Journal of Peace Research vol. 6: 167–91.Google Scholar
  6. Galtung, Johan (1972). Eine strukturelle Theorie des Imperialismus. in: Senghaas, Dieter, ed. Imperialismus und strukturelle Gewalt: Analysen über abhängige Reproduktion. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 29–104.Google Scholar
  7. Goudsblom, J[ohan] (1998). De paradox van de pacificatie. Amsterdams Sociologisch Tijdschrift vol. 25,3: 395–406.Google Scholar
  8. Hoogerwerf, A (1996). Geweld in Nederland. Assen: Van Gorcum.Google Scholar
  9. Jansson, Arne (1998). From swords to sorrow: Homicide and suicide in early modern Stockholm. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International.Google Scholar
  10. McKanna, Clare V., Jr. (1997). Homicide, race and justice in the American West, 1880–1920. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.Google Scholar
  11. Ploeg, J.D. van der, & Mooij, T., eds. (1998). Geweld op school: Achtergronden, omvang, oorzaak, preventie en aanpak. Rotterdam: Lemniscaat.Google Scholar
  12. Rauch, Jonathan (1993). Kindly inquisitors: The new attacks on free thought. Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  13. Riches, David, ed. (1986). The Anthropology of violence. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  14. Riches, David (1991). Aggression, war, violence: Space/ time and paradigm. Man, New Series vol. 26: 281–98.Google Scholar
  15. Rocke, Michael (1996). Forbidden friendships: Homosexuality and male culture in Renaissance Florence. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Scheper-Hughes, Nancy, & Bourgois, Philippe, eds. (2004). Violence in war and peace. Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  17. Schwerhoff, Gerd (2002). Criminalized violence and the process of civilisation: A reappraisal. Crime, Histoire & Sociétés/ Crime, History & Societies vol. 6,2: 103–26.Google Scholar
  18. Spierenburg, Pieter, ed. (1998). Men and violence: Gender, honor and rituals in modern Europe and America. Columbus OH: Ohio State University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Spierenburg, Pieter (2001). Violence and the civilizing process: Does it work? Crime, Histoire & Sociétés/ Crime, History & Societies vol. 5,2: 87–105.Google Scholar
  20. Spierenburg, Pieter (2002). Theorizing in Jurassic Park: A reply to Gerd Schwerhoff. Crime, Histoire & Sociétés/ Crime, History & Societies vol. 6,2: 127–8.Google Scholar
  21. Trotha, Trutz von, ed. (1997). Soziologie der Gewalt. Cologne: Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, Sonderheft 37.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Erasmus UniversityRotterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations