American Sociological Association

Featured Essay: Preventing Violence: Insights from Micro-Sociology

Micro-sociology of violence looks at what happens in situations where people directly threaten violence, but only sometimes carry it out. This process and its turning points have become easier to see in the current era of visual data: cell-phone videos, long-distance telephoto lenses, CCTV cameras. New cues and instruments are on the horizon as we look at emotional signals, body rhythms, and monitors for body signs such as heart rate (a proxy for adrenaline level). There has been a concomitant sharpening of the ethnographic eye as to what details to look for, and theoretical frames build relevance of accumulating research. Unusually for social science, micro-sociology of violence offers some optimistic results: applications in everyday life that can reduce many kinds of violence. I will selectively summarize discoveries and theoretical advances since Collins (2008).

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Randall Collins





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