Randall Collins - one of Sociology's leading theorists - has applied his erudition to the study of violence. He is a creative thinker who has brought together interesting material from diverse areas. I particularly appreciate the fact that Professor Collins does not restrict his analysis to violence considered deviant or antisocial. It is important to recognize the similarities between legitimate and illegitimate violence. Elite units of the military are similar to hitmen and gangsters, for example, in that both must be able to handle their fear. Violence scholars are, unfortunately, moving in the opposite direction: they often focus on particular types of violence (e.g., domestic violence) ignoring what violent acts have in common. Collins's book is an antidote for those who take, to paraphrase Dennis Wrong, an 'over-specialized conception of man'. However, he relies too heavily on anecdotes to support his arguments, and ignores much of the quantitative literature. I also think he needs to think more carefully about what he is trying to explain, and that is where I begin.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science