- Frenzied Attacks: A Micro-sociological Analysis of the Emotional Dynamics of Extreme Youth Violence
- British Journal of Sociology
- Volume | Issue number
- 65 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Inspired by phenomenological and interactionist studies of youth violence, this article offers an empirical evaluation of Collins's micro-sociological theory of violence. The main question is whether situations of extreme violence have distinct situational dynamics. Based on analyses of 159 interactions taken from judicial case files, situations of extreme youth violence, here called frenzied attacks, were identified on the basis of the state of encapsulation of the attackers (absorbed in the violence, their sole focus is the destruction of the victim) and the disproportionateness of the violence (the attackers continue to hurt the victims even though they do not pose a threat or a challenge to them). Qualitative and statistical analyses revealed that this emotional state results from a social figuration in which the emotional balance shifts toward complete dominance of the attackers. Thus, the occurrence of frenzied attacks is associated with the moment victims hit the ground, paralyse and start to apologize, with the numerical dominance of the attackers' supportive group and with feelings of group membership, in the form of solidarity excitement and family ties in the attackers' group. Alcohol intoxication is of influence as well, but contrary to the expectation, this effect was independent from solidarity excitement. The article concludes that Collins's theory on the emotional dynamics of violence adds a new dimension to the phenomenological and interactionist traditions of research.
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