Friday, October 1, 2010

More analysis on violence and poverty

Don't you love when a topic you were thinking about is seemingly continued by someone else? Well, following on from yesterday's post on Blattman's statement that "Poor and underemployed young men don't seem to be a source of social instability", I came across a blogpost of an article by Vaughan Bell over at Mindhacks (An incredible psychology blog that I steal ideas from all the time) that touches on the same issue......."It’s about how murder is one of our most social acts."

"Murder is not antisocial. If you want a demonstration that we are governed by society even when breaking its rules, homicide is one of the best and grimmest examples. Studies show that victim and offender tend to resemble each other to a striking degree – the young murder the young and the old murder the old, rich and poor rarely kill each other, gang bangers prey on other gang members, and you are likely to be personally acquainted with the person who later ends your life. Socially conservative it may be, but homicide remains a deeply social act."

Ok that bit isn't really related, but its still pretty cool.

"Murder, is not, however, an equal opportunities reaper and you are considerably more likely to be dispatched if you are poor and marginalised. It was not always the case though. Historical records show that homicide was used equally by all levels of society but has become increasingly less democratic over time as access to formalised systems of dispute resolution have become more widely available. The fact that the legal system is preferentially used by those with money is perhaps not surprising, although the fact the distribution of justice is unjust should give us pause for thought."

Interesting, but what happens when those formalised systems of dispute resolution collapse or are made unavailable despite one's economic status - as is the case in countries where these youths are seen to cause social instability?

"Nowhere is this contrast more striking than in Latin America. Although the region has the highest murder rates in the world the generalisation tell us little – the devil is really in the detail. A 2008 study led by the Venezuelan sociologist Roberto Briceño-León found that poverty in the region predicted little of the homicide rate on its own. It was inequality that explained the trend: in areas where wealth and extreme poverty coexist, violence occurs more frequently."

Don't you just love the smell of discourse in the morning?
So the issue of defining the indicators of violence still needs to be addressed so that all these various studies can actually go through some sort of cross-analysis, but one can still get rather excited about the topic nonetheless. Also, we need to see more mixing of these various academic subjects. A lot of them are asking the same questions, but it sometimes feels like there is some sort of barrier preventing the sharing of findings.......I bet its ego...

Oh and while we are on the subject, here is a new study that shows that men under acute stress struggle to process and interpret the emotions that other people's faces are conveying.
"Under stress, men tend to withdraw socially while women seek emotional support,"

This could potentially lead to a disruption in empathy and could therefore cause less inhibition towards violently attacking others.

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