Civilization and Violence

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* Article: Violence and the civilizing process: does it work? By Pieter C. Spierenburg. Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies, Vol. 5, No. 2 (2001), pp. 87-105

URL = french

This article concludes that there is an effective lowering of homicidal violence over time, linked to the civilizational process as first identified by Norbert Elias, and addresses the critiques.


"This discussion article confronts the criticism levelled at the theory of civilization, in so far as it pertains to violence. It deals with four broad clusters of problems:

(1) the reliability and validity of the evidence for the longterm trend of declining violence;

(2) the character of violence, in particular its function as an indicator for the level of behavioral control;

(3) the interdependence of long-term change in the field of aggression and human emotions on the one hand and the overall development of society on the other;

(4) the new wave of interpersonal violence in the Western world in the late twentieth century. It will be concluded that research on the long-term development of homicide over the last twenty years has yielded impressive new evidence for the theory of civilization, which some historians nevertheless tend to ignore or attempt to explain away. "