All that is sacred is profaned: towards a theory of subjective violence

Simon Winlow*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Introduction: the limits of ‘objective’ criminological analysis Let me begin with a rather simple heuristic claim: Much of the work in mainstream criminology that addresses subjective violence falls into one of three camps. First, there are those who highlight the exhilarating nature of physical confrontation. Here it is often suggested that the subject is seduced by the illicit thrill that accompanies the transgression of conduct norms: pushed by the oppressive sameness of everyday social reality, and pulled by the possibility of rupturing this dull regimentation with a sudden explosion of visceral energy, the violent subject becomes enamoured with a self-image that inspires fear. Second, there are scholars who have sought to chart and explicate changing levels of violence historically, often relating these changes to civility and control and the development of modern subjectivity. We should also include in this group those who have attempted to identify and explain the differing rates of violence between cultures, societies and nations. Third, there are criminologists who have sought to situate violence within a broader process of social learning. Here a pathological attachment to violence is passed from one generation to the next, or violence itself is integrated into a complex assortment of class-based ‘solutions’ to the pressures of the social fi eld. While each one of these camps has produced important ideas and empirical data that have illuminated our understanding of subjective violence, criminology as a discipline has yet to adequately integrate this material into its corpus. Instead, criminology tends to treat subjective violence as a tangent to some other discussion: drug markets, drinking cultures, urban marginality and so on. In this short paper I offer a rather basic but integrated theory of subjective violence, a theory that is fi rmly planted in the discipline of criminology, and one that attempts to draw these three basic areas of study together.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew directions in criminological theory
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781136306273
ISBN (Print)9781843929147
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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