The return of interpersonal violence in the breakdown of the pseudo-pacification process

Steve Hall

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis argues that orthodox social constructionist and culturalist explanations of the mutation of interpersonal violence in the Anglo-American world over the past three decades need to be challenged. Macro-patterns of interpersonal violence appearing over historical time and social space indicate a direct correlation with changes in political economy. It is argued here that specific forms of physical and sublimated symbolic violence were functional to the development of mercantile and classic industrial capitalism, and thus they were cultivated and harnessed in complex forms across this time period. This suggests that the 'civilizing process' formulated in terms of evolving social relationships and emotional sensibilities is inadequate as an explanation for the decline in the murder and serious violence rates in Europe, and this concept needs to be reformulated in a direct relationship with political economy. The new concept of the 'pseudo-pacification process' arose from an attempted reformulation, which represents the internal pacification of the population as an accidental and rather fragile by-product of capitalism's functional requirements. Current rises in t he rates o f m urder and s erious interpersonal violence i n vortices appearing in the shift from the classical productivist economy managed by interventionist state politics to a consumer/service economy managed by neo-liberal politics suggests that indeed the aetiological connection between political economy and violence rates needs to be returned to the foreground of criminological theory. The putative 'sensibilities' at the heart of the civilizing process are more likely to be emotional attachments to the rules and affectations that evolved as protective insulation for the brutally competitive practices that energise the capitalist economic project, and they are in danger of disintegrating as the pseudo-pacification process loses m uch o fit s functional v alue in t he c onsumer e conomy and b egins t o b reak down.
Original languageEnglish
  • Armitage, John, Supervisor, External person
  • Mellor, Mary, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 27 Sep 2006


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