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Criminology Criminal Retaliation
by
Scott Jacques

Introduction

Retaliation is about getting even. Rather than relying on the state for help, some victims take the law into their own hands. To some, retaliation is morally justified. To others, however, retaliation is wrong and its curtailment is a primary justification for the formation of governments and their duty to legislate, investigate, and punish deviance. Indeed, many acts of retaliation are defined and treated as criminal. For example, some homicides, rip-offs, burglaries, and property damage are vigilante actions, meaning criminal retaliation. Yet an irony of vigilantism is that—in the long run—it might actually reduce crime. Moreover, retaliation seems to occur most where governments inadequately control crime in the communities they are supposed to serve and protect. The above conceptualizations and theories are among the reasons that retaliation, including vigilantism, is a fascinating topic of study.

General Overviews

Documenting and theorizing “retaliation” cannot precede a definition of the behavior. What is retaliation? The answer to this question depends on the paradigm within which retaliation is viewed. Typically speaking, retaliation is conceptualized as a form of behavior concerned with righting wrong. This definition represents one of the earliest criminological entrees into retaliation, Wolfgang 1957. Psychological conceptualizations of retaliation define it as a means of exacting vengeance. Examples of a psychological version of retaliation may be found in Buss 1961, which views retaliation as a possible outcome of anger. Felson 1993, a chapter on dispute-related violence, is perhaps the best-known psychological typology of predation and retaliation. Somewhat differently, sociological conceptualizations of retaliation define it on a more concrete level; retaliatory actions are those that respond to deviance and do not make use of the government for help (i.e., they are unilateral). Building on the initial entrée into retaliation in Black 1983, Cooney and Phillips 2002 outlines the distinctions between the authors’ social typology and others’ psychological typologies of retaliation and predation. Mocan 2008 uses cross-national data to explore the effect of cross-national and cross-individual differences on vengeful feelings.

  • Black, Donald. 1983. Crime as social control. American Sociological Review 48:34–45.

    DOI: 10.2307/2095143Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article defines retaliation, or what is also called “self-help,” as a form of conflict management absent the government. This article makes clear that sometimes crime, such as assault or vandalism, may itself be social control, just as is law. This conception of retaliation may be labeled purely sociological, as compared to psychological.

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  • Buss, Arnold H. 1961. The psychology of aggression. New York: John Wiley.

    DOI: 10.1037/11160-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In an early examination of different types of aggression, Buss proposes that some such acts are motivated by anger within the offender that results from previous encounters. Aggressive actions that emerge out of the anger of offenders may be seen as retaliation.

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  • Cooney, Mark, and Scott Phillips. 2002. Typologizing violence: A Blackian perspective. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 22:75–108.

    DOI: 10.1108/01443330210790102Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article clarifies the difference between Donald Black’s sociological definition of retaliation (see Black 1983) and psychological definitions, such as that proposed in Felson 1993. Criteria for evaluating typologies and definitions are also proposed.

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  • Felson, Richard B. 1993. Predatory and dispute-related violence: A social interactionist approach. In Routine activity and rational choice. Edited by Ronald V. Clarke and Marcus Felson, 103–125. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

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    This is a key reference for studies of retaliation and their differences from and similarities to predation. Retaliation is viewed as a strategy for satisfying the desire for vengeance that results from disputes.

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  • Mocan, Naci H. 2008. Vengeance. National Bureau of Economic Research working paper 14131.

    DOI: 10.3386/w14131Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    With data on almost ninety thousand individuals and fifty countries, the topic of vengeful feelings is explored. Differences in demographic variables—e.g., per capita income and gender—are found to influence the intensity and duration of vengeful feelings between people and nations.

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  • Wolfgang, Martin E. 1957. Victim precipitated criminal homicide. Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science 48.1: 1–11.

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    Based on a study of patterns in criminal homicide, this paper suggests that some victims are killed because of their own wrongdoing. Cases of homicide where the victim initiates the conflict that results in his or her murder are termed “victim precipitated.”

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Data Sources

Data for investigating the rate and magnitude of retaliation is available but comes with limitations. The two major sources of data on retaliation are official data and victimization-survey data. The major limitation of such datasets is that it is not always possible to determine which victimizations and offenses are retaliatory (as compared to predatory), but strengths include their representativeness and size. Examples of official data sources include the National Crime Reporting Standard and Uniform Crime Reports. Victimization survey data has been obtained in the British Crime Survey, International Crime Victims Survey, and National Crime Victimization Survey. Archived data from past studies on retaliation are also available; these are particularly useful sources of qualitative data. A key source of archived data is Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research.

Typologizing Retaliation

Not all acts of retaliation are the same. It may be empirically and theoretically useful to divide and classify retaliation into different kinds. This raises the question: What are the different types of retaliation? As is always true, the answer to this question depends in part on which framework is used to conceptualize the world. At a minimum, there are four strategies for typologizing retaliation. The temporal typology in Jacobs and Wright 2006 suggests acts of retaliation differ based on the amount of time between the initial transgression and the retaliatory response. Jacobs and Wright 2008 also proposes a contextual typology, which divides up retaliation according to the context of the dispute. Another well-known classification scheme for retaliation is relational, meaning based on the relationship between victim and offender; this typology is reviewed by Decker 1993. Jacques and Wright 2008 outlines a behavioral typology of retaliation that draws conceptual distinctions based on whether there is violence, deception, or unseen theft.

  • Decker, Scott. 1993. Exploring the victim-offender relationships in homicide: The role of individual and event characteristics. Justice Quarterly 10:585–612.

    DOI: 10.1080/07418829300092031Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Typologies of retaliation often draw conceptual lines based on the relationship between victim and offender. This article reviews those distinctions and suggests there are at least five distinct relationships, which may equate to five different kinds of retaliation. It may occur between friends, relatives, romantic partners, acquaintances, or strangers.

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  • Jacobs, Bruce A., and Richard Wright. 2006. Street justice: Retaliation in the criminal underworld. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Chapter 3 of this book proposes a temporal (time-based) typology of retaliation. Reflexive retaliation is the kind that occurs immediately after the initial transgression. There is also delayed retaliation, of which there are four kinds: calculated, deferred, sneaky, and imperfect.

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  • Jacobs, Bruce A., and Richard Wright. 2008. Moralistic street robbery. Crime and Delinquency 54:511–531.

    DOI: 10.1177/0011128707307220Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article suggests a contextual typology of retaliatory robberies. In other words, there are different sources of conflict and retaliation. Market-related retaliation emerges from disputes over trade or resources. Status-based retaliation comes from violations against the retaliator’s social standing and character. Personalistic retaliation flows from grievances over autonomy and justice.

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  • Jacques, Scott, and Richard Wright. 2008. The relevance of peace to studies of drug market violence. Criminology 46.1: 221–254.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2008.00102.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article categorizes retaliatory events based on whether they involve violence, fraud, or unseen theft. In addition, the authors suggest there are two kinds of violent retaliation: pure, meaning violent cases without the transfer of resources, and violent confiscation, meaning those where resources are taken as punishment. This means there are at least four kinds of retaliation: pure violence, violent confiscation, fraudulent, and stealthy thefts.

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Behavioral Forms of Retaliation

Four distinct forms of retaliation are violent, fraudulent, stealthy, and destructive retaliation. Violent retaliation involves the use or threat of physical force. Cooney 1998 and Kubrin and Weitzer 2003 provide qualitative and quantitative examples of violent retaliation and use sociological theories to explain this phenomenon. Fraudulent retaliation refers to cases where deception is used to unfairly obtain the resources of a wrongdoer. An example of this behavior is found in Jacques 2010. Stealth retaliation is vengeance obtained by taking the resources of a wrongdoer when that person is not around. Such occurrences are discussed in Adler 1993 and Wright and Decker 1994. Destructive retaliation is defined as unilateral social control in which a wrongdoer’s resources are damaged as payback. Black 1983 describes qualitative studies that mention this form of dispute management.

  • Adler, Patricia A. 1993. Wheeling and dealing: An ethnography of an upper-level drug dealing and smuggling community. 2d ed. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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    This book describes a case of stealthy retaliation that occurred in the illegal drug world. It involves a supplier who used a moving truck to steal everything from a debtor’s home.

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  • Black, Donald. 1983. Crime as social control. American Sociological Review 48:34–45.

    DOI: 10.2307/2095143Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article provides a number of examples of destructive retaliation based on prior research. It describes, for example, retaliation involving the slashing of automobile tires and spray-painting of residences.

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  • Cooney, Mark. 1998. Warriors and peacemakers: How third parties shape violence. New York: New York Univ. Press.

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    This work contributes to our empirical and theoretical understanding of violent retaliation by examining rich descriptions of this behavior found in the anthropological literature and obtained by interviewing incarcerated murderers. Their behavior is explained as the outcome of partisanship and honor culture.

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  • Jacques, Scott. 2010. The necessary conditions for retaliation: Toward a theory of non-violent and violent forms in drug markets. Justice Quarterly 27:186–205.

    DOI: 10.1080/07418820902873860Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Not all forms of retaliation are the same, and so the factors that explain variation in the type of retaliation may differ. This article suggests that four distinct forms of retaliation—pure fights, violent confiscation, fraudulent theft, and unseen theft—cannot occur unless situations involve a congruence of minimal elements, such as physicality, resources, agreements, and contact between disputants.

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  • Kubrin, Charis E., and Ronald Weitzer. 2003. Retaliatory homicide: Concentrated disadvantage and neighborhood culture. Social Problems 50.2: 157–180.

    DOI: 10.1525/sp.2003.50.2.157Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This paper provides qualitative and quantitative data bearing on violent retaliation. Its relation to social structure and culture is also discussed and analyzed.

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  • Wright, Richard T., and Scott Decker. 1994. Burglars on the job: Streetlife and residential break-ins. Boston: Northeastern Univ. Press.

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    Accounts obtained from active burglars are used to suggest that some unseen thefts are not predatory—meaning motivated by gain—but, instead, are retaliatory—motivated by revenge.

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Vigilantism

Some cases of retaliation are treated as crime by the government. Vigilantism is defined as illegal acts of retaliation. For example, retaliation may result in a report to the police, an investigation by them or prosecutors, a trial in court, and formal punishment, including probation, fines, imprisonment, and even execution. Johnston 1996 provides a definition of vigilantism based on what he sees as its six key features. Theories of vigilantism that draw on historical and modern examples include Abrahams 1998 and Brown 1975. Weisburd 1998 systematically investigates vigilantism in Israel, whereas Zimring 2003 focuses on the vigilante tradition in the United States and its relation to capital punishment. Moses 1997 provides a list of further readings on vigilantism.

  • Abrahams, Ray. 1998. Vigilant citizens: Vigilantism and the state. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    This work investigates the formal (political) and informal (social) contexts that harbor vigilantism. It is pointed out that the conceptual line drawn between vigilantism and other forms of violence, such as the death penalty, may be fuzzy.

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  • Brown, Richard Maxwell. 1975. Strain of violence: Historical studies of American violence and vigilantism. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    This book provides a historical perspective on violence in America, including the American Revolution, racial conflict and rioting in the South, and vigilantism.

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  • Johnston, Les. 1996. What is vigilantism? British Journal of Criminology 36.2: 220–236.

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    This article provides a definition of vigilantism composed of six characteristics. Vigilantism is (1) the use or threat of aggression from (2) planning and premeditation that (3) is voluntary, (4) part of a social movement, (5) results from transgressions against norms, and (6) is motivated by the desire to control crime.

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  • Moses, Norton H. 1997. Lynching and vigilantism in the United States: An annotated bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

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    More than four thousand pieces of literature with relevance to vigilantism are listed and summarized. Special attention is paid to works on the frontier West, antilynching movements, and the humanities.

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  • Weisburd, David. 1998. Vigilantism as community social control: Developing a quantitative criminological model. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 4.2: 137–153.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF01062870Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on data from a study of Jewish settler violence in the West Bank, this article uses quantitative techniques to tease out the causal influences of vigilantism. It is found that vigilantes are more likely to have certain characteristics that lead them to act as agents of community social control.

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  • Zimring, Franklin E. 2003. The contradictions of American capital punishment. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    This widely praised book argues that capital punishment has been abolished in all Western countries except the United States because of the US vigilante tradition. This book examines the social construction and evolution of vigilantism and capital punishment in the United States, which is accomplished in part by studying the situation in other nations as well.

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“Legal” Retaliation

Not all acts of retaliation are illegal. Some acts of self-defense, for example, are not criminal if justified or excused based on the circumstances. There are a number of works that examine and outline the conditions for “legal retaliation,” including the Model Penal Code (American Law Institute 1962) and the description of it in Dubber 2002. Also, see Berman 2003, Leverick 2006, and Uniacke 1996. Yet whether a retaliatory act is treated as criminal depends not only on jurisprudence but also on the characteristics of victims, offenders, and communities. Cooney 2009 draws on a wealth of anthropological data to make this point, whereas Cooney and Burt 2008 and also Glaeser and Sacerdote 2003 use official data to do so.

  • American Law Institute. 1962. Model penal code. Philadelphia: American Law Institute.

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    This is a statutory text intended to aid legislatures in their creation and enforcement of penal laws. This code specifies the various aspects of criminal liability. Some acts of retaliation, even murder, are not supposed to be formally punished if they are justifiable (e.g., motivated by self-defense) or excusable (e.g., due to insanity).

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  • Berman, Mitchell N. 2003. Justification and excuse, law and morality. Duke Law Journal 53:1–77.

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    This article reviews the debate over the conceptual distinction between justification and excuse. It is suggested that the prevailing understanding is wrong and the key difference is this: justified action is not criminal, but excusable action is criminal yet not punishable.

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  • Cooney, Mark. 2009. Is killing wrong? A study in pure sociology. Charlottesville: Univ. of Virginia Press.

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    This book is powerful in its argument—based on data from more than a hundred societies, past and present—that whether murder is wrong depends on more than the law as specified in statutes; the social geometry of the case—meaning the social status of and social distance between persons involved in a murder—also affects how it is socially controlled. Not only are some murders “legal,” some are even praised; all of this depends on social geometry.

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  • Cooney, Mark, and Callie Harbin Burt. 2008. Less crime, more punishment. American Journal of Sociology 114:491–527.

    DOI: 10.1086/592425Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Grounded in Émile Durkheim’s famous “community of saints” thesis, the theory is developed that the severity of punishment for a crime decreases as its commonality in a community increases. A statistical analysis using county-level homicide data finds support for the argument.

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  • Dubber, Markus D. 2002. Criminal law: Model penal code. New York: Foundation.

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    This is a useful book for understanding the Model Penal Code. The author illustrates how parts of the code fit together and systematize American criminal law. Also discussed are the code’s origin and key principles.

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  • Glaeser, Edward L., and Bruce Sacerdote. 2003. Sentencing in homicide cases and the role of vengeance. Journal of Legal Studies 32:363–382.

    DOI: 10.1086/374707Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    To test the optimal-punishment model, which predicts victim characteristics have a null effect on penal sanctions, the authors analyze sentencing data for vehicular homicides. They find that killing a woman or nonblack increases the sentence length by approximately 60 percent.

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  • Leverick, Fiona. 2006. Killing in self-defense. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199283460.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This work provides a wide-ranging look at and analysis of self-defense that is grounded in philosophical and jurisprudential thinking.

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  • Uniacke, Suzanne. 1996. Permissible killing: The self-defence justification of homicide. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    This book examines key questions in the study of self-defense, including the precursors that justify it and limits on its use.

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Theorizing Retaliation

Retaliation has long been at or near the center of scholars’ interests, and it remains so today. In the social sciences, structural and cultural perspectives have dominated work on retaliation. One line of theorizing has focused on the influence of governmental social control in displacing retaliation, or unilateral social control. This body of work is exemplified by Hobbes 1985, which is summarized and analyzed by Newey 2007; Thomas Hobbes’s classic contribution was later elaborated on by Black 1983 and Cooney 1998. Although retaliation embedded in the Hobbesian tradition is largely explained by structural forces, culture—or ideas, values, and attitudes—may also exert an influence. Sutherland 1937, for example, describes the “rules” that criminals use to guide their actions, including when it is right and wrong to retaliate. The influence of culture on retaliation may also be seen in Wolfgang and Ferracuti 1967 and more recently in Anderson 1999. It should be noted that this cultural theorizing is often grounded, at least partially, in structural theorizing. Cooney 1998 and also Kubrin and Weitzer 2003 look at both the structural and the cultural factors impacting violent retaliation.

  • Anderson, Elijah. 1999. Code of the street: Decency, violence, and the moral life of the inner city. New York: W. W. Norton.

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    Based on in-depth fieldwork, the author theorizes a culture—the “code of the street”—that prescribes the proper way to use retaliation. This culture suggests violence is a necessary method for handling disrespect because not retaliating may make people frequent marks for predators.

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  • Black, Donald. 1983. Crime as social control. American Sociological Review 48:34–45.

    DOI: 10.2307/2095143Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Broadly defined, social control refers to responses to deviant behavior. There are many different forms of social control. Black points out that some crimes are themselves acts of social control. Building on Thomas Hobbes, a theory is proposed that government social control decreases and retaliation, in turn, increases as offenders and victims lose social status or become closer in social distance.

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  • Cooney, Mark. 1998. Warriors and peacemakers: How third parties shape violence. New York: New York Univ. Press.

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    Building on Hobbes 1985 and Black 1998 (cited under Peaceful Control), this book theorizes that retaliation is affected by victims’ and offenders’ ability to attract partisans, which is determined by all of the actors’ social status and distance from each other. The fundamental attributes of honor are described, and the social geometry most conducive to it is theorized.

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  • Hobbes, Thomas. 1985. Leviathan. Edited by C. B. Macpherson. New York: Penguin Classics.

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    Without a government to oversee the actions of citizens, all people are victims and offenders in acts of predation and retaliation. Yet if people relinquish their power to take from and punish each other, and instead give those rights to a government, then predation and retaliation among citizens can be reduced. That is the basic argument of Hobbes. Originally published in 1651.

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  • Kubrin, Charis E., and Ronald Weitzer. 2003. Retaliatory homicide: Concentrated disadvantage and neighborhood culture. Social Problems 50.2: 157–180.

    DOI: 10.1525/sp.2003.50.2.157Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This paper asserts that understanding violent retaliation requires research not just on structural or cultural influences but rather on both. Based on qualitative and quantitative data, the authors find that cultural retaliatory homicide is more common in areas with structural disadvantage and a lack of access to law.

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  • Newey, Glen. 2007. Routledge philosophy guidebook to Hobbes and Leviathan. New York: Routledge.

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    This book describes Thomas Hobbes’s life, its influence on his work, and the logic and reasoning behind the social-contract theory.

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  • Sutherland, Edwin H., ed. 1937. The professional thief, by a professional thief. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    This classic book describes the rules of criminals, some of which suggest the right and wrong times to retaliate. For instance, persons should not be retaliated against for events out of their control, whereas persons who intentionally commit a transgression, such as informing to the police, are liable for their actions and deserve to be retaliated against, according to the moral order of offenders.

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  • Wolfgang, Marvin E., and Franco Ferracuti. 1967. The subculture of violence: Towards an integrated theory in criminology. London: Tavistock.

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    This book suggests that some parts of America are home to a subculture that supports the use of violence. The subculture may be transmitted one from generation to the next and thereby maintains high rates of violence over time in particular areas or among particular groups.

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Peaceful Control

Peaceful control may be defined as conflict management without retaliation or law. Peaceful control includes negotiation, avoidance, gossip, apology, or toleration, but it does not involve fighting, fraud, stealing, destruction, arrests, court trials, imprisonment, or the death penalty. Studying peace alongside violence and law is important because explanations of any of those behaviors may have implications for the others. This is true because forms of social control cannot occur simultaneously in time and space, and therefore a theory of why, say, avoidance does occur may also explain why violence does not occur. Black 1998 and Horwitz 1990 describe the different forms of peaceful control and what explains their occurrence. Theories of peaceful control are supplied by Baumgartner 1988 and Topalli 2005.

  • Baumgartner, M. P. 1988. Moral order of a suburb. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Based on ethnographic research in an American suburb, the author proposes a theory of peaceful control. This work argues that nonconfrontational forms of social control, such as avoidance and toleration, are most likely in communities with social disadvantage, weak ties, and a lack of concern for honor.

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  • Black, Donald. 1998. The elementary forms of conflict management. In The social structure of right and wrong. By Donald Black, 74–94. Rev. ed. San Diego, CA: Academic.

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    This chapter provides a typology of social control and then theorizes each form. Broadly speaking, the forms of social control include settlement (informal and formal), retaliation, avoidance, negotiation, and toleration.

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  • Horwitz, Allan V. 1990. The logic of social control. New York: Plenum.

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    This book examines the definition, evolution, styles, forms, and effectiveness of social control. For example, its style may be penal or therapeutic, and its form may be unilateral or trilateral.

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  • Topalli, Volkan. 2005. When being good is bad: An expansion of neutralization theory. Criminology 43:797–836.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0011-1348.2005.00024.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using data from interviews with active street offenders, Topalli explores why persons with a retaliatory ethic or culture do not always retaliate when wronged. He suggests that such persons neutralize their culture of retaliation, which has the effect of increasing peaceful forms of control such as toleration and avoidance.

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Underworld Retaliation

Retaliation is not always illegal, but retaliation is often committed by criminals. Whereas law maintains order among law-abiding individuals, retaliation controls the underworld—the place where criminals live and operate. The underworld may be thought of as a status, state of mind, or place. Outlaws are not free from conflict even if they live in anarchy. Therefore, retaliation is an infamous part of the criminal world. Sutherland 1937 describes in great detail the rules of the underworld and when it is appropriate to retaliate. A more recent work, Jacobs and Wright 2006, explores the different kinds and causes of what the authors call “street justice.”

  • Jacobs, Bruce A., and Richard Wright. 2006. Street justice: Retaliation in the criminal underworld. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Based on interviews with offenders involved in many different types of crime, this book provides a typology of retaliation and explains their occurrence. The authors combine rational choice and cultural perspectives to understand this phenomenon.

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  • Sutherland, Edwin H., ed. 1937. The professional thief, by a professional thief. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    This is a classic of criminology. The observations of a former thief are used to construct a rules book, or code of conduct, for underworld participants. Not all grievances may legitimately be handled with retaliation. The author describes and theorizes the conditions that determine whether or not retaliation is an appropriate response for any given underworld conflict.

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Drug-Market Retaliation

The illegality of many drug markets is thought to increase the amount of retaliation therein. This is true because persons involved in crime—such as the buying, selling, or using of illicit substances—are less likely to have their victimizations handled by the criminal justice system, and so informal means of social control become more common. A seminal article, Goldstein 1985, proposes a typology of drug-related violence; one such kind is “systemic violence”— violence due to a lack of formal mediation in drug markets. The articles Jacobs 2000, Jacobs, et al. 2000, Taylor 2007, and Topalli, et al. 2002 use qualitative data obtained from drug dealers and predators to explore the psychological, rational, and situational influences on drug market retaliation. Jacques and Wright 2008 proposes that a complete understanding of drug-market retaliation requires an examination of peaceful control; the authors also propose a behavioral typology of retaliation. Fagan and Chin 1990 provides evidence that the relationship between illicit drug trade and violence may be spurious rather than due to an absence of law enforcement. Somewhat differently, Zimring and Hawkins 1997 suggests that drug markets do not inevitably increase violence but that they are a contingent cause of it.

  • Fagan, Jeffrey, and Ko-lin Chin. 1990. Violence as regulation and social control in the distribution of crack. In Drugs and violence: Causes, correlates, and consequences. Edited by Mario De La Rosa, Elizabeth Y. Lambert, and Bernard Gropper, 8–43. NIDA Research Monograph 103. Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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    Based on quantitative data and statistical analyses, the authors argue that the relationship between drug dealing and violence is spurious. Rather, drug dealing appears to be a violent social context because violent people self-select—that is, are already violent—and then become involved in this entrepreneurial crime.

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  • Goldstein, Paul J. 1985. The drugs/violence nexus: A tripartite conceptual framework. Journal of Drug Issues 39:143–174.

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    This is a seminal article in the study of drug-related violence. The author suggests there are three kinds of it: psychopharmacological, economic compulsive, and systemic. Systemic violence is violence due to the absence of formal mediation in drug markets. To be clear, not all systemic violence is retaliatory because some of it is predatory. Nevertheless, this article is important because it carved the study of drug-related violence into smaller, more manageable pieces.

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  • Jacobs, Bruce A. 2000. Robbing drug dealers: Violence beyond the law. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

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    This book examines the motivation, target selection, and enactment of drug robbery. Chapter 5 focuses on how drug robbers attempt to avoid retaliation by their victims. Chapter 6 makes an interesting point: some robberies of drug dealers may be a kind of social control for the costs their business imposes on the surrounding neighborhood.

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  • Jacobs, Bruce A., Volkan Topalli, and Richard Wright. 2000. Managing retaliation: Drug robbery and informal sanction threats. Criminology 38:171–198.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2000.tb00887.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article uses data with active offenders to determine how the act of robbing drug dealers is affected by the fear of retaliation and the consequent motivation to reduce its likelihood and severity.

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  • Jacques, Scott, and Richard Wright. 2008. The relevance of peace to studies of drug market violence. Criminology 46.1: 221–254.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2008.00102.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article concludes by discussing why studying peaceful control alongside retaliation and law may help generate understanding of all those behaviors. In short, Jacques and Wright suggest that because two forms of social control cannot occur simultaneously in time and space, theories of why peaceful control does occur should also explain the absence of retaliation or law enforcement.

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  • Taylor, Angela P. 2007. How drug dealers settle disputes: Violent and nonviolent outcomes. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice.

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    Drawing on interviews with dealers and employing a situational focus, this book proposes an integrated theory of drug-market retaliation. The author examines the effect of weapons, third parties, drug use, seriousness, mutual respect, solvability, perceived risk, and violence-avoidance actions.

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  • Topalli, Volkan, Richard Wright, and Robert Fornango. 2002. Drug dealers, robbery, and retaliation: Vulnerability, deterrence, and the contagion of violence. British Journal of Criminology 42:337–351.

    DOI: 10.1093/bjc/42.2.337Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors argue that dealers who are victimized often respond with retaliation because it achieves the goals of reputation maintenance, loss recovery, and deterrence.

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  • Zimring, Franklin E., and Gordon Hawkins. 1997. Crime is not the problem: Lethal violence in America. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Although many illicit drug markets are violent places, not all are. European drug markets, for example, are typically much less violent than their American counterparts. The authors suggest that drug markets are not an inevitable but rather a contingent cause of violence. In other words, illicit drug markets increase aggression when the circumstances for violence already exist.

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Gender and Retaliation

Gender is a part of culture; it is distinct from sex, which is a matter of biology. Gender refers to values, attitudes, and ideas about how men and women do and should act. There is a body of work that provides insights into how gender affects retaliation. This research explores, for instance, how male-on-male retaliation differs from male-on-female or female-on-female vengeance. One context that has received a fair amount of attention is retaliation among intimate partners, meaning persons who are in a romantic relationship. The papers Baumgartner 1993, Felson and Messner 2000, and Miller and White 2003 explore this topic. Although not always retaliatory, street robbery is shaped by the cultures of men and women. This behavioral-cultural relationship in the United States is studied by Miller 1998 and Mullins, et al. 2004 and in the United Kingdom by Brookman, et al. 2007. The effect of gender on genocide, especially rape, is examined in Mullins 2009.

  • Baumgartner, M. P. 1993. Violent networks: The origins and management of domestic conflict. In Aggression and violence: Social interactionist perspectives. Edited by Richard B. Felson and James T. Tedeschi, 209–231. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    DOI: 10.1037/10123-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This chapter looks at the social structural influences on intimate-partner violence, including the weakness of ties and variability in social hierarchies.

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  • Brookman, Fiona, Christopher Mullins, Trevor Bennett, and Richard Wright. 2007. Gender, motivation, and the accomplishment of street robbery in the United Kingdom. British Journal of Criminology 47:861–884.

    DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azm029Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This paper builds on Miller 1998 by focusing on the United Kingdom rather than the United States. The effect of gender on the motivation for and enactment of street robbery is analyzed and discussed.

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  • Felson, Richard B., and Steven F. Messner. 2000. The control motive in intimate partner violence. Social Psychology Quarterly 63.1: 86–94.

    DOI: 10.2307/2695883Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Violence between partners could, in theory, be due to either control or predation. In large part, however, intimate partner violence is thought to be about control – retaliation against the victim for not doing what the offender wants. This article uses quantitative methods to determine whether in fact intimate partners are more likely to be involved in control-related than predatory-violence. They find support for this notion.

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  • Miller, Jody. 1998. Up it up: Gender and the accomplishment of street robbery. Criminology 36:37–66.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1998.tb01239.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Drawing on accounts of male and female robbers, this article investigates how gender affects this crime—specifically its motivation and enactment. The key finding is that while the motivation for robbery is relatively constant between men and women, the way the act unfolds is strikingly different due to gender.

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  • Miller, Jody, and Norman A. White. 2003. Gender and adolescent relationship violence: A contextual examination. Criminology 41.4: 1207–1248.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2003.tb01018.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on qualitative data obtained from men and women in a socially disadvantaged community, this paper provides insights into how gender affects the nature, circumstances, and meaning of intimate-partner violence. It is found that gendered notions about masculinity and femininity shape both conflict and the responses to it.

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  • Mullins, Christopher W. 2009. We are going to rape you and taste Tutsi women: Rape during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. British Journal of Criminology 49:719–735.

    DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azp040Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article examines the intersection of gender, genocide, and rape. Based on data from testimonies given to the International Tribunal for Rwanda, it is proposed that in this context there were three types of rape that differ in their connections to gender and retaliation: opportunistic rapes; sexual enslavement; and genocidal rapes. Violence between partners could, in theory, be due to either control or predation. In large part, however, intimate-partner violence is thought to be about control—retaliation against the victim for not doing what the offender wants. This article uses quantitative methods to determine whether in fact intimate partners are more likely to be involved in control-related than predatory violence. They find support for this notion.

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  • Mullins, Christopher W., Richard T. Wright, and Bruce A. Jacobs. 2004. Gender, streetlife, and criminal retaliation. Criminology 42.4: 911–940.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2004.tb00540.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on interviews with male and female retaliators, this paper examines how gender affects vengeance. This includes, for instance, ideas, attitudes, and values about how men and women should act and react across contexts.

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Collective Retaliation

Retaliation may occur between individuals or involve one or more groups. When two or more people react to a transgression by unilaterally punishing the wrongdoer(s), then this vengeance is called collective retaliation. There are many contexts that may foster this form of togetherness. Examples of collective retaliation include terrorism, lynching, riots, hooliganism, and gang-related drive-by shootings. Senechal de la Roche 1996 and Senechal de la Roche 2001 discuss the basic elements of collective violence and theorize this form of retaliation. Terrorism as social control is explored in Black 2004, which is part of a book on the subject, Deflem 2004. Campbell 2009 provides a wide-ranging theoretical portrayal of genocide as social control. Retaliation as it relates to gang life is discussed in Decker and Van Winkle 1996. Useem and Reisig 1999 gives information on conflict and control, including rioting, in the modern prison setting.

  • Black, Donald. 2004. The geometry of terrorism. Sociological Theory 22:14–25.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9558.2004.00201.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This paper defines terrorism as “self-help by organized civilians who covertly inflict mass violence on other civilians.” This behavior is theorized to result from a particular social structure, including terrorists’ physical closeness to socially distant civilians.

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  • Campbell, Bradley. 2009. Genocide as social control. Sociological Theory 27.2: 150–172.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9558.2009.01341.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author theorizes genocide—the organized and unilateral mass killing of a group based on ethnicity. A wealth of anthropological material is used to develop and illustrate the theory.

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  • Decker, Scott H., and Barrick Van Winkle. 1996. Life in the gang: Family, friends, and violence. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Based on interviews with unincarcerated gang members, this book examines this life—including its violence. Examples of gang-related violence are provided and analyzed.

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  • Deflem, Mathieu, ed. 2004. Terrorism and counter-terrorism: Criminological perspectives. Amsterdam: JAI.

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    This edited volume provides chapters dealing with definitions, theories, and control techniques of terrorism. Includes a debate between Donald Black and Richard Rosenfeld on whether terrorism is best conceptualized as social control or predation.

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  • Senechal de la Roche, Roberta. 1996. Collective violence as social control. Sociological Forum 11.1: 97–128.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF02408303Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This paper provides a simple and general definition of collective, retaliatory violence: self-help by a group. It is proposed that there are four broad forms of collective violence: lynching, rioting, vigilantism, and terrorism. A theory of collective, violent self-help is proposed.

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  • Senechal de la Roche, Roberta. 2001. Why is collective violence collective? Sociological Theory 19.2: 126–144.

    DOI: 10.1111/0735-2751.00133Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Why are some violent acts perpetrated by a group rather than an individual or not at all? An answer to this question is developed by building on Donald Black’s theory of partisanship. The behavior and history of lynching are used to illustrate the theory.

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  • Useem, Bert, and Michael D. Reisig. 1999. Collective action in prisons: Protests, disturbances, and riots. Criminology 37.4: 735–760.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1999.tb00503.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on quantitative data, this paper explores the conditions that lead prisoners to apply social control to their handlers through either riots or peaceful controls such as work stoppages.

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Retaliation against Researchers

Sometimes the work of scientists penetrates into their personal lives. Their behavior may attract punishment from persons seeking the goal of revenge through the tool of retaliation. It is important to recognize that academic work may have real-life consequences not only for participants but also for researchers. There are a number of researchers who are well aware of this, including animal researchers, anthropologists, criminologists, and ethnographers who work with dangerous people, in dangerous places, or on dangerous topics. The magnitude of crimes against animal researchers is examined by Conn and Parker 2008. Jacobs 1998, Jacobs 2006, Lee 1995, Mieczkowski 1988, Sluka 1990, and Williams, et al. 1992 review the history of dangerous fieldwork, why it happens, and how to prevent it. Weinberger 2008 discusses social scientists’ role in war and the risks associated with such work.

LAST MODIFIED: 06/29/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396607-0081

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