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Course Code : MPS-001
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Year : 2012 Views: 3600 Submitted By : TH. VENUCHANDRA SINGH On 30th September, 2012

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Write an essay on some major causes of political violence.

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Causes Of Political Violence

In society when one person thinks of violence, one usually thinks of individual acts of violence. These types of violence are the kinds of violence most American fear, which causes us to lock our doors at night. But this is not the only kind of violence we are faced with. In today’s society or the 21 centaury which every you would like to call it, we are faced with a more treating type of violence. “This type of violence is done by groups of people to advance or impede the goal of a social change” (Barkan vii). This type of violence goes by many titles, such as collective violence or political violence. In any society the most familiar type of violence is war. This topic was talked about extensively in class though the use of the book On Killing. But besides war, there are many other characteristics that feed into political violence, such as cults, hate groups, terrorists, police and revolutionaries.

I often wonder why people resort to violence, of any kind, to solve a particular problem. Questions can be asked of the individual(s) involved in carrying out the attacks, but the questions never seem to be answered in a way that will show why violence is needed to resolve conflict. Rather, excuses are rendered in the hopes that by the logic used in explaining why conflict must be resolved, this will justify the actions.

Through the years collective violence has left a mark on historical landscape throughout societies. It has imprinted U.S. history since colonial days. Yet people still do not quite understand the causes of it. Through this paper I will try to address some of the main causes for political violence though the explanation of why people or groups participate in political violence, and act they ways they do.

When it comes to why people or groups what to participate in political violence the common goal of each is quite simple. Each of these desires one thing and one thing only, a “change”. Most social scientists say that “ordinary” violence like that a rapist or robber would commit would lacks the key component that makes a violent act an example of collective violence: social change. This however is not the case when it comes to terrorist groups, because they desire a result that end in social change. It is the goal of the group to obtain this. Like most other hate groups, terrorist also want to obtain social change, but they go about gaining it through the use of terrorism. In a terrorist group it is not that the terrorist want to harm as many individuals as possible, which is the view taken by most of civilization, it is that they are trying to obtain there “change”, but there are just innocent people standing in there way, who unfortunately get hurt in the process. It is not the indicial intent of terrorist to reek havoc on people, but to create fear among them.

Another question we must address when dealing with terrorism or any group, is how rational is the political violence and how rational are its participants? Many people view “terrorists acts as “senseless” and their participants are often depicted as irrational” (Barkan 6). To describe which act or participants are rational or irrational depends on the specific types of political violence and the circumstances under which it occurs.

Besides using classroom sources, I have found that Peter Sederbergs FIRES WITHIN book also gives a great insight into causes of political violence. Sederberg explains four of the most popular explanations for violence and revolution and points out some of the flaws in the arguments.

One of the major topics Sederbergs discusses in explaining violence is the “Killer Ape Thesis”, which states that humans are biologically programmed toward violence and that because we are programmed in this way, this is an explanation for the cause of violence.

This theory can be seen greatly in the book ON Killing, which also explores theories that have to do with war. Sederberg also points out that certain questions need to be answered before anything else can be argued, such as "what causes discontent?" If we are in fact programmed toward violence than discontent should not be an issue. To say that hereditary genes toward violence are passed from one generation to another is to say we have no choice in the matter of violence. We would, simply, all be vicious killers with no way of not being otherwise. Grossman also states in On Killing that this type of thinking would be associated with Relevance and payoff of killing. These two factors are seen in depth with in the Shalit Factors: Means, Motive, and Opportunity.

Discontent, however, is something humans can turn on and off, like anger, sadness, or happiness. The killer ape thesis is great in explaining violence but not in explaining "the inclination toward violent expression" (Sederberg 102).

Clearly, biological factors do not incline us towards violence, but the "Cherry Pie Thesis" does in some way explain why we are violent.

Sederberg describes the cherry pie thesis as one where biology or heredity may play no part in trying to explain why humans are prone to violence. He says that we are violent because of our culture. That is, we are violent because of, say, where we live or the era in which we grew up or the economic status we hold. Society may cause discontent among citizens but only with respect to history. For example, England and Ireland have been at war with each other for some time now; each fights the other because of some injustice. This injustice occurred in the past so it will occur in the future; again, as in the killer ape thesis, there is circularity of thought in what causes violence. The cherry pie thesis does, however, explain the question of "what inclines the discontented to violent expression?" People are not happy; why, who knows. In the case of the cherry pie thesis one thing is assured; when people are unhappy, usually they will try to make it so they will become happy. Ireland is unhappy because England owns a piece of land the Irish feel belongs to them and in order to assert their point they will resort to violence to gain back what they have lost. England will do the same and the cycle will continue until resolution is met. Societal factors can, in fact, show why violent expression is a necessary component for expressing a point. These are also the beginnings of what we can call Terrorism. (Combs)

This thesis will, then, contrast sharply with the cherry pie thesis. Where the cherry pie thesis asserts that humans have a proclivity for violence because of sociological factors, the Insanity Thesis assumes we are violent because we are insane. A popular definition of insane might be " the absence of normalcy." This though leads to the question of "When are you insane" or " What is a sane person?" When someone is termed insane his or her needs to be a label attached to that insanity. Such as anti-social disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, acute depression, retardation, or autism. This is because; if there is no label attached to a disorder then how can anyone say there is a disorder at all. If there is no label attached to a disorder then clearly there is not a disorder. If I totally accept the cherry pie thesis, or any of the other theses, then one could say argue that I am suffering from a psychological disorder. With the exception of anti-social disorder, and possibly bipolar disorder, all the other disorders I have listed will not develop into an individual who will commit acts of political violence.

Like the killer ape thesis, the insanity thesis revolves around biology as the determining factor for why people commit acts of political violence, which could then be said, are factors contributing to discontent, but not the cause. The insanity thesis does, however, explain to what extent inclines the discontent to violent expression. More often then not society will place people who fail to meet "normal" requirements of functionality in society into, say, mental health institutions, in order for them to get the proper care they need to be rehabilitated so that they may then be able to function properly in society.

Another popular theory for why revolutionary change and political violence occurs is based on the principle that misery will breed discontent. This, again, like the others previously talked about does not account for why discontent occurs. There is circularity to this logic also. If they were diagnosed as anti-social then this would be the best theory offered, so far. The only problem is, not all revolutionaries are psychopaths. Another drawback to this theory is that it only talks about revolutions or revolutionary change, not why misery is a precursor for political violence.

The misery thesis does explain a reason for why violent expression is necessary for political change. As people become more and more miserable they will eventually revolt and demand there be a change in the situation. The misery thesis, though, only works if, in theory, the people are truly miserable. I do not believe that sheer misery will cause revolutionary change; their needs to be a gradual process downward and that revolt will not occur once conditions hit rock bottom.

Finally, the last of the theses put forth by Sederberg is the "Conspiracy Thesis", which "at least puts 'politics' back into political violence and revolution" (Sederberg 108). This though is where any coherence in logic stops. The conspiracy thesis fails to explain both questions of what causes discontent and what inclines the discontented to violent expression. This thesis does explain a type of politic used in revolutions but stops short of everything. Conspiracies are used as a tool for a revolt that is already in progress, not a revolt that wants to be started.

In conclusion, none of Sederberg theories can explain causes for discontent or inclinations for violent expression. One reason behind this could be because we are not capable or truly understanding violence.

Through this paper I have tried to explain some of the main causes for political violence that we address within our readings and in the classroom, I have also tried to incorporate outside materials, to present further theories into what are some of the causes for political violence.

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