Micro and Macro Causes of Violence

  • Randall Collins


The dominant emotion in violence-threatening situations is confrontational tension/fear (ct/f), which causes most violence to abort, or to be carried out inaccurately and incompetently. For violence to be successful, there must be a pathway around the barrier of ct/f. These pathways include: attacking the weak; audience-oriented staged and controlled fair fights; confrontation-avoiding remote violence; confrontation-avoiding by deception; confrontation-avoiding by absorption in technique. Successfully violent persons, on both sides of the law, are those who have developed these skilled interactional techniques. Since successful violence involves dominating the emotional attention space, only a small proportion of persons can belong to the elite which does most of each type of violence. Macro-violence, including victory and defeat in war, and in struggles of paramilitaries and social movements, is shaped by both material resources and social/emotional resources for maintaining violent organizations and forcing their opponents into organizational breakdown. Social and emotional destruction generally precedes physical destruction.
Focus Section