States may be like organised criminal gangs but they reduce rates of homicidal violence

DPS meeting
States may be like organised criminal gangs but they reduce rates of homicidal violence
Wednesday 7 September from 5-6.30pm in ib3.307

This week from 5-6.30pm in ib3.307 the Deakin Philosophical Society will continue discussing the relationship between government, organised crime and rates of homicidal violence.

Last week we discussed Charles Tilly's (1985) article ‘War making and state making as organised crime’, in which he draws a comparison between the activities of successful modern states and the activities of organised criminal gangs.

This week we'll look at a summary of recent research that shows that homicidal violence has declined significantly since the development of modern states. This research will ring a bell for those of you who were present when we discussed Steven Pinker's TED lecture ‘The myth of violence’. Indeed, the summary we'll look at this week is the 2007 article by Pinker that he published around the time of his TED lecture. Find a copy of ‘A history of violence: we're getting nicer every day’ reproduced online at http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/pinker07/pinker07_index.html. Pinker's original article appeared in The New Republic, vol. 236, no. 12.

So, here's the dilemma that will guide this week's discussion:

  1. Modern states are like organised criminal gangs ; but
  2. Homicidal violence has declined since the advent of modern states

So, if modern states are akin to organised criminal gangs but they protect us from violent death at the hands of our neighbours, are they good?

For those of you who are interested in chasing up Pinker's sources, the principle source of his century-scale evidence is criminologist Manuel Eisner's (2001) ‘Modernization, self-control and lethal violence: the long-term dynamics of European homicide rates in theoretical perspective’, The British Journal of Criminology, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 618-638. You can access the article through Deakin library.

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