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This work offers a look at violence in America - why it is so prevalent, and what and who are responsible. The author takes the long view of his subject, developing the historical pattern of violence and disorder in this country. Where there is violent and disorderly behaviour, he shows, there are plenty of men, largely young and single. What began in the mining camp and bunkhouse has simply continued in the urban world today. Broadly interdisciplinary, looking at the interplay of biological, social and historical forces behind the dark side of American life, the book offers a diagnosis of the violence in American society.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780674278714
ISBN-10: 0674278712
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 155mm x 26mm)
Pages: 372
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 31-Mar-1998
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions


US Kirkus Review » Timely, rich, and surprisingly nimble, Courtwright's orderly examination of patterns of violence and disorder in American history ranges from the "passing migratory anomalies" that created the cultural ecology of the frontier to the critical collapse of familial mechanisms of social control in the inner city of today. Courtwright (History/Univ. of North Florida) marshals contemporary reports as well as scholarly apparatus to introduce the young/single/male societies of gold rushers and cowboys emblematic of his thesis: that violence thrived where that demographic profile mated with certain cultural givens (e.g., fierce ethnocentrism) and unwholesome social norms (drinking, gambling, prostitution). Collaterally: The spiral of commerce on the frontier made too much law and order inexpedient, and Americans' racist contempt for the Indians excluded the leavening restraints of (inter) marriage. Courtwright proceeds chronologically, uncovering distributions of disorder in tramp subcultures and among soldiers, before focusing on American ghettos in the 1960s, where deteriorating conditions re-created many of the elements of frontier life. But "a good analogy, like a good argument, should not be pushed too hard": Balancing the historian's search for consistency with the sociologist's respect for discontinuities, Courtwright concludes that inner-city violence is not the self-limiting, transitory phenomenon of its soon-domesticated frontier antecedents. What with the absence of fathers and the presence of long-term unemployment, drugs, racism, and a street culture that has made virtues of all kinds of vice, the domesticating influence of family is not waiting in the wings to restore social equilibrium to the ghetto. Nevertheless, Courtwright affirms the family as still the best instrument of socialization ("life's script begins early"), and his qualified "new familism" frames (without advancing, however) the debate. This is nonetheless an authoritative contribution to that debate, not least because of its scope; it is also intrinsically interesting material. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - David T. Courtwright

David T. Courtwright is John A. Delaney Presidential Professor at the University of North Florida.

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