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By Anthony J. Pinizzotto

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Extra info for Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation's Law Enforcement Officers

Sample text

Ultimately, Toch sought to do this through the construction of typologies, but his analysis, unlike Eysenck’s, attended in the first instance, to ‘what it feels like to be prone to violence’ (Toch, 1972: 27). Toch thought that such feelings would be better captured by exoffenders than academics, and hence trained ex-prisoners to act as his researchers. The in-depth interview material these ex-prisoners-turned-interviewers generated revealed the diversity of circumstances in which people become involved in violence and the subtleties of meaning that perpetuate violence in some men’s lives.

Ritualists abandoned their desire to get on in the world and instead zealously adhered to bureaucratic rules. Lower-middle-class people, Merton thought, were particularly prone to ritualistic adaptations, and liable to ‘carry a heavy burden of anxiety’ and/or ‘guilt’, borne out of their parents’ ‘strong disciplining’ and ‘moral mandates’ (Merton, 1958: 151–2). Retreatism. Retreatists – ‘psychotics, psychoneurotics, chronic autistics, pariahs, outcasts, vagrants, vagabonds, tramps, chronic drunkards and drug addicts’ – were those who gave up on both goals and means (Merton, 1938: 677).

It was therefore wrong to assume that all deviance was a symptom of ‘psychological abnormality’ (1958: 131–2). Whether or not people turned to crime, Merton argued, depended upon their social position in relation to widely held cultural aspirations and the institutional means of achieving them. Where the populations of less industrialized countries adhered more closely to institutionally prescribed practices and rituals without question, twentiethcentury Americans, Merton thought, had not only had their aspirations heightened by ‘the American Dream’, but had also become preoccupied with monetary success in the context of new forms of consumerism.

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Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation's Law Enforcement Officers by Anthony J. Pinizzotto


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