Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and It's Causes

Overview

In this groundbreaking book, James Gilligan examines the epidemic foremost in the minds of most Americans--violence. As he tells the stories of the men he treated at a hospital for the criminally insane, Dr. Gilligan traces the devastating links between violence and shame. He shows how that deadly emotion drives people to destroy others and even themselves rather than suffer a loss of self-respect.
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Overview

In this groundbreaking book, James Gilligan examines the epidemic foremost in the minds of most Americans--violence. As he tells the stories of the men he treated at a hospital for the criminally insane, Dr. Gilligan traces the devastating links between violence and shame. He shows how that deadly emotion drives people to destroy others and even themselves rather than suffer a loss of self-respect.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Violence reveals the tragic flaw of civilization," says the director of the Center for the Study of Violence at the Harvard Medical School in this important work. He advances the thesis that violence is a problem in public health and social psychiatry; it is not caused by so-called evil people but by individuals who have suffered what he terms "the death of the self" as the result of shame and humiliation, whether economically, socially or psychically induced. Rejecting notions that violence is instinctual, hereditary or caused by drugs and alcohol, he argues that socially determined gender roles, a result of our patriarchal society, play a major part in its genesis. As the former director of a maximum-security hospital for the criminally insane, Gilligan excoriates our present prison system, calling it "the crime of punishment" because it only increases the shame and humiliation of those incarcerated, thus insuring their recidivism when they are released. This work could provoke a rethinking of our attitudes toward violence in our society. First serial to Atlantic Monthly. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
Gilligan (Center for the Study of Violence/Harvard Medical School) zeroes in on the pitch-black emptiness within America's murderers before inexplicably letting his target move out of focus.

To stem the contagion of violence, Gilligan believes, America needs to understand both its root causes and the social pathogens that spread it. He points to civilization's patriarchal structure, which entails a code of honor that imposes a crippling burden of shame. When the author confines himself to the murderers he met in the "underworld," or maximum-security prisons (he served as head of mental-health services for the Massachusetts prison system), Gilligan's theories gain strength. For instance, he notes that, despite more shelters for battered women, the proportion of domestic-violence deaths has doubled, because their murderers "are precisely the men who experience a life-death dependency on their wives and an overwhelming shame because of it." He castigates the death penalty not just as cruel but as ineffective, since it feeds a killer's desire for punishment. Moreover, one of his prescriptions—eliminating the illiteracy that fosters many criminals' sense of shame—is practical. However, the effects of Gilligan's subtle studies of killers are lost when he applies his lessons on a broader scale to an America that he says imposes "structural violence" on the disadvantaged. Gilligan's call to reform America's socioeconomic structure is less a prescription than a fantasy, and he downplays the fact that most of the lower class never becomes part of the criminal class. This critique has more than a share of the politically correct, as when the author notes that no other nation or culture "has inflicted more collective violence on its victims than white (or European) Americans have inflicted on both native Americans and African- Americans over the past five centuries."

A deeply compassionate survey of America's contemporary Desolation Row—but more than one reader will be wishing for a little more tough love.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399139796
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/2/1996
  • Pages: 1
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue: Violence as Tragedy 1
Ch. 1 Visits to Hell: Entering the World of the Prison 29
Ch. 2 Dead Souls 45
Ch. 3 Violent Action as Symbolic Language: Myth, Ritual, and Tragedy 57
Ch. 4 How to Think About Violence 89
Ch. 5 Shame: The Emotions and Morality of Violence 103
Ch. 6 The Symbolism of Punishment 139
Ch. 7 How to Increase the Rate of Violence - and Why 163
Ch. 8 The Deadliest Form of Violence Is Poverty 191
Ch. 9 The Biology of Violence 209
Ch. 10 Culture, Gender, and Violence: 'We Are Not Women' 225
Epilogue: Civilization and Its Malcontents 241
Notes 269
Acknowledgments 295
Index 299
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