Katz - Explanations of violence

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  • Created by: kasajones
  • Created on: 02-05-16 16:50

Katz Theory of Violent Crime (1988)

To ascertain the meaning of violence, we need to examine its phenomenal foreground, its lived experience, from the offenders point of view. 

Phenomenal foreground - when looking at a violent offence, dont look at the background, dont look at whether affluent or poor, dont look at gender, dont look at race. Different theories deal with specific characteristics, Katz is in contradiction with this.

The phenomenal foreground doesnt include these characteristics, but looks at the psychology, the inner world, the emotions, the feelings, and what they were experiencing. It explores what feelings they had at the moment of the offence, and what he derived from this kind of activity.

There are a number of factors that offenders may feel which make them offend, they make not make sense to us, but they make sense to him, and these are the reasons... 

Key Reading: 

Katz, J. (1988). The Seductions of Crime. New York: Basic Books

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Katz on the Meaningfulness of Violence

Violence expresses the desire for:

  • Moral self-transcendence; to be above/beyond Good and Evil - for example having someone on a mission (**********s), he represented the moral good, and the ********** is the sin/evil - usually applies to serial murder - Peter Sutcliffe - goin out killing sex workers. 
  • To escape the threat of humiliation & neutralise actual humiliation to compensate for its effects - engaging in violence to get rid of embarressment/humiliation. Eg. A father killing his baby. If he is at home, responsible for his baby, but the baby keeps crying, he tries to calm him/her down, but there is no response, so he kills it. Why? Because when we are looking at the phenomenal foreground, in his head, he was the father, he interpretated the crime from the childs disobedience, paternal authority being under threat, so kills the baby to get authority back. 
  • To experience risk taking behaviour - getting involved in violent offences because they provide a kick, a testiment to illegal behaviour - may increase the chances of humiliation in an attempt the show and feel that one can beat/survive it. 
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Katz and Senseless Crimes

Based on the previous explanations: 

Senseless - apparantly incidents of violence are represenatives of offenders' interpretatoions of the situations that they find themselves in, and the challenges they face within them. The things we call senseless have a meaning to the offender, therefore it is important to freeze time and engage the offender. 

Senseless violence becomes an emotional outlet through which they find a purpose in life that enables them to build an identity of their own. 

Senseless... to whom?

On the part of the offender, the senselessness of their actions has a rationality, a purpose, meaningfulness which in certain instances, they are endorsed by observers. 

To the third eye, the offenders senseless violence can be an expression of national unity or communitarianism, a quest for justice, a self-sacrifice. 

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Katz - The Righteous Slaughter

'The Righteous Slaughter' 

This scenario applies to hot-blooded and dispassionate murder cases. 

The offender sees their violence as unavoidable, in defence of a universal 'moral good' that they feel is threatened by the victim

They must respond decisivly to the threat because otherwise their exsistence is threatened 

Existence is interpreted here in terms of emotional and mental stability, self-perceptions of their station and purpose in life 

Examples: Serial killers, immigrant murders, suicide bombers 

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Katz - The Badass

'The Badass'

This scenario applies to gang members and thugs 

The offender uses violence as a way to protect their sense of self-worht and dignity against lifes discomforts and embarressments

There are three stages of being a badass, which form their identity: being tough, alien and mean. 

Tough - gang members, what they portray to the outside world, the way they walk etc.

Alien - being strange, alien, odd, we stay away as we arent sure where we stand in relation to it. 

Mean - A rude, antisocial attitude. 

By adopting this persona, the gang member tried to shield insecurities they have, a way of stemming off threats of humiliation - but when humiliation reaches them, violence happens to protect this. 

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Critique of Katz

The fact that he looks at the offenders psychology is refreshing, however all these things seem like guess work and assumption. Katz doesnt refer to any scientific evidence or theories that back this up. He doesnt engage with freud or psychoanalysis. 

The seductive appeal of violence is not convincingly argued, it remain implicit without being theoretically grounded. 

When you try and make sense of violent crime, there isnt one solution, there isnt one hat that fits everything, we need to incorporate many diffferent perspectives. 

However, Katz does engage in psychoanalysis, it makes offenders reflect on why offenders are the way they are, it is more appreciative of diversity and doesnt focus on one specific characteristic. 

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