Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South

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Westview Press, 1996 - Social Science - 119 pages
3 Reviews
In the United States, the homicide rate in the South is consistently higher than the rate in the North. In this brilliantly argued book, Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen use this fact as a starting point for an exploration of the underlying reasons for violence.

According to Nisbett and Cohen, the increased tendency of white southerners to commit certain kinds of violence is not due to socioeconomic class, population density, the legacy of slavery, or the heat of the South; it is the result of a culture of honor in which a man's reputation is central to his economic survival. Working from historical, survey, social policy, and experimental data, the authors show that in the South it is more acceptable to be violent in response to an insult, in order to protect home and property, and to aid in socializing children. These values are reflected not only in what southerners say, but also in the institutional practices of the South, the actions of Southerners, and their physiological responses to perceived affronts.

In this lively and intriguing account, the authors combine bold theory and careful methodology to reveal a set of central beliefs that can contribute to increased violence. More broadly, they show us the interaction between culture, economics, and individual behavior. This engaging study will be of interest to students, educated lay readers, and scholars.

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User Review  - Stbalbach - LibraryThing

Fascinating psychology study. Compares the cultures of the eastern United States and shows the south to be a "Culture of Honor". Since I live in a border state (Maryland) I can see the clash of ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - appaloosaman - LibraryThing

This book is a fascinating study in methodological triangulation. It is concise and is a copybook example of how to go about doing social research. Its findings are equally interesting. I strongly recommend it to my PhD students who are contemplating undertaking a major social research project. Read full review



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Page 62 - ... the actor knows that he can avoid the necessity of using such force with complete safety by retreating or by surrendering possession of a thing to a person asserting a claim of right thereto or by complying with a demand that he abstain from any action which he has no duty to take...
Page 34 - Do you strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree that it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking?
Page 39 - ... no strange thing for men to carry about their persons deadly weapons. Each one feels that he would have done the same thing under similar circumstances, so that in condemning him they would but condemn themselves.
Page 13 - I've worked on cases where the principals had been arguing over a 10 cent record on a juke box, or over a one dollar gambling debt from a dice game.
Page 91 - ... pushing and shoving, and are ready to hit other children over circumstances not to their liking. In turn, they are readily hit by other children, and the child who is toughest prevails. Thus the violent resolution of disputes, the hitting and cursing, gains social reinforcement. The child in effect is initiated into a system that is really a way of campaigning for respect.
Page 91 - The person who is believed capable of "taking care of himself" is accorded a certain deference, which translates into a sense of physical and psychological control. Thus the street code emerges where the influence of the police ends and personal responsibility for one's safety is felt to begin. Exacerbated by the proliferation of drugs and easy access to guns, this volatile situation results in the ability of the street-oriented...
Page 5 - Herdsmen constantly face the possibility of loss of their entire wealth through loss of their herds. Thus a stance of aggressiveness and willingness to kill or commit mayhem is useful in announcing their determination to protect their animals at all costs.
Page 8 - Snbseqnent wars with Vikings, Danes, Angles, Saxons, and other Germanic peoples drove them to the least hospitable fringe areas. The battles really never ceased, however, especially along the Scottish frontier with England and between the Scottish and Irish in Ulster. One cannot know how relevant the distant past of this cnltnre is.
Page 8 - In the absence of any strong sense of order as unity hierarchy, or social peace, backsettlers shared an idea of order as a system of retributive justice. The prevailing principle was lex talionis, the rule of retaliation. It held that a good man must seek to do right in the world, but when wrong was done to him he must punish the wrongdoer himself by an act of retribution that restored order and justice in the world.

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About the author (1996)

Richard E. Nisbett is Theodore M. Newcomb Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and codirector of the Culture and Cognition Program at the University of Michigan.
Dov Cohen is assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Richard E. Nisbett is Theodore M. Newcomb Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and codirector of the Culture and Cognition Program at the University of Michigan.
Dov Cohen is assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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