Center for Interdisziplinary Research

ZiF Research Group

Control of Violence


Convenors: Heinz-Gerhard Haupt (Bielefeld), Wilhelm Heitmeyer (Bielefeld)

The research group "Control of Violence" will examine explanatory patterns of changes in form and future of violence. The guiding hypothesis states that we will face an increasing loss of control over violence in the future. This loss is expected to lead to a rise in rates of violence. To test this hypothesis, the group will study manifestations of physical violence at the individual (micro), collective (meso) and state (macro) level.
At the micro level the main emphasis is on homicidal massacres that implicate a double loss of control: on the one hand, there is the perpetrators' loss of control over their own lives - apparently a necessary precondition for this extreme expression of violence; on the other hand, processes of delegitimization of state institutions seem to weaken their control capacity. At the meso level a double loss of control can be seen in the form of ethnic and religious terror. Potential targets of terror have lost control in that there are no longer any warning intervals to minimize the fear in everyday life. In the case of the perpetrators, expectations of otherworldly salvation override the traditional parameters of risk assessment. Losses of control at the macro level are manifested in fragile states and in failure to recognize the state monopoly of control. Those who demonstrate the greatest violence and who can reshape society to form profitable markets in violence seem to determine events.
During the year of research we would like to bring together social scientists and historians in order to produce internationally and historically comparative analyses. This approach will allow us to examine various mechanisms of loss of control-and also potential gains in control-that operate at a particular time in a particular country as well as to explore the specific features of the present situation and to place them in the context of longer-term effects. In addition, the interdisciplinary composition of the research group will be ideal for investigating the diverse aspects and dimensions of this complex problem.

Requests on the Research Group Control of Violence are answered by the research assistant Andrea Kirschner (email:, phone +49 521 106-2787.

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