The Claims on the Subculture of Violence in the Southern part of United States


The Claims on the Subculture of Violence in the Southern part of United States





The Claims on the Subculture of Violence in the Southern part of United States


In different parts of the world there exist disputes which may at times lead to constant warring between the parties involved. These may either be inter or intra border or community. The causes of such wars are at times obvious as they could be religious, cultural or political. However due to the duration taken by the conflicts it may be difficult to ascertain their exact cause leading to a number of ideas by different interest groups or individuals. This is the case presented by the war in the south of United States for a number of centuries that has elicited various thoughts on the causes. Some of the authors involved are Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen who present a different argument in their book from that of Goffman. With this regard the paper will look at both arguments comparing them with each other.

There has always been war in the form of homicide in the southern part of United States of America. The rate of these wars has been consistently higher than that experienced in the northern parts. The argument created by Nisbett and Cohen provides the starting point to understand the major causes of the violence. They brilliantly bring out how various cultures, economics and behavior elicited by individuals interact. They use all the tools of social science by combining both theoretical and methodology which incorporates survey which involves the comparison of the south to other areas, research from the archives which provides sufficient information on what other people have discovered and laboratory experiments to act as a test for their thesis (1996).

According to them, the white southerners to not engage in violence due to their socioeconomic class, density of their population, the legacy they associate with slavery or the heat found in the south as many may speculate from their description. Rather they do this due to the important role that traditional culture plays in the region. It is referred to as a culture of honor where one’s reputation determined by his personal strength and not character largely determines his survival in the economic field along credibility socially. They are therefore expected to revenge in the event that their honor or defense capability is insulted and therefore violence based on the approach that a person becomes right due to his might. From an early stage in life, young men are prepared for these violent activities by becoming aggressive to guard their honor and be actively defensive. This culture was inherited from the initial dominating occupants of the south: the Scott-Irish who mainly herded from Scotland’s and Northern Ireland’s mountainous regions (Nisbett & Cohen, 1996). This group of people is known to be more violent than farmers, hunters and gatherers since they are more prone of losing their portable herds to others. The remote population in the region as well as its geographical positioning also contributed significantly to the wars. At times, this is caused by the lack of proper government that led them to defy the regulatory law hence a lot of stealing in order to acquire wealth. Normally the violence is used as a way to provide protection to the home and property as well as offer children the ability to socialize and therefore it is allowed in the south as a response to an insult. The central beliefs practiced by these communities may as presented by Nisbett and Cohen have led to the increase of violence in the south in future. Additionally, from experiments and social policy this is reflected in the way the southerners speak, take part in their institutional practices, act and respond physiologically to any known confrontation.

From their data, it is clear that the homicide rates in the south is greater than those in the north and especially in small towns as opposed to the big cities due to the influence that culture plays. In addition the arguments normally thought to threaten the control of both men and women in the south also contributes greatly to the violence. As a result it is regarded as being on the darker side for the high violence levels despite the gentility, close family ties, leisure and warmth associated with the region. It contributes to a negative heritage related to the environmental attitudes such as corruption, the traditional political culture and subsequent annual high rates of murder and low quality of life. Despite this fact, as compared to other parts the southerners support more reasons for violence such as the achievement of change socially. They also provide evidence against obvious consequences of war like inequality of income and slavery by relating the same to the cooler mountain areas where slavery was rarely practiced. The southerners’ engagement in violence has nonetheless led to their known success as soldiers and expertise in military activities (Nisbett & Cohen, 1996).

These views are similar to those expressed by Goffman (1999) who presents the basic goal of people who interact with others to be the acceptance of the way they present themselves by others. He uses theater imagery by relating performance and front to real life situations. This serves as an attempt to explain why people take part in their different social actions. In relation to this, the southerners with their beliefs expect even their observers to believe that the outcome of this violence is the actual one intended. They do this by creating the belief that their honor will be maintained and the ideas started by their ancient ancestors accomplished which results to them being taken in by their actions at such times making it real even to those observing. Since they are out to show their capabilities, they do this for other people which are portrayed by the aggressiveness exhibited by the southerners. This is additionally made possible by the knowledge that everyone in the region approves of these activities. They may also be violent as a way to express themselves.

The southerners have however adapted to their live despite the regulatory laws. This relates to the situation of the couple owning the tourist hotel in Shetland as portrayed by Goffman. With time, one gives up showcasing opting to perform activities in relation to their own beliefs and traditions as is the case in the south. This leads to the occasional transitions between cynicism and truthfulness in the actions that people indulge in. additionally, the denial by the southerners on the implications of the war relates well to the implication management illustrated by Goffman to show that nothing is wrong in the way they follow their violent traditions. They also involve themselves in the homicides in order to prove their socio-economic status to foreigners and strangers who can define the situation in this area as they are expected to regard them highly. The knowledge of the early inhabitants of the area as is described by Nisbett and Cohen plays a great role in helping foreigners understand the kind of people living in the region as well as their supposed activities (1999).

There are a number of reasons that make people take part in their various activities. In relation to the violence experienced in the Southern part there may be the need to create an impression upon foreigners besides the cultural traditions of the people. In conclusion therefore there may be more than one reason as to why the war takes place and also why it will still continue in future.


Goffman, E. (1999). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York:Peter Smith Publishers


Nisbett, R., & Cohen, D. (1996). Culture of honor: the psychology of violence in the south.

Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.