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Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic

4.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  237 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Drawing on firsthand experience as a prison psychiatrist, his own family history, and literature, Gilligan unveils the motives of men who commit horrifying crimes, men who will not only kill others but destroy themselves rather than suffer a loss of self-respect. With devastating clarity, Gilligan traces the role that shame plays in the etiology of murder and explains why ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 29th 1997 by Vintage (first published 1996)
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Paul Bryant
Sep 06, 2011 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-life
This is a very bracing and challenging book. For example:

All violence is an attempt to achieve justice

Say what?? Our author explains... justice here means what the violent person perceives to be justice, for himself or on behalf of others, to get what’s “due” or “owed” to him. The purpose of violence is to maintain “manhood”… which is to say that the perpetrator wishes to replace feelings of shame and inadequacy with feelings of pride and self-worth. It is quite clear that we can prevent violenc
Oct 09, 2007 Courtney rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: every single goddam person on the planet
This is probably the best, and certainly the most important, book I have ever read.

This book explains why violence exists. it does so with heart and with facts, with narrative and data. James Gillgan (husband of Carol Gillligan, which speaks to him, I think) was head of mental health for the state prison system in Massachussetts. He knows what he's talking about. Never has a book impacted the way I think and the way I live more than this one.

Please read it.
Kalem Wright
Sep 28, 2014 Kalem Wright rated it liked it
Setting aside the fact I was literally looking forward to reading this for years after reading the chapter on the book’s central argument, there’s a lot of excellent things to be said about Gilligan’s work. His argument is elegant and fascinating: that violence can be understood as a disease with the infectious agent of shame acting as a necessary but not sufficient condition to encourage violence. His argument centers around the concept that culturally-transmitted ideas (economics, morality, ge ...more
Sep 15, 2007 Samson rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
This book was tremdously illuminating. It helped me to see my own violent tendancies. I read this while doing the research from a paper on why patriarchy leads to violence, little did I know that Gilligan had already written the book. Strong themes, beautifuly written. This is the 'Guns, Germs, and Steal' of why violence isn't an effective tool of the state. Bravo!
Mar 03, 2012 Naeem rated it it was amazing
First and foremost: astonishing book. The theory is radical. The voice in which he delivers it is comes from the heart and from 25 years of experience as a psychoanalytic therapist in maximum security prisons. It messes with most everything we are trained to think.

The theory: violence is a the result of shame and shame about being ashamed -- meta-shame. It is a bit more nuanced than this but this is the jist of it. It reverses thereby the usual analysis that we get, for example, from those who
Gilligan freely admits that this is not intended to be the last word on violence, but hopefully the first word on a new way of thinking about it. But on reading this book, it's hard not to hope that if this was more widely read, we might move towards an understanding of violence like that which Gilligan gained after working with violent criminals in the Massachusetts prison system. Gilligan's ideas are best grasped through reading his case studies and reflections on his patients, but briefly he ...more
Bez Ego
Apr 14, 2013 Bez Ego rated it it was amazing
W Polsce "Wstyd i przemoc" - bardzo dobre tłumaczenie (Andrzej Jankowski)

znakomita książka o funkcjonowaniu ego (choć autor - psychiatra - zamiast tego terminu używa innych - np. "lęk przed utratą twarzy") i jego roli w powstawaniu przemocy. przykłady są skrajne. jednak jak pisze sam Gilligan:

"mam nadzieję, że pokażę w tej książce, jak wiele z tego, co wydaje się w zjawisku przemocy nienormalne, niewyjaśnialne i nie do pojęcia, nie jest w ogóle nienormalne, ale - choć zabrzmi to złowieszczo - do
David Rush
Feb 15, 2016 David Rush rated it really liked it
If you are going to read and talk about Violence, THROW AWAY your copy of Violence by Slavoj Zižek. THIS ONE by James Gilligan goes in deep to the heart of darkness where violence thrives. He starts in prisons, with the most violent people you could find. It is a hell of a starting point.

While Zižek throws around Heidegger and Lacan and Nip-Tuck TV, Gilligan steps in close and examines violence in its pain, and cause and consequence.

My short summary: Violence springs from Loss of face, which
Erica Freeman
Oct 08, 2007 Erica Freeman rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone, everywhere
Shelves: favorites
Probably one of the most important books I've ever read...taught (and horrified) me a great deal; confirmed beliefs and validated emotions I'd already had.

Prompted me to become active in restorative justice activism, and work in support of inmates' rights and care.

May 21, 2016 gaby rated it it was amazing
was lucky enough to have been taught by dr. gilligan -- one of the nicest professors i've ever met -- so this review may be skewed.....but he's such a knowledgable and emphatic person, and this book shows it. most of the points he wrote about were things he's discussed in class, but i can also imagine someone reading this without having sat in one of his lectures, etc. and still totally getting it. the material itself can get extremely heavy, but the way he writes it is done in such an accessibl ...more
Ashby Manson
Mar 22, 2016 Ashby Manson rated it liked it
A five star and a two star book, alternately brilliant and full of passionate question begging.

The author is a prison psychologist. The first third of "Violence" hews closely to his area of expertise and is thought provoking and profound. His analysis of the broken inner workings of murderers, attempting to translate the unspoken or unspeakable physical language of violence, making sense of the senseless, is fascinating and strikes me as being full of useful insight.

His basic argument is that
Louis Postel
Dec 01, 2013 Louis Postel rated it it was amazing
So many people in the Women's Movement talk about Gilligan's wife Carol - and for good reason. Now I am finding James Gilligan equally great. A shrink who ran the treatment programs for violent offenders in prison, Gilligan makes a case against punishment. What you say?

Against punishment. Indeed, Gilligan sees violence and crime as a medical problem, a national epidemic, not a matter of inflicting more harm as punishment. Understanding its causes says Gilligan has nothing to do with dismissing t
Neelesh Marik
Sep 06, 2011 Neelesh Marik rated it it was amazing
This book is a profound act of social service. Its contents should find their way into the educational system of the world, in some shape or form. The arguments and real life stories present a depth of understanding that is truly missing in our world, and a level of cogency on how to address the most dangerous threat to human civilization today. I quote from the book below key sections that help summarize the case, and the suggested approach.

….After spending much of my professional career worki
Oct 08, 2008 Jessica rated it liked it
James Gilligan's experience as a psychiatrist in Massachusetts state prisons taught him that the root of all violence is shame. His book gives insight into the public policies needed not only to reform the prison system but also what he describes as the fundamental sources of shame in our society, including childhood abuse and poverty.

I'd give this book 4 stars but for the fact that Dr. Gilligan's analysis excludes violence against nonhuman animals. Several studies have linked animal abuse and d
Aug 22, 2010 Kristopher rated it did not like it
This book was ridiculous. It was written by a Massachusetts state prison psychologist and helps illustrate what is wrong with Massachusetts as a whole. He advocates coddling criminals and refuses to accept that some people are just bad.…that there is nothing you can do to change them or make them behave in a socially acceptable way. The author advocates what so many other Massachusetts residents advocate instead, more social entitlement programs, more money thrown at undeserving people and more ...more
Dec 25, 2012 Dorer002 rated it liked it
The theories were interesting, but it got a little long. It took me months to finish this, because I kept starting other books rather than reading this one. I also felt like it was a bit ambitious to tackle all the different aspects of violence in a 300 page book. It reminded me of when I would write papers that got too ambitious, so I had to try to tie everything together with everything else, and I ended up saying "Just as _____ was related to violence, so too was ___________," way too often

Veronica Noechel
Jul 13, 2012 Veronica Noechel rated it really liked it
Very interesting theory regarding violence in the U.S. and how our current penal system perpetuates the problem. Well argued points, interesting evidence and important stats every American should be aware of. I tend to agree with the author, for the most part, so I'm curious how much appeal this book would have for someone who didn't, since it's a declaration of theory, not a back-and-forth over various ideas. It made me wonder how persuasive it would be to someone who didn't arrive already in a ...more
Feb 17, 2008 Sunhee rated it it was amazing
i finally finished this gem at bucks county in philly. by far one of the best case studies of human nature, the nature of crime and punishment, the rationale of our penal system, and the economic and social reform necessary to overcome this epidemic. gilligan makes his case with a finality that pleads us to hear its seriousness - and the remedies that actually work. the book reads like a conversation, rather than a text - sometimes, i found myself arguing with gilligan, and almost always, arrivi ...more
Gina Mondi
May 09, 2013 Gina Mondi rated it it was amazing
I had to read this book for my Psy class and enjoyed it very much.

One point that Gilligan discusses is the structural violence in America and around the world. On a global scope, structural violence is a war with millions of casualties. But then, war itself cannot begin to compare with this form of violence. Poverty is the single biggest killer in the world, and the fact that it is the most preventable is disheartened.
Jonathan Hiskes
Mar 18, 2012 Jonathan Hiskes rated it it was amazing
One of the most important books I read in college, and I'm glad I re-read. Gilligan provides psychoanalytic reading of violence -- how's it's driven by shame, how poverty and racism promote shame, how our prisons couldn't do worse at preventing more violence. He argues we won't break this cycle until we address the problems with our cultural understanding of masculinity.
Apr 12, 2008 Toby rated it it was amazing
Gandhi said the deadliest form of violence is poverty. We also learn that shame causes violence, and that crime and punishment are two sides of the same evil coin. Punishment--not quarantine. We also learn that guilt is a product of power and that punishment alleviates guilt. Read it. It's everything you need to know about this 'merica.
Jul 02, 2012 Raina rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult, nonfic
Totally an important read for me. I often think back about what this books says about the prison culture, the violent brain, and how some people think so differently from us nonviolent types. Especially since I have both prison guards and prison inmates in my family.
Mar 12, 2007 peter rated it really liked it
An insightful look into what drives criminal and "legitimate" violence in contemporary society. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in race relations, peace studies or indeed the state of the USA in the 21st century.
Corey Nazer
Sep 03, 2009 Corey Nazer rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology
A very interesting examination of the root causes of violent acts within American society. Gilligan worked in a locked psychiatric unit and uses many examples from the inmates he met during that experience.
Feb 02, 2008 Karson rated it really liked it
About the american prison system and how it usually makes things worse for everyone. The criminal and society. How it is a backward way to try and make things right. I really liked this book.
Apr 24, 2008 Jason rated it really liked it
Shelves: undergrad
If I remember correctly, it's been years, but the stuff on the ineffectiveness of our prison system was eye-opening. But I could be thinking of the wrong book for chrissake.
Mar 24, 2012 Brett.d.hotchkiss rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. Makes me even more troubled about the new crime bill that just passed up here in Canada. I think the MP's should have read this book first.
Aug 21, 2007 Jamie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in crime, policy, psych
A fascinating read by a former prison psychologist. He examines why violence persists in our society and how our CJ system only perpetuates poverty and crime.
Feb 23, 2009 Robinveloz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book!
It covers its topic very well...
but to those who have read it...
They over stress the whole violence springs from shame thing...
This is one of the most important books I've read. If you want to understand the roots of violence then you should read this book.
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