There are many contemporary contexts, from the very local to across the world, where one might talk about honor and violence. But the purpose of the selection of this excerpt is not to focus on violence and honor per se. Rather, it is intended to be an example of how differences in shared meaning between communities can yield different macro patterns and of an "excavation" of shared meaning that allows us to see its origin in by gone conditions and its preservation through contemporary institutions and practices.
It is, frankly, disturbing to talk about violence in the same breath as "social order." One response is to remember that social order does not imply a normative judgment - actors can coordinate and cooperate to produce outcomes we consider unfair or unjust.
Reading Brief – Cohen & Vandello – “Meaning of Violence”
Essentially, Cohen and Vandello explain that there is actually a certain code of conduct to violence that give it meaning beyond an act of aggression. Rather than simply seeing violence as an unprovoked and uncivilized form of action, violence can be seen as a means of defending one’s honor and status in society, mostly drawing its roots from the Southern United States. Historically, aggression can be rationalized as necessary to maintain the system of slavery in the South in which slave owners had to assert their dominance over their slaves, and may also be seen as a result of an unsatisfactory law enforcement system that left citizens to defend themselves. Thus, violence has evolved as a means of maintaining order—so it’s not to say that all violence is acceptable, just ones regarding “honor.” As an ordered system, violence persists even today, much like a tradition. Various studies and research experiments have demonstrated the differing attitudes towards violence and resorting to violence in Southerners versus Northerners and Westerners. Because of the particular needs and culture of each of the regions, studies have shown consistently that Southerners have a higher tendency to approve of violence when used to restore honor. [J Kyo]
Setting Up the Discussion
What will the excerpt be about? Empirically, a "culture of violence" in the American South. "In the South, insults have very serious meanings, and they must occasionally be answered with violence. This has been true historically, and as we will try to show, it is still true today" (67.8).