How (not) to Explain Violence – Reflections on Recent Developments within the Social Sciences

Lecture by Wolfgang Knöbl

Recent social science research has focused very much on the micro-dynamics of the situation in order to understand violent phenomena. The oftentimes very detailed accounts of massacres or pogroms, however, lead to questions concerning the interrelationship between pure description on the one side and explanation on the other. As will be seen, there is no scholarly consensus on the meaning of “explanation” with respect to violence. Using ethnographic insights and philosophical arguments at the same time the lecture will try to clarify the rather confusing debate and to sketch a plausible strategy in order to come to terms with violent phenomena.

Wolfgang Knöbl is a German sociologist. Since April 2015 he is the director of the Hamburg Institute for Social Research and Visiting Professor at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg. His main research interests are comparative macro-sociology, political and historical sociology social theory and the history of sociology.

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