This report is part three of a three part series, which brings together two ideas that may help explain why violence does not emerge in the scale that might be anticipated: the brakes on violent action literature and the Good Lives Model (GLM).


Subcultural Constraint

  • Subcultural constraint offers a way of interpreting why, despite their extreme rhetoric, some extremist subcultures produce comparatively little violence.
  • While terrorism studies has traditionally focused on the causes of terrorism and acts of political violence, research is beginning to address the puzzle of why there is not more terrorism as a consequence of extreme beliefs.
  • This report brings together two ideas that may help explain why violence does not emerge in the scale that might be anticipated: the brakes on violent action literature and the Good Lives Model (GLM).
  • Both literatures, along with the preceding case study of Siege Culture (see reports one and two in this series) inform the idea of subcultural constraint.

Brakes on Violent Action

  • The brakes on violent action literature argues that the reasons why violence is not inevitably produced by extremist groups can be explained by internal brakes which lead participants away from violence. Several brakes have been proposed:
    • Strategic – identification of less violent or non-violent strategies thought to be more effective in accomplishing goals.
    • Moral – moral norms that inhibit moves towards violence or violence against specific targets such as civilians.
    • Ego maintenance – the self-conception of belonging to a group that does not engage in violence including the threat of sanctions for doing so.
    • Out-group definition – changing conceptions of the outgroup including towards state security apparatus or segments of the public.
    • Organisational - investment or divestment from goals and tools that relate to violence, for example developing a campaigning arm or giving up access to weapons.
  • The concept of brakes on violent action has found some traction but researchers have noted the importance of context and the need to expand the brakes that have been identified to new contexts.
  • Of note from a subcultural perspective is that such brakes often assume that participants are embedded in hierarchical structures with shared goals and strategies for achieving them. In contrast, subcultures, such as Siege, typically feature actors less tightly organised and have greater individual autonomy.

Good Lives Model (GLM)

  • The GLM is a criminological perspective that argues offending emerges when routes to achieving ‘goods’ are blocked.
  • The goods the GLM assumes we are motivated by are:
    • Life (healthy living)
    • Knowledge (being informed about things that are important to us)
    • Excellence in play (hobbies and leisure activities)
    • Excellence in work (including mastery experiences)
    • Excellence in agency (autonomy, power and self-directedness)
    • Inner peace (freedom from emotional turmoil and stress)
    • Relatedness (including intimate, romantic, and familial relationships)
    • Community (connection to wider social groups)
    • Spirituality (finding meaning and purpose in life)
    • Pleasure (feeling good)
    • Creativity (expressing oneself through alternative forms)
  • Goods can be accessed in either pro-social or anti-social ways. Where pro-social routes to achieving goods are blocked, anti-social or maladaptive routes become more attractive.
  • The GLM recognises that individuals are not just driven by risks and deficits, but are deploying strengths in order to achieve the goods that have come to matter to them.
  • It encourages researchers and practitioners to think about the strengths needed to protect against offending, and the consequences when they’re absent, rather than foregrounding the effort to assess and manage risk.
  • Incorporating the GLM with the idea of subcultural constraint enables analysis to account for the interaction of meso level factors (i.e., the organisation, community, or group, such as those suggested by the brakes literature) and individual level motivations.

Download this report and two others from this series below:

Read more

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Busher, J., Holbrook, D., & Macklin, G. (2019b) Internal Brakes On Violence Within The British Extreme Right

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