An analysis of about 2,200 cases of homicides in the Netherlands committed between 1992 and 2006 shows that lethal violence typically results from conflict in symmetric relations in which social rank is ambiguous. The settings of homicides are mostly well-integrated, small communities, including families, rural villages in tribal and agrarian societies, modern urban neighbourhoods, gettos, criminal organisations, and ethnic enclaves. The mechanism that drives antagonism between people in such places is their attachment, close-knit structure, and common features. Earlier, Simmel developed this insight in lethal conflict when saying ‘the more we have in common with another as whole persons, the more easily will our totality be involved in every single relationship to that person, hence the disproportionate violence to which normally well-controlled people can be moved within their relations to those closest to them.’ Contemporary sociologists, ethnographers, and historians amply corroborated this view of lethal violence. In his comparative work Gould shows a compelling connection between ambiguity of social rank and lethal conflict. Knauft investigated the high homicide rates in a New Guinea community and found that lethal violence resulting from sorcery attributions is not the anti-thesis of the ideal of ‘good company’ but its ultimate culmination.
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