Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution 1.2 – Reviews


Barbara H. Chasin: Inequality and Violence in the United States

1997. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press. 217 pp including index. Cloth $49.95. Paper $15.00

Barbara H. Chasin begins Inequality and Violence in the United States with a look at statistics which show that the United States is more violent than other countries and moves to examine the relationship between inequality and violence, a relationship which she claims occurs in three main forms: 1) inequality results in structural violence, 2) inequality results in interpersonal violence as the less privileged react to their situation and 3) violence is used to maintain inequality. Chasin examines inequality along a number of relationships: class, gender, ethnicity and race. She shows that inequality exists in the U.S. and proceeds to examine how it effects violence in many ways.

It is in her inclusion of structural violence that Chasin diverts from a more traditional analysis of violence in the U.S. Instead of just looking at interpersonal or repressive governmental (i.e. police brutality) violence, she includes anything which leads to injury or untimely death. This leads her to argue against corporate and bureaucratic decision-making which limits individual responsibility. Although Chasin claims to look at race, ethnicity and gender inequality, she seems to see all of these as springing from class distinctions. This is primarily a book about class inequality and its effects upon violence, sometimes viewed through the lens of gender or race.

In an interesting chapter, Chasin examines militarism in the U.S. and its effects on citizens. She concludes that military preparedness is a form of structural violence since resources are diverted from those in need to pay for military programs. Also, militarism is an inequality issue because the rich benefit (from defense contracts) as the poor pay.

This work is intended as a text, and should serve that purpose well. Chasin writes with an accessible style and uses both anecdotal and statistical evidence which should keep students interested.


By Derek Sweetman, editor


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