Saturday, July 6, 2013

The "Code" in Bar Fights

Are people constrained in bar fights?  That is, is there a voluntary component in the challenge / response to defend one's "honor"?  Could someone who is challenged say no?  Is fighting, within this framework, voluntary?

Peaceful Warriors: Codes for Violence among Adult Male Bar Fighters 

Heith Copes, Andy Hochstetler & Craig Forsyth Criminology, forthcoming 

 Abstract: Considerable theoretical and empirical inquiry has focused on the role codes for violence play in generating crime. A large part of this work has examined the attitudes and codes condoning retaliation and violence as well as the prevalence of these among minorities residing in impoverished neighborhoods. Much about the nature of codes remains unknown, however, and this may in part reflect a narrow interest in beliefs about provocation and uses of violence among the inner-city poor. In this study, we elaborate on a code of violence as part of a system of order and honor as articulated by a network of White, working-class males in a southern U.S. city who participate in bar fights. The findings suggest that the code these men use prohibits predatory violence, puts exclusive limitations on situations that warrant violence, and constrains the level of violence in a fight. We detail the contours of this code (e.g., purpose of fighting, the rules of honorable fighting, and justifications for violating these rules) and discuss the code as both a cause and a consequence of behavior. 

I expected one of the authors to be Scott de Marchi.


  1. This looks like an in-joke, but I didn't get it.

    But I trust you, so I laughed anyway.

  2. I've been reading quite a few interesting pieces on this.

    Street Justice: Retaliation in the Criminal Underworld (Cambridge), Bruce A. Jacobs and Richard Wright


    Code of the Street: Decency, Violence and the Moral Life of the Inner City, (WW Norton) Elijah Anderson


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?