I’m just reading a long but gripping study that used social network analysis to look at murder as a social interaction between gangs in Chicago to understand how stable networks of retaliation are sustained over time.
However, I was struck by this bit in the introduction, which really highlights the social nature of murder:
But we know that murder is not in fact such a random matter. It is first and foremost an interaction between two people who more often than not know each other: approximately 75% of all homicides in the United States from 1995 to 2002 occurred between people who knew each other prior to the murder (Federal Bureau of Investigation, selected years).
We also know that the victim and offender tend to resemble each other socially and demographically (e.g., Wolfgang 1958; Luckenbill 1977). Young people kill other young people, poor people kill other poor people, gang members kill other gang members, and so on. Thus, contrary to stratification theories, a particular murder is not so much the outcome of the differential distribution of attributes as it is an interaction governed by patterns of social relations between people similar in stature and status.
It’s an amazing paper which combines a social network analysis drawn from police murder records with field work that involved talking to gang members to understand their perception and use of violence.