Political Violence as an Object of Study: The Need for Taxonomic Clarity

  • Edward Crenshaw
  • Kristopher Robison
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)

Taxonomies are essential to science because they represent the way human minds work. As Pinker (2002: 203) notes, “intelligence depends on lumping together things that share properties, so that we are not flabbergasted by every new thing we encounter.” The bedrock of our sciences, and especially the social sciences, is neither methodology nor causal modeling, but rather taxonomy (or, more specifically, the construction of variables within a theory-driven schema), for both our methods and our models may produce deeply flawed conclusions if our theoretical objects are poorly constructed or specified. As Lenski (1994: 1–2) points out, “Comprehensive taxonomies that are grounded in careful observation — even when incomplete or incorrect in earlier formulations — provide both a foundation for the formulation of basic theory and a spur to innovative research.”


Social Movement News Story Political Violence Public Display Social Movement Organization 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work has been made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation (SES-0617980).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward Crenshaw
    • 1
  • Kristopher Robison
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of SociologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyNorthern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA

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