chapter  1
28 Pages

Themes and Anticipations

The ostensible subject matter of this book is violence and disorder. Our settings are classrooms and the terraces of football grounds. Our dramatis personae are the people who inhabit these places and the people who speak about them in various public ways. Many people believe that there are schoolrooms and football grounds where civilized order is forever on the verge of breaking down. How have they come to believe this? Certainly not by direct experience, for few who ‘know’ about schoolroom or football violence have been present at its manifestations. Newspaper, radio and television reports are intimately involved in the formation of our images of the places beyond our immediate experience, and the pictures we form of the places featured in our study are no exception. Such reports suggest, often in the choice of vocabulary as much as in overt statement, that classrooms and football grounds are the settings for scenes of anarchy and disorder. But more than that they imply a specific theory about the genesis of social violence. It is the theory that in these special places gaps widen out in the texture of order and without that order uncontrollable impulses lead to meaningless and violent behaviour.