The social meanings of violent death

R. J. Michalowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


While death is an absolute, the social responses to it demonstrate considerable variation. This variation exists because it is not only the death itself, but the manner of dying which determines the social meaning of any death. This paper investigates the differential responses to various forms of violent death, and attempts to identify those factors which influence the social meanings of violent death. Focusing upon the dimensions of inevitability, controllability, intent, deviance and social utility, it is demonstrated that it is the existing ontology, rather than empirical measures of harm, which determines the social meaning of, and the subsequent social response to, various forms of violent death. The discussion concludes by suggesting hypotheses which can be employed to expand our understanding of the meanings of death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-93
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1976

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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