Italian Journal of Criminology

The official journal of the Italian Society of Criminology

by Ernesto Calvanese and Chiara Colosimo

Within a sounding of conceptual areas, expressions and myths about “individual violence and collective violence”, the aim of this work is not the study and the analysis of people committing such acts of violence, but rather of the opinions of those nominated to judge and to apply sanction to the performers of aggressive and violent behaviours. The study relates all results gained through two different surveys. The first one concerns the perception of some criminal behaviors submitted to the judgment of a sample of students at senior secondary schools:these behaviors are characterized by the realization of violence – even extreme violence -, going from the defense of properties through weapons to the killing of the potential thief [immigrant], to the unlawful use of weapons at a checkpoint by the police, to violence by ultrasfootball fans, to those violent acts performed against non-European people). Some positions emerge that we can easily define equally violent, just when the revenge – as well as the justification, or even the praise – towards them annuls, in the end, a more critic and rational vision of crimes. The second one is centered on judgments expressed by a sample of young people and of teachers about death penalty: the result is a worrisome adherence to the lex talionis, which is manifested through an exiguous control on the deepest, more archaic, revengeful and emotive expectations. Both jobs have been carried out through the distribution of structured survey schedules to individuals living in Milan e in other urban realities within Lombardy. For what concerns the first survey, many interviewees have put themselves on positions that we can’t possibly refuse to define ‘of remarkable violence’, as high percentages of considerations implied revengeful and vehement expectations, almost not mediated by rationality. Such trend has then been further verified through data coming from the study on capital punishment, thanks to the high number of answers, mainly among young people in the sample, who were in favor of capital punishment. From this viewpoint, even if it appears understandable that the penalty reaction towards the evil performed on purpose cannot disregard a revengeful impetus as well as highly aggressive drive - in its deepest motivations –, what surfaces from this study produces perplexity and concern when such aspirations are evident in judgments maintaining intact their virulence and their contents of violence, even when we could have rightfully expected more lucid and critic reflection from the interviewees and more detachment from the world of unawareness and irrationality.

Professore di Criminologia presso la Facoltà di Giurisprudenza, Università degli Studi di Milano; Criminologo clinico e Psicologo.
Ernesto Calvanese
Cultore della materia presso la Cattedra di Criminologia, Facoltà di Giurisprudenza dell'Università degli Studi di Milano.
Chiara Colosimo
Contacts: Prof. Ernesto Calvanese, Cattedra di Criminologia, Istituto di Diritto Penale e Diritto Processuale Penale, Università degli Studi di Milano, via Festa del Perdono, 3, 20122 Milano - tel. 02/50312538, e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

From: Rassegna Italiana di Criminologia n. 2/2007



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