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Daniel J. Myers

Subject Sociology » Social Movements, Social Problems

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


A riot is an unruly collective act of violence that is temporary, discontinuous from everyday routines, and results in damage to persons or property of either the participants or targets of the collective actor. Although most social scientists have an intuitive sense of what constitutes a riot, the edges of the definition are fuzzy and it can be difficult to determine whether or not some events are actually riots. For example, it is agreed that a riot is a collective act. That is, more than one individual must be involved and at least minimally coordinate action in order for a riot to occur. Two people acting together, however, would not constitute a riot, even though it is a collective act of violence. Thus, the lower limit for participation, damage, and duration to define a riot is difficult to establish and has led many sociologists to analyze events more ambiguously referred to as civil disorders or collective violence. For most, however, unless there are at least 30–50 people involved, the events last more than a few moments, and there is action that could result in property damage or injury requiring medical attention, a riot has not occurred. Even those events that consensus would label as riots are a diverse lot. The American sociologist's vision of rioting is heavily influenced by the race-related urban riots that occurred in the 1960s, including the infamous Watts 1965, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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