Anomie and Skinhead Violence

Derek Bowen, University of New Hampshire

Some researchers have characterized skinhead violence in the United States as a form of terrorism because of the extreme right-wing values that many skinheads embrace. However, skinhead violence is driven by different forces than is the violence of more traditional terrorist groups. Where terrorism based on racial, ethnic or religious identity might be most often conceived of as an altruistic act committed on the behalf of a certain group, the racial violence of the skinheads seems to be a reaction to the changing nature of society. This paper explores some of the reasons behind young peoples' involvement in skinhead violence and contrasts these with the forces behind other racially, ethically or religiously motivated terrorist groups. The findings are based on 28 face-to-face interviews with current and former racist skinheads in the United States and Canada. The findings suggest that individual social disorientation and a disconnection from the larger society motivate skinhead violence. Unlike many other groups whose violence is based on racial, ethnic, or religious identity, skinheads do not seem to believe that they represent a larger population despite the fact that they often claim their acts are committed to defend the rights of white Americans.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006