"Thou shalt not kill" is arguably the most basic moral and legal principle in any
society. Yet while some killers are pilloried and punished, others are absolved and acquitted, and
still others are lauded and lionized. Why? The traditional answer is that how killers are treated
depends on the nature of their killing, whether it was aggressive or defensive, intentional or
accidental. But those factors cannot explain the enormous variation in legal officials' and
citizens' responses to real-life homicides. Cooney argues that a radically new style of
thought—pure sociology—can. Conceived by the sociologist Donald Black, pure sociology
makes no reference to psychology, to any single person's intent, or even to individuals as such.
Instead, pure sociology explains behavior in terms of its social geometry—its location and
direction in a multidimensional social space.
Is Killing Wrong? provides
the most comprehensive assessment of pure sociology yet attempted. Drawing on data from well over
one hundred societies, including the modern-day United States, it represents the most thorough
account yet of case-level social control, or the response to conduct defined as wrong. In doing
so, it demonstrates that the law and morality of homicide are neither universal nor relative but
geometrical, as predicted by Black's theory.
About Mark CooneySee more books from this Author