Football Hooliganism as Collective Violence: Explaining Variance in Britain Through Interpersonal Boundaries, 1863–1989

By N.A.J. Taylor on 1st September 2011 — 1 min read

Football hooliganism is a subculture in which ‘us-them’ boundaries are constructed, sharpened and contested both within and between participating groups. Applying Charles Tilly’s concept of collective violence, I argue that a historical analysis of violence surrounding football in Britain between 1863 and 1989 indicates that football hooliganism is best viewed as a violent ritual triggered by similar processes to the coordinated destruction of international conflict. I then pose two questions that often plague students of collective violence: what causes variations in the level and form of violence over time, and how and why do participants vacillate between peaceful and violent social interactions? Adopting a relational approach, I argue that a small number of causal mechanisms such as nationalism have served to activate us-them boundaries which create, escalate and sustain variations in violence. By refocusing on the social interactions of hooligans rather than their identity, this paper seeks to renew opportunities for inter-disciplinary research into the social significance of violence at football matches.

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N.A.J. Taylor, ‘Football hooliganism as collective violence: Explaining variance in Britain through interpersonal boundaries, 1863-1989’, International Journal of the History of Sport, Vol.28 No.13, 2011, pp.1750-71.[PDF]