The first chapter, "Vigilantism: An Analysis of Establishment Violence," is by the editors, and lays out the grounds for the analysis of vigilantism, or, in their terms, "establishment violence." Here are some of the high points.
Unlike revolutionary violence or criminal deviance, vigilantism is fundamentally about preserving the status quo.
The potential for establishment violence is directly related to the degree to which those who have a vested interest in the status quo feel that the formal institutions of boundary maintenance are ineffective in protecting their interests. Essentially, it is a conservative phenomenon.What does this mean for evaluating vigilantism? Two things.
Ultimately, therefore, an evaluation of vigilantism must be grounded in judgments as to the value of the social order being conserved."This is an interesting approach for the Negative to take: an argument that vigilantism is worthless in the absence of a legitimate government. If the affirmative merely presumes that the law is just and good and that government is legitimate, we are not yet at the point where we can affirm.
If the affirmative doesn't bite, though, and has set up a social contract framework that withstands this line of attack, the negative can go for an empirical or risk-based approach.
Secondarily, however, one might ask if vigilantism is an efficacious strategy for stabilizing a sociopolitical order and, if so, under what conditions.Regarding the second point, there are two critical features of vigilantism: it is "negative," in the sense that its goal is to suppress threats to the status quo, and it is ad hoc, arising in response to need on a case-by-case basis.
The authors note, "In general, vigilantism may be initially eufunctional for the stabilization process; but it tends to be dysfunctional over the long run." Why? "[I]t cannot replace formal political institutions and, indeed, it is probably antithetical to their growth."
The costs, long-term, outweigh the benefits.
The potential costs of crime-control vigilantism are obvious: establishment violence can rapidly become worse than the crime itself. Punishments tend to be disproportionate; the innocent have little protection; and quasi-criminal elements are attracted to the movement as a semilegitimate avenue for the expression of their antisocial tendencies. In addition, when law enforcement officials participate in the acts of violence, whatever moral validity the formal system of laws retained may be undermined.Last, a point that squares with the way the resolution is written:
As an analytical concept, [establishment violence] assumes that there is a recognized sociopolitical order with formalized rules and methods of maintaining its boundaries over time. According to this model one cannot speak of vigilantism where there is no recognized 'establishment,' where conditions of internal war exist, or where there are no rules governing the application of coercion.This may be important in cases where the affirmative is trying to justify vigilantism in times of anarchy--that the phrase "has failed to enforce the law" represents a massive failure rather than local or situational failure.
Added: I forgot to mention that, quite importantly, the authors distinguish three types of vigilantism: crime-control, social-group-control, and regime-control. Groups such as the KKK would fit into the second category, and, as such, are arguably nonresolutional, although the negative might try to lump them in as a potential risk of legitimizing vigilantism in a society.
The entire article is worth reading, if you can find a copy. If you have any questions or thoughts, share them in the comments.