This article analyses the attention given in the Netherlands to what is called 'senseless violence' as an expression of the general idea that violence is growing, and as an example of a moral panic. It is argued that this is a combination of a grassroots and interest-group moral panic that has been carried along mainly by media and institutionalized civil initiatives. The production of this moral panic is illustrated, together with its consequences in the areas of politics, law and social science. It is argued that the moral panic over 'senseless violence' is in many respects a 'classic' example of a moral panic, but that it departs from this pattern in the sense that it is characterized by the conspicuous absence of moral deviants. Also, it is argued that the institutionalization of anxiety can cause a moral panic to persist for several years. In the case of 'senseless violence', the moral panic emerged in 1997 and only very slowly decreased after 2003. The institutionalization of anxiety means that many institutional remnants of the moral panic linger on and affect contexts such as politics.

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Current Sociology
Department of Sociology

Schinkel, W. (2008). Contexts of anxiety: The moral panic over 'senseless violence' in the Netherlands. Current Sociology, 56(5), 735–756. doi:10.1177/0011392108093833