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Vandalism is a conspicuous defacement or destruction of a structure, a symbol or anything else that goes against the will of the owner/governing body, and usually constitutes a crime. Historically, it has been justified by painter Gustave Courbet as destruction of monuments symbolizing "war and conquest". Therefore, it is often done as an expression of contempt, creativity, or both. Vandalism is only a meaningful concept in a culture that recognizes history and archaeology. Like other similar terms (Barbarian/barbary, and Philistine), the term Vandal was originally an ethnic slur referring to the Vandals, who under Geiseric sacked Rome in 455. The Vandals, like the Philistines, no longer exist as an identifiable ethnic group.

The term in its modern acceptance was coined in January 1794 during the French Revolution, by Henri Gregoire, constitutional bishop of Blois, in his report directed to the Republican Convention, where he used word Vandalisme to describe some aspects of the behaviour of the republican army. Gustave Courbet's attempt, during the 1871 Paris Commune, to dismantle the Vendôme column, a symbol of the past Napoleon III authoritarian Empire, was one of the most celebrated events of vandalism. Nietzsche himself would meditate after the Commune on the "fight against culture", taking as example the intentional burning of the Tuileries Palace on May 23 1871. "The criminal fight against culture is only the reverse side of a criminal culture" wrote Pierre Klossowski after quoting Nietzsche.[1]

Vandalism as crime[edit | edit source]

Private citizens commit vandalism when they wilfully damage or deface the property of others or the commons. Some vandalism qualifies as culture jamming or sniggling — it is artistic in nature as well as being carried out illegally or without the property owner's permission. Examples include at least some graffiti art, billboard liberation and possibly crop circles, Criminal vandalism has many forms, graffiti on public property is common in many inner cities as part of a gang culture, however other more devastating forms such as those involved with public unrest, such as rioting, involve the wilful destruction of public and private property, Vandalism per se is often considered one of the least serious common crimes, but it can become quite serious when committed extensively, violently or as an expression of hatred and intimidation.

Examples of vandalism include salting lawns, cutting trees without permission, egg throwing, breaking windows, arson, spray painting others' properties, tagging, placing glue into locks, tire slashing, ransacking a place and flooding someones house by clogging a sink and leaving the water on.

The destruction of glass windows and doors is a common form of vandalism.

In the case of vandalism to private property, the owner — the victim, may feel that they were specifically targeted by the perpetrator(s) — this is not necessarily the case. An example of such a crime would be the wilful destruction of a car window for no obvious purpose save to give the perpetrator(s) possibly a few seconds of entertainment, with no consideration, or empathy for the detriment to the state of mind or inconvenience of the victim.

Reasoning for such actions can be attributed to anger, envy or spontaneous, opportunistic behaviour — possibly for peer acceptance or bravado in gang cultures, or disgruntlement with the target (victim) person or society. Opportunistic vandalism of this nature may also be filmed, the mentality of which can be akin to happy slapping. The large scale prevalence of gang graffiti in some inner cities has almost made it acceptable to the societies based there — so much so that it may go unnoticed, or not be removed, possibly because it may be a fruitless endeavour, to be graffitied on once again.

In view of its incivility, punishment for vandalism can be particularly severe in some countries. In Singapore, for example, a person who attempts to cause or commits an act of vandalism may be liable to imprisonment for up to 3 years and in conjunction may be punished with caning. The act of vandalism in UK is construed as an environmental crime and may be dealt with an ASBO (Anti-Social Behavior Order).

Former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani made a crackdown on vandalism a centerpiece of his anti-crime agenda in the 1990s, asserting that a strong campaign against nonviolent "quality of life" crimes such as vandalism would cause a corresponding decrease in violent crime. However much credit can be given to Giuliani's anti-vandalism crusade, FBI statistics claim that New York's crime rate plummeted during his tenure.[2]

Vandalism as art[edit | edit source]

For more details on this topic, see Graffiti.

Graffiti is a very common form of vandalism; in some places it is tolerated.

A bust of Germanicus Caesar, probably vandalized by Christians. Note the cross incised on the statue's forehead and the broken off nose. See iconoclasm.

Though vandalism in itself is illegal, it is often also an integral part of modern popular culture. French painter Gustave Courbet's attempt to disassemble the Vendôme column during the 1871 Paris Commune was probably one of the first artistic vandalist acts, celebrated at least since Dada performances during World War I. The Vendôme column was considered a symbol of the past Napoleon III empire, and dismantled as such.

After the burning of the Tuileries Palace on May 23 1871, Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche himself meditated about the "fight against culture", wondering what could justify culture if it were to be destroyed in such a "senseless" manner (the arguments are: culture is justified by works of art and scientific achievements; exploitation is necessary to those achievements, leading to the creation of exploited people who then fight against culture. In this case, culture can't be legitimised by art achievements, and Nietzsche writes: "I {also} know what it means: fighting against culture". After quoting him, Klossowski writes: "The criminal fight against culture is only the reverse side of a criminal culture"[1]

As destruction of monument, vandalism can only have sense in a culture respecting history, archeology - Nietzsche spoke of monumental history. As destruction of monumental history, vandalism was assured a long life (as Herostratus proved): Performance art could make such a claim, as well as Hakim Bey's poetic terrorism or Destroy 2000 Years of Culture from Atari Teenage Riot. Gustave Courbet's declaration stated:

"Attendu que la colonne Vendôme est un monument dénué de toute valeur artistique, tendant à perpétuer par son expression les idées de guerre et de conquête qui étaient dans la dynastie impériale, mais que réprouve le sentiment d’une nation républicaine, [le citoyen Courbet] émet le vœu que le gouvernement de la Défense nationale veuille bien l’autoriser à déboulonner cette colonne."[3]

("As the Vendôme column is formally considered a monument devoid of any artistic value, tending to perpetuate with its expression ideas of war and conquest of the past imperial dynasty, that are reprobated by a republican nation's sentiment, citizen Courbet is to emit his wish that the National Defense government will allow him to dismantle this column.")

Hence, painter Courbet justified the dismantlement of the Vendôme column on political grounds, downgrading its artistic value. Vandalism poses the problem of the value of art compared to life's hardships: Courbet thought that the political values transmitted by this work of art neutralized its artistic value. Anyway, his project wasn't followed, however, on April 12, 1871, the dismantlement of the imperial symbol was voted by the Commune, and the column taken down on May 8. After the assault on the Paris Commune by Adolphe Thiers, Gustave Courbet was condemned to pay part of the expenses. As any good vandal, he preferred flying away to Switzerland.

Tags, designs, and styles of writing are commonplace on clothing and are an influence on many of the corporate logos with which we are familiar. Many skateparks and similar youth-oriented venues are decorated with commissioned graffiti-style artwork, and in many others patrons are welcome to leave their own. There is still, however, a very fine line between vandalism as an artform, as a political statement, and as a crime. An excellent example of one who walks this threefold line is Bristol born guerrilla-artist Banksy, who is revered as a cult artistic figure by many, but seen by others as a criminal.

Vandalism in schools[edit | edit source]

Vandalism in the workplace[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References & Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 See Pierre Klossowski, Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle, first Chapter: What is the value of culture if those who are exploited by it destroy it? "En sorte qu'il nous faut être bien loin de vouloir, du haut de notre sentiment de nous-mêmes, imputer le crime d'un combat contre la culture exclusivement à ces malheureux. Je sais ce que cela veut dire: le combat contre la culture. (...) je me campronnai avec une conviction sérieuse à la valeur métaphysique de l'art, lequel ne saurait exister à cause des pauvres gens, mais doit accomplir des missions plus hautes. Mais, en dépit de mon extrême douleur, je n'étais pas en état de jeter la moindre pierre à ces profanateurs qui, pour moi, n'étaient que les suppôts de la culpabilité universelle, sur laquelle il y a beaucoup à méditer!" (Nietzsche quoted by Klossowski pp.29-30 French edition, who adds: "Le combat criminel contre la culture n'est lui-même que l'envers d'une culture criminelle" ("The criminal fight against culture is only the reverse side of a criminal culture")
  2. NYC Mayor's Press Office (2001-05-30). FBI Crime Statistics For Calendar Year 2000 Show Drop In New York City Crime. Press release. Retrieved on 2007-08-04.
  3. La Colonne Vendôme déboulonnée. URL accessed on 2007-08-04.

Key texts[edit | edit source]

Books[edit | edit source]

  • Brennan, P., Mednick, S., & Kandel, E. (1991). Congenital determinants of violent and property offending. Hillsdale, NJ, England: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc
  • Brook, J. S., Whiteman, M., & Cohen, P. (1995). Stage of drug use, aggression, and theft/vandalism: Shared and unshared risks. New York, NY: Plenum Press.
  • Conoley, J. C., & Goldstein, A. P. (2004). The Known, Unknown, and Future of Violence Reduction. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
  • Goldstein, A. P. (1996). The psychology of vandalism. New York, NY: Plenum Press.
  • Goldstein, A. P. (2004). Controlling Vandalism: The Person-Environment Duet. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
  • Graham, F. (1987). Probability of detection and institutional vandalism. London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office Books.
  • Harootunian, B. (1986). School violence and vandalism. Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.
  • Keith, C. (1990). Assault by fellow citizens. Oxford, England: John Wiley & Sons.
  • LaNuez, D., & Jermier, J. M. (1994). Sabotage by managers and technocrats: Neglected patterns of resistance at work. Florence, KY: Taylor & Frances/Routledge.
  • Mayer, G. R., & Sulzer-Azaroff, B. (2002). Interventions for Vandalism and Aggression. Washington, DC: National Association of School Psychologists.
  • Moser, G. (1988). Vandalism in urban public telephones. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.
  • Wiesenthal, D. L. (1990). Psychological aspects of vandalism. Oxford, England: John Wiley & Sons.

Papers[edit | edit source]

  • Allen, V. L., & Greenberger, D. B. (1978). An aesthetic theory of vandalism: Crime & Delinquency Vol 24(3) Jul 1978, 309-321.
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  • Baron, S. W. (2007). Street youth, gender, financial strain, and crime: Exploring Broidy and Agnew's extension to general strain theory: Deviant Behavior Vol 28(3) May 2007, 273-302.
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  • Brewer, D. D., & Miller, M. L. (1990). Bombing and burning: The social organization and values of Hip Hop graffiti writers and implications for policy: Deviant Behavior Vol 11(4) Oct-Dec 1990, 345-369.
  • Brown, G., & Devlin, A. S. (2003). Vandalism: Environmental and Social Factors: Journal of College Student Development Vol 44(4) Jul-Aug 2003, 502-516.
  • Brown, W. K. (1978). Graffiti, identity and the delinquent gang: International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology Vol 22(1) 1978, 46-48.
  • Buck, A. J., Hakim, S., Swanson, C., & Rattner, A. (2003). Vandalism of vending machines: Factors that attract professionals and amateurs: Journal of Criminal Justice Vol 31(1) Jan-Feb 2003, 85-95.
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  • Coslin, P. G. (1989). Adolescence and vandalisms: Orientation Scolaire et Professionnelle Vol 18(4) Oct-Dec 1989, 351-364.
  • Craw, P. J., Leland, L. S., Jr., Bussell, M. G., Munday, S. J., & Walsh, K. (2006). The Mural as Graffiti Deterrence: Environment and Behavior Vol 38(3) May 2006, 422-434.
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  • Fine, S., & Louie, D. (1979). Juvenile firesetters: Do the agencies help? : American Journal of Psychiatry Vol 136(4-A) Apr 1979, 433-435.
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  • Fisher, J. D., & Baron, R. M. (1982). An equity-based model of vandalism: Population & Environment: Behavioral & Social Issues Vol 5(3) Fal 1982, 182-200.
  • Garcia, J., & McWhirter, J. J. (1997). Review of The Psychology of Vandalism: PsycCRITIQUES Vol 42 (5), May, 1997.
  • Genz, A., Kruger, E., & Dost, B. (1988). Aggressive behavior in the psychiatric clinic: Psychiatrie, Neurologie und Medizinische Psychologie Vol 40(9) Sep 1988, 542-550.
  • Green, J. A. (2003). The writing on the stall: Gender and graffiti: Journal of Language and Social Psychology Vol 22(3) Sep 2003, 282-296.
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  • Klockhaus, R., & Habermann-Morbey, B. (1984). Property damage in schools and school environment: Zeitschrift fur Entwicklungspsychologie und Padagogische Psychologie Vol 16(1) 1984, 47-56.
  • Klockhaus, R., & Habermann-Morbey, B. (1985). Vandalism at schools for vocational training: Psychologie in Erziehung und Unterricht Vol 32(2) 1985, 109-116.
  • Knapp, F., & McClure, L. F. (1978). Quasi-experimental evaluation of a quality of life intervention: Journal of Community Psychology Vol 6(3) Jul 1978, 280-290.
  • Koch, J.-J. (1986). Vandalism: Social and environmental psychology aspects of destructive behavior: Gruppendynamik Vol 17(1) Mar 1986, 65-82.
  • Kube, E., & Schuster, L. (1985). Vandalism in an urban environment: Importance, scope, and context of the phenomenon: Possible preventive measures: Revue Internationale de Criminologie et de Police Technique Vol 38(2) Apr-Jun 1985, 139-161.
  • Landsheer, J. A., & Hart, H. t. (1999). Age and adolescent delinquency: The changing relationship among age, delinquent attitude, and delinquent activity: Criminal Justice and Behavior Vol 26(3) Sep 1999, 373-388.
  • Legendre, C. (1989). Street delirium: Psychologie Medicale Vol 21(6) May 1989, 727-731.
  • Levine, E. M., & Kozak, C. (1979). Drug and alcohol use, delinquency, and vandalism among upper middle class pre- and post-adolescents: Journal of Youth and Adolescence Vol 8(1) Mar 1979, 91-101.
  • Lott, R. S., Kerrick, J. M., & Cohen, S. A. (1996). Clinical and economic aspects of risperidone treatment in adults with mental retardation and behavioral disturbance: Psychopharmacology Bulletin Vol 32(4) 1996, 721-729.
  • Lowenstein, L. F. (1986). Vandalism in schools: Causes, prevention and treatment: Health at School Vol 2(3) Nov 1986, 72-73.
  • Lucca Irizarry, N., & Pacheco Maldonado, A. M. (1983). The study of graffiti as a source for research on developmental social psychology: A review of the literature: Perspectivas en Psicologia Vol 2(1-2) Jan-Aug 1983, 57-82.
  • Ludick, Q., & Roos, V. (2007). Threats to enabling contexts: Exploring adolescents' experiences of aggression: Journal of Psychology in Africa Vol 17(1-2) 2007, 29-38.
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  • Mansel, J., & Hurrelmann, K. (1998). Aggressive and delinquent behavior of adolescents over time: Findings of self-reports in 1988, 1990 and 1996: Kolner Zeitschrift fur Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie Vol 50(1) Mar 1998, 78-109.
  • Mayer, G. R., Butterworth, T., Komoto, T., & Benoit, R. (1983). The influence of the school principal on the consultant's effectiveness: Elementary School Guidance & Counseling Vol 17(4) Apr 1983, 274-279.
  • Mayer, G. R., Butterworth, T., Nafpaktitis, M., & Sulzer-Azaroff, B. (1983). Preventing school vandalism and improving discipline: A three-year study: Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis Vol 16(4) Win 1983, 355-369.
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Additional material[edit | edit source]

Books[edit | edit source]

  • McLoughlin, C. S. (1987). Parent-teacher conferencing. Springfield, IL, England: Charles C Thomas, Publisher.
  • Norris, F. H., Kaniasty, K., & Thompson, M. P. (1997). The psychological consequences of crime: Findings from a longitudinal population-based study. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Thomas, R. M. (2006). Violence in American's schools: Understanding, prevention, and responses. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers/Greenwood Publishing Group.
  • Weiss, J. C. (2005). Working with Victims of Hate Crimes. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Wikstrom, P.-O. H. (1991). Urban crime, criminals, and victims: The Swedish experience in an Anglo-American comparative perspective. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag Publishing.

Papers[edit | edit source]

  • Google Scholar
  • Palmer, C. J. (1996). Violence and other forms of victimization in residence halls: Perspectives of resident assistants: Journal of College Student Development Vol 37(3) May-Jun 1996, 268-277.

Dissertations[edit | edit source]

  • Arnold, A. A. (1976). Vandalism in an inner city school administrative complex: Its relationship to educational consumers' perceptions of their schools: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Broski, D. J. (1978). Ohio school vandalism: Characteristics and preventive measures: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Butler, J. R. (1981). The role of interpretation as a motivating agent toward park resource protection: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Christensen, H. H. (1978). Bystander reactions to illegal behavior in a forested recreation area: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Goslin, J. C. (1985). Vandalism: A perception of secondary principals of Oakland County, state of Michigan: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Griffin, P. A. (1983). An analysis of the school principal's ability to recognize and resolve conflict and its effect on school violence and vandalism: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Harvey, P. L. (1984). Moral development and residence hall vandalism: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Hearne, M. D. (1979). A social learning theory approach to staff development and teacher behavior, student behavior, and reading achievement: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Hemenway, L. A. (1981). Violence and vandalism in schools: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • McBride, A. (1980). The perceived effects of discontinued extraclass activities on public schools: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Miller, N. (1986). A study of vandalism in selected Georgia urban school districts: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Murillo, R. B. (1977). Vandalism and school attitudes: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Pascale, J. G. (1986). An analysis of the impact of peripheral recreation and education curricula, demographics and adjunct measures on vandalism at randomly selected public school facilities within Fairfax County, Virginia: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Porter, G. V. (1980). The control of vandalism in urban recreational facilities: A revision of the defensible space model: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Rose, F. S. (1978). The effect of violence and vandalism on the completion of the educational process: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Snow, H. W. (1983). Attitudes toward the environment and vandalism in relation to ego development during late adolescence: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Sohn, A. T. (1983). An analysis of school and classroom discipline practices and their relationship to school property loss: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Stretton, E. H. (1977). A study of school vandalism in junior high schools and middle schools in the state of Indiana: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Ullman, D. L. (1989). Neuropsychological correlates of assaultive behavior among incarcerated males: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Whitt, L. A. (1982). The effect of posters, feedback, and incentives on vandalism in a residential setting: Dissertation Abstracts International.

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