Reducing hate

The Science of Hate: How prejudice becomes hate and what we can do to stop it by Matthew Williams, (Faber & Faber; £14.99), reviewed by Dr Siân E. Jones.

15 April 2021

What motivates hate crime and how can it be reduced? These questions cross disciplinary boundaries in the social sciences, from criminology to sociology and psychology. So, too, does The Science of Hate, expertly weaving together perspectives from different disciplines, to explore these questions. It covers research using brain imaging and society-level crime statistics along the way.

Starting off with his own harrowing experience, and peppered with real-life examples, Williams seeks to understand international variations in defining and recording hate crime. He then considers different motivations for hate crime, grounded in race, ethnicity, dis/ability or LGBTQ+ identities. What is achieved is an accessible account of different attempts to answer this question, from those grounded in individual psychopathy and criminal profiling, to social identity-based explanations. Moreover, each account is considered alongside its limitations.

Bringing things up to date, this book also covers Williams’ own research expertise on hate crime in the wake of Brexit, and ends with recommendations for how we can all help to reduce levels of hate crime. The writing style lends itself to a non-academic audience, while the more academic reader is furnished with a well-researched reference list, offering both a way into the current state of knowledge. 

-       Reviewed by Dr Siân E. Jones, Senior Lecturer at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh