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Aggression: A Sociological Perspective

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Abstract

This chapter draws on the Kampala Amendments in order to examine some critical questions from a sociological perspective with respect to how ‘acts’ and ‘crimes of aggression’ can best be defined. At the center of the analysis lies the concept of aggression. This concept has a long history in everyday language, but it is less firmly and very differently established in academic disciplines such as psychology. Clearly, the term is difficult to deploy. Even in disciplines such as social psychology, where the term is often used, there are some obvious issues. It will be argued here that the concept of aggression is not particularly helpful for explaining individual and/or collective violence. Indeed, this is precisely why sociologists usually refrain from using it.

Keywords

  • Crime of Aggression
  • Intention
  • International Law
  • Kampala Amendments
  • Motive
  • Violence

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Joas and Knöbl 2012.

  2. 2.

    Schabas 2004, p. 18.

  3. 3.

    Ambos 2010, p. 654.

  4. 4.

    Dreist 2014, p. 10 (‘The existence of a state act of aggression that violates international law therefore does not automatically result in the individual criminal liability of the persons involved in such an act; on the contrary, this liability must be determined separately, which had not yet been recognized in the proceedings before the IMT in Nuremberg.’—translation by WK).

  5. 5.

    See for a short history of the UN’s futile attempts to define ‘aggression’: Leanza 2004.

  6. 6.

    Neither in the Treaty of Versailles nor in the UN-Charter of 1945 was the term aggression mentioned, cf. Ganser 2016, pp. 38 et seq.

  7. 7.

    Dictionnaire du Moyen Français (1330–1500), http://www.atilf.fr/dmf/ (accessed 1 March 2021).

  8. 8.

    https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/aggression (accessed 1 March 2021).

  9. 9.

    Ibid.

  10. 10.

    Gekle 1988, p. 394.

  11. 11.

    Dictionnaire de français ‘Littré’, http://littre.reverso.net/dictionnaire-francais/definition/agression (accessed 1 March 2021).

  12. 12.

    Gekle 1988, p. 395.

  13. 13.

    Hummrich 2001, p. 172 (emphasis by WK. ‘The main structural feature of the definition of aggression is the purpose pursued by the state. It is necessary to determine the motive behind the aggressive act, which is the basis and main justification for the imposition of a criminal conviction and the ethical condemnation expressed therewith’—translation by WK).

  14. 14.

    I owe this insight to Stefanie Bock.

  15. 15.

    Dreist 2014, p. 12.

  16. 16.

    Chaumont and Fischer 1956, p. 523.

  17. 17.

    Cf. Bruha 1980.

  18. 18.

    Cf. Kaldor 1999.

  19. 19.

    Dinstein 2015.

  20. 20.

    Petty 2008, p. 548.

  21. 21.

    Dreist 2014, p. 10.

  22. 22.

    Petty 2008, p. 550.

  23. 23.

    Ibid., p. 551 (emphasis by WK).

  24. 24.

    Weber 1985, pp. 825 et seq.

  25. 25.

    See, for example, Luhmann 1964; Perrow 1979; Beetham 1987.

  26. 26.

    Mills 1940.

  27. 27.

    Anscombe 2000, pp. 19 et seq.

  28. 28.

    Ruse 2018.

  29. 29.

    Solera 2010, p. 812 (emphasis by WK).

  30. 30.

    Schönpflug 1968, p. 104.

  31. 31.

    See Laplanche and Pontalis 1972, p. 104.

  32. 32.

    Schönpflug 1968, p. 106.

  33. 33.

    Wahl 2009, p. 2.

  34. 34.

    Ibid., pp. 2, 10.

  35. 35.

    Krahé 2015.

  36. 36.

    See my comments on Krahé’s essay: Knöbl 2015.

  37. 37.

    Bauer 2011, p. 46.

  38. 38.

    Berkowitz 1968; Schuman 1968.

  39. 39.

    Weber 1985, pp. 12 et seq.

  40. 40.

    Cf. Knöbl 2017.

  41. 41.

    Collins 2008; Katz 1991; Nedelmann 1997; Popitz 1992; Sofsky 1996; von Trotha 1986; Reemtsma 2008.

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Acknowledgments

For helpful comments and support I would like to thank the editors of this volume, particularly Stefanie Bock, and Christoph Fuchs at the library of the Hamburg Institute for Social Research.

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Knöbl, W. (2022). Aggression: A Sociological Perspective. In: Bock, S., Conze, E. (eds) Rethinking the Crime of Aggression. T.M.C. Asser Press, The Hague. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-6265-467-9_2

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