Aggression or agonistic behavior in animals is usually an adaptive response to specific environmental situations during competition for resources, as in establishing dominance and a territory or in sexual competition. Rat and mice studies indicate it is partly genetic, because selective breeding produces strains that differ in levels of aggression. Human aggression can also represent a variety of natural responses to challenging situations. Measures of aggression vary, but of greatest concern are antisocial behaviors (ASBs), such as crime and delinquency, and whether some individuals are more likely to engage in these behaviors than are others.
The earliest evidence for a genetic contribution to these complex behaviors comes from twin and adoptee studies. Genes also increase the liability for many clinical conditions that include aggressive behaviors, such as conduct disorder (physically aggressive acts such as bullying or forced sexual activity) and antisocial personality disorder (persistent violation of social norms, including criminal behavior) and for personality traits that often accompany aggression, such as impulsivity and irritability. Differences in measuring ASBs partly account for the variability in heritability estimates, which range from 7 to 81 percent, but many studies indicate a heritability for genetic influences of 0.40-0.50, a minor influence of shared environment, and a much more...
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Aggression and Human Development (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
Aggressive behavior develops in children through a complex interaction of many environmental and biological factors. Also increasing liability for aggression and perhaps criminality are such factors as low socioeconomic status and parental psychopathology. A consistent finding is that the measure of serotonin activity of the central nervous system correlates inversely with levels of lifetime aggression, tendency to physically assault, irritability, and impulsivity. Some of the implicated genes regulate serotonin synthesis, release, and reuptake as well as metabolism and receptor activation and vary from individual to individual. Serotonergic dysfunction is also noted in alcoholism with aggression and in those who attempt and complete suicide. Brain injuries can also exacerbate tendencies to exhibit ASBs.
Some aggression, however, is a normal part of development. Thus, researcher Terrie Moffitt and colleagues distinguish between “adolescent-limited aggression”—times when most adolescents are rebelling against adult authority—and “life-course persistent” ASB, which likely reflects neuropsychological deficits and specific temperaments that are often exacerbated in unsupportive family settings. Genetic factors play a smaller role in adolescent delinquency and are consistent with aggression at this age as a developmental response to social context. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention coined...
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Sex DifferencesSex differencesaggression and (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
A significant feature of ASB is a marked difference between the sexes. Males exhibit higher levels of physical aggression and violence at every age in all situations except in the context of partner violence (where females exceed males). More males than females are diagnosed with conduct disorder at every age. More males than females begin acts of theft and violence at every age. Males also exhibit higher rates of risk factors, such as impaired neurocognitive status, increased hyperactivity, and difficulties with peers. Females are rarely identified with the life-course persistent form of ASB; the male-to-female sex ratio is 10:1. Antisocial male and female adolescents tend to associate and often marry and reproduce at younger ages.
The role that hormones, particularly testosterone, may play in these differences is not clear in humans. Animal studies have shown that testosterone is significantly correlated with certain forms of aggression, such as intermale challenge in resident-intruder tests, by modulating levels of various neurotransmitters, especially serotonin, to elicit arousal and response. However, because the same experiments performed on animals cannot be performed on humans and because human behavior patterns differ from those of animals, extrapolation of the results of animal studies to humans cannot be reliably made.
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Impact (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
There is much controversy surrounding the efforts to identify genes associated with aggression or crime, especially now that genome sequencing is easier than ever. The single D4R4 gene has been related to the personality trait of novelty seeking, which in turn has been related to criminality. However, there is no one gene responsible for aggression, and simplistic answers are unlikely to be found; complex interactions among genes and between genes and environmental stimuli remain to be studied and clarified. The question has subtly shifted from “Do genes contribute to aggression?” to “Who is genetically vulnerable to environmental factors eliciting aggression?” Many people demand that the privacy of individuals be protected because the presence of specific genes does not dictate behavioral outcomes: Genes do not determine socially defined behaviors but only act on physiological systems. Genetic testing must carry the same legal protections as other sensitive medical information, especially in cases where other genetic diseases or disorders may inadvertently be uncovered.
In addition, what constitutes acceptable or unacceptable behavior for individuals is culturally defined. Biological and environmental risk factors may increase an individual’s liability to commit an act of aggression or crime, but the behavior must be interpreted within its specific context. Criminal law presumes that behavior is a function of free...
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Further Reading (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
Fishbein, Diana H., ed. The Science, Treatment, and Prevention of Antisocial Behaviors: Application to the Criminal Justice System. Kingston, N.J.: Civic Research Institute, 2000. An excellent set of reviews on aggression and the many associated behaviors and mental disorders.
Lesch, Klaus Peter, and Ursula Merschdorf. “Impulsivity, Aggression, and Serotonin: A Molecular Psychobiological Perspective.” Behavioral Sciences and the Law 18, no. 5 (2000): 581-604. A wonderful review of the interacting factors, including all the elements of the serotonin system.
Moffitt, Terrie E. “The New Look of Behavioral Genetics in Developmental Psychopathology: Gene-Environment Interplay in Antisocial Behaviors.” Psychological Bulletin 105, no. 4 (2005): 533-554. This monograph moves beyond the question of whether antisocial behavior is an inherited trait to look at how genetic factors create a predisposition for adverse reactions to environmental influences.
Moffitt, Terrie E., Avshalom Caspi, Michael Rutter, and Phil A. Silva. Sex Differences in Antisocial Behaviour: Conduct Disorder, Delinquency, and Violence in the Dunedin Longitudinal Study. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Sex differences are documented as children grow up.
Nelson, Randy J., ed. Biology of Aggression. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Current and future directions in the study of...
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Web Sites of Interest (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsElectronic Aggression. Offers statistics and additional information for greater understanding of this new and growing type of antisocial behavior known as electronic aggression.
Human Genome Project. Behavioral Genetics. http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/behavior.shtml. Presents an easy-to-understood overview of the science of behavioral genetics and its application in topics such as intelligence, aggression, and homosexuality.
National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/violenceresfact.cfm. Provides information on child and adolescent violence and antisocial behavior, including research into the possible genetic factors of aggression.
University of Delaware. “Genetic Predisposition to Criminality: Should It Be Monitored?”. http://www.udel.edu/chem/C465/senior/fall00/GeneticTesting/intro1.htm. Provides information on various aspects of this issue and argues against genetic screening for aggression, including the legal ramifications.
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Introduction (Psychology and Mental Health)
Aggression, as the term is applied to humans, occurs as an emotional reaction to dissatisfactions and stress, and it can result in behaviors that society considers antagonistic and destructive. The term as used in common parlance has broad meanings and applications. In psychological parlance, however, aggression generally refers to an unreasonable hostility directed against situations with which people must cope or think they must cope. On a simple and relatively harmless level, people may demonstrate momentary aggressive behavior if they experience common frustrations such as missing a bus, perhaps reacting momentarily by stamping their foot on the ground or mouthing an oath subvocally. The moment passes, and no one is hurt by this sort of aggression, which most people demonstrate with fair frequency as they deal with frustration in their daily lives.
People with tattered self-images may direct their aggression toward themselves, possibly in the form of expressing or thinking disparaging things about themselves or, in extreme cases, harming themselves physically, even to the point of suicide. Such internalized forms of aggression may remain pent up for years in people who bear their frustrations silently. Such frustrations may eventually erupt into dangerous behavior directed at others, leading to assaults, verbal or physical abuse, and, in the most extreme cases, to massacres. Such was the case when Timothy McVeigh blew up the...
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Types of Aggression (Psychology and Mental Health)
Hugh Wagner, a behavioral psychologist concerned with the biology of aggression, has identified three types: offensive aggression, defensive aggression, and predatory aggression. Offensive aggression occurs when the aggressor initiates aggressive behavior against one or more nonaggressors. The response to offensive aggression is likely to be defensive aggression that generally takes the form of self-defense.
Predatory aggression differs from offensive or defensive aggression, although it is basically a form of offensive aggression. It is characterized by, for example, such phenomena as the lurking of predatory animals that make themselves as inconspicuous as possible until their prey is within striking distance. They then pounce on the prey with the intention of killing it as quickly as they can so that they can eat it. Among humans, hunters are examples of predatory aggressors, although not all contemporary hunters consume their prey.
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Biological Roots of Aggression (Psychology and Mental Health)
Although aggressive acts are usually triggered by environmental factors, laboratory research suggests that aggression has biological roots. Various experiments point to the fact that the three basic types of aggression are controlled by different mechanisms in the midbrain. It has been demonstrated in laboratory animals that offensive aggression has intimate connections to neurons in the ventral tegmental area of the midbrain. When lesions occur in this section of the brain, offensive aggression decreases markedly or disappears altogether, although defensive and predatory aggression are not affected.
Conversely, when parts of the anterior hypothalamus are stimulated, offensive behavior increases and attack may ensue. The brain appears in these experiments to be programmed in such a way that defensive aggression is controlled by the periaqueductal gray matter (PAG) found in the midbrain. So specialized are the neural activities of the midbrain that defensive aggression involving perceived threats emanates from a different part of the brain than does defensive aggression that involves an actual attack. Acid-based amino neurons from the medial hypothalamus are known to trigger defensive aggression.
Alcoholic intake often intensifies aggressive behavior, because alcohol reduces the inhibitions that the cerebral cortex controls while stimulating the neural pathways between the medial hypothalamus and the PAG....
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Aggression and Body Chemistry (Psychology and Mental Health)
In most species, including humans, males are more aggressive than females. This is thought to be because of the testosterone levels present in varying degrees in males. The higher the testosterone level, the more aggressive the male. Aggressive behavior that threatens the welfare of the species is often controlled in humans by medication that reduces the testosterone levels and pacifies aggressive males.
It is notable that young males tend to be considerably more aggressive than older males, presumably because as men age, their testosterone levels decrease considerably. Prisons are filled with young males unable to control their aggressions sufficiently to stay out of trouble with the law. Many of these prisoners mellow into relatively benign older men not because prison has reformed them but because their body chemistry has undergone significant changes through the years.
At one time, aggressive behavior was controlled by electric shock therapy (which is used at present in some extreme cases) or by the more drastic surgical procedure known as lobotomy. Lobotomies often left people in virtually catatonic states from which they could never emerge. Drugs and psychiatric treatment have replaced most of the more devastating procedures of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
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Road Rage and Air Rage (Psychology and Mental Health)
Two of the most common forms of offensive aggression in contemporary society are road rage and air rage. Road rage, which generally occurs on crowded, multilane highways or freeways, is often experienced by otherwise civilized individuals who, when behind the wheel of a car that weighs well over a ton, are transformed into irrational monsters. If someone cuts them off in traffic, drives slowly in the lane ahead of them, or commits some other perceived roadway insult, perpetrators of road rage may bump the rear of the car ahead of them, pass the car and shoot at the offending driver, or force the offending driver off the road and onto the shoulder, where a fight, a stabbing, or a shooting may occur.
Air rage is somewhat different. Some people who have been flying for long periods in cramped conditions, often passing through several time zones, may suffer from disorientation. Often, this feeling is intensified by the consumption of alcohol before or during the flight. Such people, if refused another drink or if asked to return to their seats and buckle their seat belts, may strike out at flight attendants or at fellow passengers.
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Aggression in Animals (Psychology and Mental Health)
Although humans exhibit aggression in its most subtle and complicated forms, other species of animals also manifest aggressive behaviors. Most animals will fight if they are attacked because self-defense and self-preservation are inherent in most species. Within their own social constructs, some animals will attack those outside their group, even those of the same species, although few animals turn on their own species to nearly the extent that humans do. Carnivorous animals exhibit aggressiveness in preying on other animals as food sources, the large overpowering the small, the swift overtaking the slow, the strong killing and consuming the weak. Most animals also aggressively defend the areas in which they forage and build their nests or dens.
The less aggressive species of animals, notably poultry, cattle, and fish, have been domesticated by humans as sources of food. More aggressive animals are sometimes used in sports such as bullfighting or cockfighting. In these instances, the animals are taught aggressive behaviors that are not instinctive to most of them. They are trained to perform, and satisfactory performance on their part is rooted in aggression.
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Aggression and Procreation (Psychology and Mental Health)
Aggressive behavior in nearly all species is rooted in sexuality. The male is usually more aggressive than the female. The sexual act is fundamentally an act of male aggression. Males during their sexual prime maintain the high levels of testosterone that assure the continuance of their species but that also result in aggressive, sometimes antisocial behavior.
The offensive aggression of one species, such as the predatory birds that feed on newborn turtles in the Galápagos Islands, evokes defensive aggressive behavior on the parts of those seeking to protect their young and to ensure the continuance of their species. The species that demonstrates defensive aggression in a situation of this sort may demonstrate offensive aggression in pursuing and attacking a weaker species. All of these aggressions among nonhumans are, in the final analysis, directed at preserving the species.
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Can Human Aggression Be Controlled? (Psychology and Mental Health)
Aggression is so inherent in nearly every species that it is doubtful that it can ever be fully controlled, nor would it necessarily be desirable to control it. When aggression among humans reaches the point of threatening the social fabric, however, steps must be taken to control or, at least, to redirect it. The adolescent male who wants to beat everyone up probably is suffering from extreme anger. It may be possible to redirect this anger, which is a form of energy, into more socially acceptable channels. It may also be possible to control elements in the environment—home life, being bullied at school, being rejected by peers—in such ways as to reduce the anger and resentment that have led to aggressive behavior.
The management of aggression through psychotherapy and medication may prove effective. Aggressive individuals, however, may resist treatments that could succeed in controlling the socially unacceptable aggressive behavior in which they engage. Attempts to control aggression often run counter to the very nature of human beings as they pass through the various developmental stages of their lives.
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Sources for Further Study (Psychology and Mental Health)
Anderson, Daniel R., et al. Early Childhood Television Viewing and Adolescent Behavior. Boston: Blackwell, 2001. The five coauthors of this valuable study seek to explore the roots of aggression in teenagers in terms of their exposure to violence through television viewing in their formative years.
Archer, John, and Kevin Browne. Human Aggression: Naturalistic Approaches. New York: Routledge, 1989. The approach is that of the social psychologist who is much concerned with environmental factors affecting aggression. A worthwhile book for the beginner.
Blanchard, Robert J., and Caroline D. Blanchard, eds. Advances in the Study of Aggression. New York: Academic Press, 1984. Dan Olweus’s chapter, “Development of Stable Aggressive Reaction Patterns in Males,” and John Paul Scott’s chapter, “Advances in Aggression Research: The Future,” are particularly compelling. The book as a whole is well constructed, although it may be more appropriate to those experienced in the field than to beginners.
Englander, E. K. Understanding Violence. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1997. Presents a panoramic view of violence and human aggression, condensing effectively the major research in the field over the past half century.
Feshbach, Seymour, and Jolanta Zagrodzka, eds. Aggression: Biological, Developmental, and Social Perspectives. New York: Plenum, 1997....
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Aggression (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
Any act that is intended to cause pain, suffering, or damage to another person.
Aggressive behavior is often used to claim status, precedent, or access to an object or territory. While aggression is primarily thought of as physical, verbal attacks aimed at causing psychological harm also constitute aggression. In addition, fantasies involving hurting others can also be considered aggressive. The key component in aggression is that it is deliberateccidental injuries are not forms of aggression.
Theories about the nature and causes of aggression vary widely in their emphases. Those with a biological orientation are based on the idea that aggression is an innate human instinct or drive. Sigmund Freud explained aggression in terms of a death wish or instinct (Thanatos) that is turned outward toward others in a process called displacement. Aggressive impulses that are not channeled toward a specific person or group may be expressed indirectly through safe, socially acceptable activities such as sports, a process referred to in psychoanalytic theory as catharsis. Biological theories of aggression have also been advanced by ethologists, researchers who study the behavior of animals in their natural environments. Several have advanced views about aggression in humans based on their observations of animal behavior. The...
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Aggression (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
Unjustified planned, threatened, or carried out use of force by one nation against another.
The key word in the definition of aggression is "unjustified"hat is, in violation of INTERNATIONAL LAW, treaties, or agreements. It was the basic charge leveled against Nazi Germany at the NUREMBERG TRIALS in 1946.
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Aggression (Encyclopedia of Science and Religion)
Aggression is behavior or a behavioral urge with the object of threatening or harming primarily members of one's own species. Several theories attempt to explain aggression.
Theories of aggression
The theory of instinct in ethology, as proposed by Konrad Lorenz (1903989), supposes that humans, like other biological creatures, are so constituted that they either continuously or periodically produce physiological energies that must seek outlet in certain kinds of species-specific aggressive behavior. Other ethologists argue that although innate genetic codes, as well as neural and hormonal processes, account for an aggressive disposition, there is no reason to assume the existence of aggressive energies. All ethologists agree, however, that aggression has arisen in the course of evolution and serves the same basic functions in animals and humans in regulating the intercourse between members of a species, although the regulation involves more psychological and cultural aspects with humans than with other animals.
This assumption is endorsed by sociobiology, first systematized by Edward O. Wilson (1929, which studies the social behavior of humans using evolutionary methods. Like ethologists, sociobiologists presume an innate aggressive disposition in humans, but sociobiologists define innateness as the measurable probability that aggressiveness will develop in a species within a specified set of environments, not the certainty that it will develop in all kinds of environments.
The psychoanalytic drive theory of Sigmund Freud (1856939) resembles the instinct theory of Lorenz in the assumption that innate drives represent physiological energies. Freud departs from Lorenz, however, by assuming that the activity of the drives does not result in species-specific behavior patterns. Freud concluded that two drive complexes embodied in human beings constitute the basic sources of all human behavior; these were the life-building Eros and the life-demolishing Thanatos, with aggression, directed both outwards against others and inwards against oneself, as its central feature.
The theory of needs by Henry Murray (1893988) put forward a list of about twenty presumably universal human needs, among them aggression. In need theory there is no place for physiological energies. If a certain need, such as aggression, is dominant within a person in many different situations, it also appears as a personality trait.
The frustration theory, first presented by John Dollard (1900980) and his colleagues, explains aggression in a different way. Although aggression probably is a universal human disposition, aggressive behavior arises only as a reaction to incidents where purposeful behavior is blocked. Because this theory can only explain some kinds of aggression, it was modified by Leonard Berkowitz (1926, who argued that aggression might still be a basic reaction to frustration.
The theory of learning proposed by Albert Bandura (1925 and others places the origin of aggression solely in the social environment in assuming that aggressive behavior is learned during life history. Aggression is learned either because it is rewarded, or at least not sanctioned, and thereby reinforced. It may also be learned by observing aggressive behavior at home, on the streets, or from the media and entertainment industries, which show that aggression is worthwhile because it gets results, with aggressive people becoming models for imitation.
There might be elements of truth in all the theories, depending on which kind of aggression is in question in which kind of context: physical or mental, intended or reactive, instrumental or spontaneous, hostile or teasing, assaulting or defending, directed toward others or toward oneself, status demonstration, group conflict, sex, age, personality, and so on. Innumerable circumstances may influence the causes of aggression and aggressive behavior may involve a wide spectrum of explanations.
Aggression as evil
Anger is a faithful partner to aggression. For medieval Christians wrath was one of the seven deadly sins. Only God could pass judgment on righteous and unrighteous deeds, and in many cases anger arises when an offense is experienced as unjust. This tenet might have left deeper marks on culture than people are aware of, showing up in the widespread condemnation of anger and aggression. While moderate anger can instigate constructive action, blind anger often leads to destructive aggression. Yet to psychology and biology even furious anger and aggression cannot in itself be sinful, let alone evil. Because aggression is probably an unavoidable human trait, be it conceived of as innate or acquired, from a scientific point of view the very occurrence of aggression cannot be malice, and the absence of aggression cannot be kindness. For conceptions of good and evil to make scientific sense, evil must be viewed as the absence of an attempt to control aggression, thus preventing love to prevail.
In the animal kingdom human beings alone are able to curb their natural impulses and their learned habits, at least to some extent, and to listen to the voice of conscience, moral qualities that can be learned and even taught using psychological techniques. The attempt to curb aggressive behavior might not succeed, which in itself is not evil because it is bound to happen now and then. Evil is only the absence of the attempt to curb aggression, and the absence of remorse at not doing so. In psychological terms, such remorse could be called guilt in a more general sense than the concrete failure of the attempt, due to the conscience, which in its innermost voice tells a person that every concrete failure is a sin against the general good or a sin against love understood as the basic source of bonding and attachment in personal and social life. In this way, the concrete failure to curb aggression makes a person guilty against humankind, not only against the victim of the concrete failure. If a person grasps this idea of aggressive behavior, and yet in defiance and pride does not attempt to control aggression or seek atonement for the sin of failing to control it, then this person might be called evil. If so, probably all people are evil now and then, and many are evil fairly often. However, control can take the shape of inhibition and aggression can be turned inwards, which is not always mentally healthy either.
See also ALTRUISM; EVIL AND SUFFERING; PSYCHOLOGY; SOCIOBIOLOGY
Bandura, Albert. Aggression: A Social Learning Analysis. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1973.
Berkowitz, Leonard. Aggression: Its Causes, Consequences, and Control. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1993.
Dollard, John; Doob, Leonard W.; Miller, Neal E.; Mowrer, Orval Hobart; and Sears, Robert R. Frustration and Aggression. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1939.
Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), trans. C. J. M. Hubback. London: Hogarth Press, 1953.
Lorenz, Konrad. On Aggression (1963), trans. Margaret Kerr Wilson. New York: Harcourt, 1966.
Murray, Henry A., et al. Explorations in Personality: A Clinical and Experimental Study of Fifty Men of College Age. New York: Oxford University Press, 1938.
Wilson, Edward O. Sociobiology. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975.
Aggression (Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity)
Theologians and moralists have long attempted to restrict the use of force by states through elaborating the concept of just and unjust wars, condemning those deemed unjust. Legal efforts to outlaw recourse to war came much later, mostly dating from World War I.
From World War I to Nuremberg
World War I ("the war to end all wars") left ten million deaths in its wake, eliminating an entire generation of young men in Europe. This catastrophe led countries to seek ways to ban war as an exercise of State sovereignty. U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Aristide Briand and the German Minister of Foreign Affairs Gustav Stresemann spearheaded negotiations to conclude a treaty that would achieve this aim. On August 27, 1928, in Paris the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed and opened for adherence by states. By virtue of Article I of this short text, the forty-five State parties "condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy;" in Article II they "agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be . . . shall never be sought except by pacific means."
As a corollary to the Pact, a subsequent American Secretary of State, Henry Stimson, enunciated the doctrine of non-recognition of international territorial changes effectuated by force. This doctrine was a response to Japan's unilateral seizure of Manchuria in September 1931. The Stimson doctrine was subsequently incorporated in several international declarations, including a League of Nations resolution of March 11, 1932; the Inter-American Pact of Rio de Janeiro of October 10, 1933; and the Budapest Articles of Interpretation (September 10, 1934) of the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
Germany and Italy were among the state parties to the Pact, but this did not prevent the outbreak of World War II, in which Hitler was the principal, but not the only aggressor. The Soviet Union, for instance, joined Germany in attacking Poland in September 1939, pursuant to a secret treaty signed by foreign Ministers Ribbentrop and Molotov, in which they divided Poland between the two countries. In October 1939 the Soviet Union occupied and annexed the three Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In November 1939, it took 18,000 square miles of Finnish territory and forced 450,000 Finns to resettle elsewhere. For the latter aggression the Soviet Union was formally expelled from the League of Nations in December 1939.
Following German capitulation in May 1945, the Allies adopted the London Agreement of August 8, 1945, which contained the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal. Article 6(a) of this charter provided for prosecution for crimes against peace: "namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a Common Plan or Conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing." Many Nazis leaders were indicted and convicted of this offence, seven of whom were sentenced to death. Despite the adherence of Germany to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, controversy emerged over whether or not the inclusion of "crimes against peace" amounted to the enunciation of new law and made the prosecutions contrary to norms of justice prohibiting punishment for offenses ex post facto. It is clear that the Kellogg-Briand Pact prohibited recourse to war, but it did not include any reference to personal responsibility or international crimes, so the issue remains subject to debate.
Whatever the legal position before the London Charter, the illegality of aggression was settled in its aftermath. By virtue of General Assembly Resolution 95(1) of December 11, 1946, the Nuremberg judgment, including the condemnation of aggression, was recognized as binding international law. At the same time, the International Law Commission was entrusted with drafting what became known as the "Nuremberg Principles," which were adopted in July 1950, and included a definition of the crime against peace.
In General Assembly Resolution 177(II) of November 21, 1947, the International Law Commission was further mandated to prepare a code on offences against the peace and security of mankind. After nearly forty years of effort, the International Law Commission adopted in 1996 a "Draft Code on Crimes Against the Peace and Security of Mankind" (not yet approved by the UN General Assembly). Article 16 of the draft code contains the following statutory definition: "An individual who, as leader or organizer, actively participates in or orders the planning, preparation, initiation or waging of aggression committed by a State shall be responsible for a crime of aggression."
General Assembly Resolution 3314 (XXIX) of December 14, 1974, constitutes the most detailed statement of the United Nations on aggression. The resolution defines aggression in its first articles. Article 1 provides:
Aggression is the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations.
Article 2 stipulates:
The first use of armed force by a State in contravention of the Charter shall constitute prima facie evidence of an act of aggression although the Security Council may, in conformity with the Charter, conclude that a determination that an act of aggression has been committed would not be justified in the light of other relevant circumstances, including the fact that the acts concerned or their consequences are not of sufficient gravity.
Article 3 lists a series of acts which, regardless of a declaration of war, would constitute aggression, including the invasion or attack by the armed forces of a state of the territory of another state, bombardment by the armed forces of a state against the territory of another state, the blockade of the ports or coasts of a state, and the sending of armed bands, groups, irregulars, or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another state.
Article 5 warns that "no consideration of whatever nature, whether political, economic, military or otherwise may serve as a justification for aggression. A war of aggression is a crime against international peace. Aggression gives rise to international responsibility. No territorial acquisition or special advantage resulting from aggression is or shall be recognized as lawful."
Article 7 explains, however, that "nothing in this declaration . . . could in any way prejudice the right to self-determination, freedom and independence, as derived from the Charter, of persons forcibly deprived of that right and referred to in the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among states in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes or other forms of alien domination, nor the right of these peoples to struggle to that end and to seek and receive support, in accordance with the principles of the Charter and in conformity with the above-mentioned Declaration."
The UN General Assembly has reaffirmed the consensus definition in several declarations, including the Declaration on International Détente (Res.32/155 (1977)) the Declaration of Societies for Life in Peace (Res. 33/73 (1978)), the Declaration on the Non-Use of Force (Res. 42/22 (1988).
UN Efforts to Combat Aggression
The United Nations was founded "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" (preamble), and Article 1, paragraph 1 of the Charter establishes its mandate "to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression. . ." Article 2, paragraph 3 imposes an obligation to resolve international disputes peacefully: "All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means." Finally, Article 2, paragraph 4 specifically engages States to "refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force."
The Charter prohibition of force has been repeated in countless resolutions of the Security Council and of the General Assembly. It is detailed most importantly in GA Resolution 2625 (XXV) of October 24, 1970, Resolution on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, which solemnly proclaims that
Every State has the duty to refrain in its international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. Such a threat or use of force constitutes a violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations and shall never be employed as a means of settling international issues. A war of aggression constitutes a crime against the peace, for which there is responsibility under international law. In accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations, States have the duty to refrain from propaganda for wars of aggression.
The Security Council has, however, avoided labeling breaches of the peace as acts of aggression. Even in a case as clear as the 1990 aggression toward Kuwait by Iraq, the Security Council condemned it merely as an "invasion and illegal occupation" (Res. 674/1990), and decided that "the annexation of Kuwait by Iraq under any form and whatever pretext has no legal validity, and is considered null and void" (Res. 662 (1990)). However no reference was made to the application of Article 3(a) of the definition of aggression, or to the penal consequences pursuant to Article 5.
Other uses of force since World War II could be measured against the standards laid down by the UN Charter, the Nuremberg Principles and the Declaration on the Definition of Aggression. These incidents include Dutch "police actions" in Indonesia (1947950), the French Indochina wars (1952954), the French-Algerian conflict (1954963), the sinking of the Greenpeace vessel "Rainbow Warrior" in Auckland Harbour in New Zealand, the war over the Belgian Congo (1960962), the Indian-Pakistani war 1970971, the Warsaw Pact's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan in 1980, the Iraq-Iran War (1980990), the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and the Vietnam War.
Justifications for the Use of Force, Self-Defense
There are, of course, some justifications for the use of force which are legitimate according to international law. Article 51 of the UN Charter stipulates: "Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security."
The application of this provision is, however, strictly limited by the over-all obligation to negotiate set forth in Article 2, paragraph 3, and the prohibition of the threat of or the use of force in Article 2, paragraph 4 of the UN Charter. In his address to the General Assembly on September 23, 2003, Secretary General Kofi Annan stated: "Article 51 of the Charter prescribes that all states, if attacked, retain the inherent right of self-defence. . . until now it has been understood that when states go beyond that, and decide to use force to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, they need the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations." The International Court of Justice has specified the situations in which Article 51 can be invoked, most recently in an advisory opinion of July 9, 2004. The consensus of international law experts is that preventive or pre-emptive war is not compatible with article 51 of the charter, which requires an existing "armed attack" and places overall responsibility on the Security Council.
Humanitarian intervention is another possible justification for the use of force, and it remains the responsibility of the Security Council to legitimize or not a given military intervention. For example, approval was given in Resolution 688 of April 5, 1991, with respect to the necessity to create safety zones for Kurds and other minorities in Iraq. Humanitarian intervention would also have been possible in order to stop the genocide in Cambodia (1975979) or in Rwanda (1994).
While humanitarian intervention may be an international duty in order to stop genocide and crimes against humanity, it must not become a cloak or an excuse for military interventions responding to other political agendas. For instance, Human Rights Watch recently conducted a study of the arguments advanced by the United States as justification for the war on Iraq begun in 2003, and concluded that the U.S. intervention did not satisfy the constitutive elements of a humanitarian intervention.
Aggression is not only an internationally wrongful act giving rise to State responsibility and the obligation to make reparation; it is also an international crime giving rise to personal criminal liability. The Diplomatic Conference of Rome adopted on July 18, 1998 the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which defines the jurisdiction of the Court in its Article 5, including with respect to the crime of aggression. Paragraph 2 of Article 5, however, stipulates: "The Court shall exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression once a provision is adopted in accordance with Articles 121 and 123 defining the crime and setting out the conditions under which the Court shall exercise jurisdiction with respect to this crime." This delay in the exercise of the Court's competence with regard to aggression is primarily attributable to the opposition of the United States. However, since the United States has indicated that it will not ratify the treaty, the assembly of States parties to the Rome Statute is now free to adopt a definition consistent with the judgment of the Nuremberg trials.
None of the Special Tribunals created since have jurisdiction over the crime of aggression, neither the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, nor the International Tribunal for Rwanda, nor the Iraqi Special Tribunal. Precisely because no international tribunal has been given competence to try aggressors for the crime of aggression, a number of representatives of civil society have organized "People's Tribunals."
Notable among these are the Russell Tribunal on the Vietnam War, organized by British pacifist Bertrand Russell and French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre (held 1967 in Sweden and Denmark) and the Brussels Tribunal on the Iraq War organized by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark (April 2004). The latter was conducted with the participation of two ex-United Nations humanitarian coordinators for Iraq, Dennis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck. Both tribunals condemned the United States as an aggressor in Vietnam and as an aggressor in Iraq. There is also a "Permanent People's Tribunal" (Fondation Internationale Lelio Basso), which has held more than 30 sessions, one of them in Paris in 1984, devoted to the genocide against the Armenians, and one held in Rome in 2002 devoted to international law and the new wars of aggression.
A Human Right to Peace
The international prohibition of aggression may also be viewed as asserting a human right to peace. On November 12, 1984 the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 39/11, annexing the Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace. This declaration reaffirms that "the principal aim of the United Nations is the maintenance of international peace and security" and the "aspirations of all peoples to eradicate war from the life of mankind and, above all, to avert a world-wide nuclear catastrophe." By virtue of operative paragraph 2, the declaration proclaims that "the preservation of the right of peoples to peace and the promotion of its implementation constitute a fundamental obligation of each State." In paragraph 3, the declaration "demands that the policies of States be directed towards the elimination of the threat of war, particularly nuclear war, the renunciation of the use of force in international relations and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means."
This declaration has been reaffirmed in resolutions of the General Assembly and of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. In its Resolution 2002/71 of April 25, 2002, the Commission linked the right to peace with the right to development and affirmed that "all States should promote the establishment, maintenance and strengthening of international peace and security and, to that end, should do their utmost to achieve general and complete disarmament under effective international control, as well as to ensure that the resources released by effective disarmament measures are used for comprehensive development, in particular that of the developing countries." The resolution urged "the international community to devote part of the resources made available by the implementation of disarmament and arms limitation agreements to economic and social development, with a view to reducing the ever-widening gap between developed and developing countries."
In a world of weapons of mass destruction, it is imperative to strengthen the early warning and peaceful settlement mechanisms of the United Nations. In view of the human consequences of war, aggression must be prevented through international solidarity. The idea that has become the norm is that no country can take the law in its own hands. Force can only be used as a last resort and only with approval of the UN Security Council.
SEE ALSOHumanitarian Law; International Criminal Court; Peacekeeping; United Nations Security Council; War; War Crimes
Bassiouni, M. Cherif (1998). The Statute of the International Criminal Court: A Documentary History. New York: Transnational Publishers.
Cassin V. et al. (1975). "The Definition of Aggression" Harvard International Law Journal 16:59813.
Dinstein, Yoram. War, Aggression, and Self-Defence, 2nd edition. Cambridge, U.K.: Grotius.
Fastenrath, Ulrich (2002). "Definition of Aggression." In A Concise Encyclopedia of the United Nations, ed. H. Volger. Hague: Kluwer Law International.
Ferencz, Benjamin (1975). Defining International Aggression, the Search for World Peace: A Documentary Analysis, 2 volumes. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana.
Roth, Kenneth (2004). "War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention." Available from http://www.hrw.org/wr2k4/3.htm.
Alfred de Zayas
Aggressiveness/Aggression (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
In the strict sense of the term, aggressiveness corresponds to certain fantasies and behaviors that Freud discovered in the clinical context, but he hesitated at first to give the term a definition that met the requirements of his own subsequent metapsychological sign-posts. Only after having shown the importance of ambivalence in the transference (Freud, 1912b) was he in a position to think of aggressiveness as a common relational occurrence, but one without a unique or even homogeneous origin. Afterward, his position never changed: he always regarded aggressiveness as the manifestation in fantasy or symptoms of a combination of hostile and erotic affective currents.
In 1900 Freud without hesitation connected aggressiveness to sadism. In 1905 he added a connection to masochism, adopting the position of Joseph Breuer. For Freud, the masculine position in sex led to a degree of sadistic activity, while the feminine position favored masochistic passivity. By 1924 this latter view lead to the hypothesis of a specifically feminine masochism. However, Freud moderated this preliminary opinion in a note added to his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d) in 1915 after he made the distinction between a triangular genital position and the phallicnarcissistic position, limited to existential conflicts between strong and weak.
In 1908 Freud further clarified aggressiveness with his conception of bisexuality. Moreover, Freud (1914c) was careful to make clear that he reproached Alfred Adler for not having taken into account the libidinal satisfaction linked to aggressiveness, even though it now seems obvious that Adler's idea was really more about primitive violence than aggressiveness, which, by its nature, appears after sexualization. Thoughts or behaviors put into motion by aggressiveness require the person to have an imagination capable of integrating a certain level of ambivalence, while the archaic functioning of violence described by Karl Abraham is of a preambivalent nature and involves a more primitive brutality and violence.
The first shift, in 1914, in Freud's theories involving drives, objects, aims, and the particular nature of eroticization had an irreversible effect on his view of the relationship between aggressiveness and narcissism. Narcissistic objects result from primary identifications and defensive violence, while with ego objects, ambivalence causes the person to oscillate between love and its equally eroticized opposites: aggressiveness, hate, and sadism.
In the case of the "Wolf Man" (1918b), as in the case of "little Hans" (1909b), Freud connected a child's early aggressive manifestations with early attempts at seduction. In The Ego and the Id (1923b), Freud described how in authentic aggression, eroticization is responsible for modifying the nature of primitive hostility, just as the need for tenderness replaces the need for mastery. In 1925 Freud became interested in the narcissistic exhibitionism that precedes aggressiveness in infantile fantasy. The overly precocious genital quality that Freud attributed to the narcissistic, imaginary phallus by sometimes confusing it with the penis, the real sexual organ specific to the boy, makes it difficult to give a more complete description of the genital specificity of aggressiveness. In contrast, it is easier to describe the early narcissistic forms of hostility that occur prior to a more commingled (and thus ambivalent) manifestation of the two great strains of the drives: sexuality and self-preservation.
Freud did not hesitate, in his theoretical shift of 1932, twelve years after the shift of 1920, to return to the principles of the first theory of the drives by opposing to the libidinal drives the primitive instincts of self-preservation, from which he then derived aggressiveness (1933a). In 1930 he made clear that he discerned in the psyche of the child a brutal original energy that would soon be rapidly sexualized and bring forth aggressiveness, hate, and sadism. Oral and anal metaphors thus came to illustrate this two-stage view of the origin of aggression.
Melanie Klein and her followers insisted on the presence of a precocious affective interaction, one teeming from the first with hostility and mistrust between the child and its environment and easily recognized in clinical practice. An illustration of this hypothesis is the notion of "projective identification." Proponents of these views have certainly recognized clinically what derives from a violent instinct of self-preservation and what belongs to an already object-related libidinized aggression, even though they imperfectly distinguish between the two.
The distinction between the dynamics of primitive instinctual violence and the dynamics of drive pressures giving way to aggressive thoughts or behaviors can be understood at three levels: the level of the specific origins of drives, the level of the particular history of the psychogenetic processes in question, and the level of Freudian metapsychology.
Freud never changed his view on the origin of fantasies or behaviors emanating from aggression. What is involved is a particular form of the sexual drives deflected from their primary aim and entangled with the brutal, hostile primitive impulses. These primitive impulses thus lose their initial, purely self-protective aim. The conjunction of these two fundamental instinctual currents in the service of aggressiveness thus constitutes a kind of layering of the drives. Such a layering does not exist in the infant's original genetic equipment in its pure state, though violent instincts, just like the sexual drives, exist in a pure and specifiable state in the basic affective equipment of the newborn.
From the psychogenetic point of view, psychoanalytic research has gradually enriched the study of affective development beginning at the pre-oedipal and pregenital periods. These studies have further clarified and developed Freud's views of the origins and organization of narcissism. The (primary and secondary) narcissistic stages necessarily involve some sort of objects, but Freud clearly demonstrated that narcissistic objects, focused primarily on a relationship of power, differ radically from oedipal objects, which involve dissimilarity, equality, and complimentarity. For aggressiveness to come into play, an object relationship must develop out of an organized fantasy arising from the Oedipus complex and genitality. Aggressiveness is a secondary development, as Freud conceived of it.
From the point of view of conflicts, the classical Freudian notion topographically places aggressiveness within the framework of the activities of the ego. From an economic point of view, aggressiveness is conceived as arising in connection with an already genitalized object. Finally, from a dynamic point of view, aggressiveness occurs when the sexual drives become bound to brutal, primitive impulses. In this way, the sexual drive tinges the brutal impulses with pleasure, with the result that they become sexually perverse and destructive. In a less pathologic course that arises with the start of the Oedipus complex and is finalized during adolescence, violent primitive impulses reinforce the sexual drives in their appropriate purpose in the service of love and creativity. Such is how Freud described aggressiveness in his elaboration of the concept of anaclisis.
Aggressive fantasies can involve a simultaneous libidinal satisfaction in attacking an object who represents (consciously or unconsciously) an oedipal rival, whereas in narcissistic conditions, the resulting violent primitive anger (rage) seeks to protect the self without taking into account the injuries inflicted on one who is experienced simply as an external threat and not as a genuine object (other). Confusion in this regard can be avoided through the use of transference and counter-transference.
The notion of aggression directed at the self, so often invoked in clinical practice, implies that an already eroticized sadism is turned back upon the subject, and not simply that partial or full desexualization leads to an act of self-punishment.
See also: Adler, Alfred; Anal-sadistic stage; Essential depression; Conflict; Cruelty; Death instinct (Thanatos); Depressive position; Envy; Narcissistic rage; Oral-sadistic stage; Paranoid position; Phobia of committing impulsive acts; Sadism; Sadomasochism; Splitting of the object; Sublimation; Turning around upon the subject's own self; Violence, instinct of.
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