Fear, loathing, and moral qualms on the battlefield

Thesis Eleven 154 (1):11-27 (2019)
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Randall Collins is unparalleled as a sociologist of violence. Yet I here take issue with his view, often expressed by scholars, that moral qualms have prevented many modern soldiers or airmen from shooting or killing. Evidence from soldiers and airmen in modern wars shows that they may hesitate momentarily before their first killing, but then killing eases. The tragedy is that qualms only seem to strike soldiers after their war has ended, contributing substantially to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Soldiers can kill easily if ordered to by effective coercive authority, especially if the enemy is shooting at them. This grim conclusion is at least balanced by the rarity of ‘real killers’ – soldiers who enjoy and are excited by killing.



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Violence: A Micro-Sociological Theory.Randall Collins - 2009 - Greenwood Publishing Group.

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