Andrea Salvatore

Defining War: An Essentially Contested Concept between Symbolic Violence and Actual Violence

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Definition of War; Political Violence; Terrorism; Structural Violence; Clausewitz.

The present article deals with the concept of war from both a philosophical and a legal standpoint. The chief aim is to offer a clear and distinct definition of war, neutral with regard to any normative conception of the opponents. A brief discussion of the seminal definition provided by Carl von Clausewitz in his "Vom Kriege" (On War) - «an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfil our will» - will make it possible to unearth the essential features of a general (that is, non state-oriented) concept of war. These features are the means and end of the violent act. Based on this and independently of any other feature or factor, a war can be defined as a voluntary act (or a set of voluntary acts) of physical violence perpetrated against individuals to impose one's will on the opponent. The implications, at both the political and the semantic level, of such an "extended" and context-independent definition of war will be examined in the final part of the article.

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