chapter  5
20 Pages

Aggro as Ritualized Aggression

Throughout the preceding discussion of order both in the classroom and on the football terraces there has been the theme of multiple realities. The notion that social events have an ‘objective reality’ independent of the active process whereby meanings are ascribed to them has been firmly resisted. Instead, we have pointed out that events such as those which occur at football matches are capable of being construed in a number of ways depending upon the viewpoint from which interpretations are made. From the inside the fans are able to provide accounts which illustrate the ruledirected aspects of activities at and around the soccer grounds. In contrast, those outside the football culture often believe, and at times forcibly maintain, that actions on the terraces are barbarically senseless and without reason. Similarly, we have seen that school kids have very different ways of construing apparently violent disturbances in the classroom from teachers involved in the same events. From a purely phenomenological point of view one might be tempted to leave it at that-to articulate the viewpoints and social realities which exist and invite readers to take their pick. And this would be a very reasonable stance to take since there is no adequate method for choosing between such social realities. One might wish to argue that some realities fit better with objective data than others but this is hardly the point. Realities are constructed in terms of subjective meanings and not in terms of objective facts. We can all recognize the facts that football trains are sometimes damaged and that both fans and policemen are sometimes injured. We might quarrel over the extent to which these occur but even if we were to agree we might still construct different explanations concerning these events.* In trying to decide why certain things happen we are sdfsdfgsdgdgdfg

invariably thrown back on our conceptions of what is happening and our notion of what is happening depends on where we stand in relation to the social phenomenon under discussion. What we have done so far is simply to stand inside the phenomenon. We have listened to what fans say, we have looked at events on the terraces in close-up and on the basis of this we have outlined the social order and shared meanings which exist. We may still not like what is happening and what football fans do. We may continue to view the aggro leaders and hardcases as sad reflections of the violent society in which we live. We may equally view the nutters as pathetic attentionseeking figures unable to achieve social approval in any other setting. And we might be right. The fact that order exists is no guarantee that football grounds are nice friendly places to take one’s aunty to. To draw a rather horrendous analogy we could point out that the extermination of four million Jews and two million gypsies in the concentration camp gas chambers of Hitler’s Germany was a highly ordered and structured business. Victims were not killed by frenzied and anarchic savages. They were slaughtered on a terrifying scale by ordinary members of a state machinery in a very rule-governed and structured manner. The people who did the butchering were not animals but men and women with a set of perceptions and shared meanings which allowed the whole business to be justified and made rational, by absorbing it within a shared theory of men and society. Rituals of depersonalization practised on the incoming victims forced them to share in some aspects of the very theory in terms of which their extermination could be seen as justified.