Is politics necessarily violent? Does the justifiability of violence depend on whether it is perpetrated to defend or upend the existing order – or perhaps on the way in which it is conducted? Is violence simply direct physical harm, or can it also be structural, symbolic, or epistemic? In this book, Elizabeth Frazer and Kimberley Hutchings explore how political theorists, from Niccolo Machiavelli to Elaine Scarry, have addressed these issues. They engage with both defenders and critics of violence in politics, analysing their diverse justificatory and rhetorical strategies in order to draw out the enduring themes of these debates. They show how political theorists have tended to evade the central difficulties raised by violence by either reducing it to a neutral tool or identifying it with something quite distinct, such as justice or virtue. They argue that, because violence is necessarily wrapped up with hierarchical and exclusive structures and imaginaries, legitimising it in terms of the ends that it serves, or how it is perpetrated, no longer makes sense.
AbstractThis paper separates Wollstonecraft's critical concept of "machiavelian" power and the capacity for domination, from a neutral concept of politics as the complex processes surrounding the power to govern, from her normative account of popular sovereignty which emphasizes collective political power to ensure the discharge of natural duty by way of civil and political rights and duties. Wollstonecraft's voice as political judge—which is audible throughout her work, but particularly clearly in her book on the French Revolution—articulates the ways that political power can be abused and misused, and can also be effective. Her theory is political in several ways: she interrogates the nature of political power and its explanatory importance; she consistently articulates political judgment about matters both conventionally political and social; she offers a theoretical justification for the expansion of the scope of politics to cover relations that hitherto were thought to be outside its domain; and finally her work itself constitutes a political intervention.
Violence – from state coercion to wars and revolutions – remains an enduring global reality. But whereas it is often believed that the point of constitutional politics is to make violence unnecessary, others argue that it is an unavoidable element of politics. In this lucid and erudite book, Elizabeth Frazer and Kimberly Hutchings address these issues using vivid contemporary and historic examples. They carefully explore the strategies that have been deployed to condone violence, either as means to certain ends or as an inherent facet of politics. Examining the complex questions raised by different types of violence, they conclude that, ultimately, all attempts to justify political violence fail. This book will be essential introductory reading for students and scholars of the ethics and politics of political violence.
The Wellek Library Lectures from which these two books developed were given in 1996. The English version (2015) translates the material of the lectures that address the themes of "the conversion of violence," in particular in the philosophies of Hobbes and Hegel, and of "inconvertible violence." "Inconvertible violence" signals those forms and practices of violence that annihilate possibilities of resistance, that cannot be arrested by political power and transformed into civil and social exchange. The French version (2010) includes a second part made up of further essays—on Clausewitz, Marxism, Lenin and Gandhi, and Schmitt and Hobbes—in which Balibar continues to wrestle with the categories "violence" and "politics" and the complex, elusive relationships between them.
AbstractThis paper sets out diverse ways that Shakespeare's dramas can be read politically. Critics and political theorists have often concentrated on what Shakespeare said about politics—whether he was broadly republican or monarchist, protofeminist or a patriarchalist—as well as concentrating on his references to political themes of his day. Focusing on political readings of Merchant of Venice and Othello, I argue that, rather, we should pay attention to how Shakespeare plays with numerous styles of political action and role, from statesmanship and the competiton for state office or for sovereignty, to the everyday relations of kinship and friendship that interact with state government and law, and to individuals' struggles against politically established power—patriarchy, class, state law—that constrains or oppresses them. The figure of the Machiavellian political operator, whether acting for good or for ill, is contrasted with the open speaker of truth in public.
This review essay focusses on Gelderloos's normative theory of diversity of tactics. The book is worth serious attention by political theorists because of its sustained analysis of violence, nonviolence, tactics and strategy, but the normative theory fails. The essay endorses Gelderloos's nuanced analysis of the violence-nonviolence distinction and aspects of his account of tactics-strategy-goals. But the concepts 'state' and 'politics' are both treated by him in an overly simple way. Although aspects of his account show how complex any state-society distinction is, in other contexts he suggests that it is easy for actors to divide state enemies from oppressed society friends. He rejects politics as the capture of state power for dominating and self-interested purposes, and dismisses all other aspects of political power, institutions and relationships. He thereby denies any role for politics in the sustainability of the anarchist activism he wishes to defend and endorse. In particular his disavowal of any political power base to coalitions, means that coalitional action can only be depicted as evanescent and episodic, while anarchist action is premissed on putting fellow actors who are not comrades beyond the realm of care of concern.
There appear to be striking contradictions between different strands of anarchist thought with respect to violence – anarchism can justify it, or condemn it, can be associated with both violent action and pacifism. The anarchist thinkers studied here saw themselves as facing up to the realities of violence in politics – the violence of state power, and the destructiveness of instrumental uses of physical power as a revolutionary political weapon. Bakunin, Tolstoy and Kropotkin all express ambivalence about violence in relation to political power. Instead of reading this ambivalence as a mark of inconsistency, or of abdication of responsible judgement, we argue that it signals a profound recognition of the dynamics of violence in both repressive and resistant politics. Kropotkin and Bakunin seek a cooperative collective political effort which is negated by individual acts of violence although it cannot be committed to non-violence as such. Tolstoy by contrast in his recognition of the organised violence of political power, turns from politics to morality, from organisation to individual renunciation. Tolstoyan non-violence is the opposite of Kropotkin's mutual aid, and paradoxically Tolstoyan renunciation has effects only when it is underpinned by violence. Tolstoy leaves violence in its place, in his renunciation of it; and Bakunin and Kropotkin leave violence in its place in their plans for its undoing.