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This is a call to violence.  Not in the ordinary sense. Instead in the sense that I want you to go out and tell people that they should support a violent policy.  What is that policy specifically?  I want the police to start pulling over and if necessary arresting people who are speeding.  You might think this isn't a call to violence, you might think that this is simply a call for more police enforcement, but that obscures the real issue of what violence is.

What amazes me most is the incoherence of most people's views on violence.  If I walk up to a stranger and strike that stranger most everyone would agree that is violence.  Why it is violence is another story.  That's the story I want to talk about here.  To talk about that story I'm going to use that example and the example of the police pulling a driver over for speeding.

First I'm going to lay out a framework for thinking of violence, starting with and a reference and a couple definitions.  The work that has most influenced my thinking on violence is Robert Paul Wolff's On Violence.  In this essay he lays out the case that given a strict definition of violence as "the illegitimate or unauthorized use of force to effect decisions against the will or desire of others." our understanding of violence is completely wrong.  

We have a mental conception of violence that varies by the individual.  Some consider physically harming a living being violence.  Some consider physically harming animals violence, but don't include all living things.  Some only include those humans who are not considered property, although thankfully those folks are rare here.  Some think that there is an intentional element in violence, that is to say, there must be anger or some other purposeful emotion behind violence, not just the mere use of force.  Some people consider breaking a window violence, some don't.  Some consider breaking a window violence given the specific situation.  If I'm locked out of my house and have to break a window to get in far fewer people would consider that violent than would consider my breaking a Footlocker window to protest some political inequity.  And yet the action itself is ultimately the same.  That is the intentionality in our conception of violence.

There are two general alternatives to Wolff's definition. Either

Involving great amounts of force.

This definition makes the most sense intuitively, and the least logically.  What exactly counts as "great"?  We'd all agree that a gun shot counts, but what about an arrow?  How fast would that arrow have to be traveling?  Does the physical harm inflicted make a difference?  There are more questions here than answers.  More than that, virtually all of us here, even the most pacifist, have, or would, made calls for this kind of violence in one way or another.  Who here would not argue for a great use of physical force if it could stop the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan?  How many did argue for the use of great physical force to stop the gusher in the gulf?  Clearly we don't want to set aside these uses of violence.  Which leads us to the second definition.

Involving illegal exercise of force.

The reason I choose to use Wolff's definition over this one should be clear.  Mere laws should not determine what is and is not violent.  If that were the case then one would have to say that Nazi Germany was not violent, or that the holocaust was not violent, nor would any war legally pursued under law, which is a patent absurdity.  The basic gist is the same, violence has an aspect that has to do with authority and law, and whether or not something is authorized, legitimate or legal does have a bearing on whether it is violence. Legal and correct are not the same, as many of those who have fought for justice in the past

For example, and returning to my opening paragraph, a police officer hand cuffing a suspect is a use of force to effect decisions against the will or desire of some person. It seems clear to me that there are many cases of an officer cuffing a suspect that we would consider violent in no way at all. Most people, I think, would only consider it violent if the officer used some great amount of force, or used more force than was absolutely necessary. But the simple act of hand-cuffing a suspect wouldn't be considered violent by most people.

A different, and yet more to the point, example would be graffiti. Graffiti is illegal, and it requires the use of force to accomplish, but it wouldn't normally be thought of as violence. In fact, we could apply both of these definition in some cases of graffiti. Here's the best example I can think of.

The most violent graffiti

I think this thing is beautiful, absolutely wonderful. It takes something that was already there and that people didn't really think about being there, and if they did think about it they probably didn't want it there, and it turned that into something beautiful. And it did so with a whole crap ton of force. Far more force than it would take to, for the sake of argument, stab someone. Or hand cuff someone. But I'd bet that most of us would consider stabbing a lot more violent than this art. I think that would be a reasonable position to hold. And yet, under any definition of violence I have talked about here this would be more violent than stabbing someone in self defense. Because stabbing someone in self defense is legal and the amount of force used is less than is used in creating this.

So where does that leave us? We can either completely ignore our intuitions on what violence is or have no real definition other than "It's violence when I feel like it's violence." This is a rather frustrating. So let's look at Wolff's definition and see if that helps the situation.

"violence is the illegitimate or unauthorized use of force to effect decisions against the will or desire of others."
If you've read the essay, linked to earlier in the piece, you'll see that this definition also has it's problems, especially around the ideas of legitimacy and authority. Calling something violent is essentially a moral claim about someone's actions, not a claim about whether the actions fall under some set of criteria that would differentiate between different act separate from intention or cause. To return to an earlier example, if I walk up to a stranger and strike them hard most everyone would off the cuff assume that was violent. It would fulfill most every definition we've given for violence. But that is only assuming that I would have no legitimate reason for striking the person. Maybe they belong to a political party that is actively ethnically cleansing the ethnic group I belong to. There are numerous other possibilities that could justify striking them.  And if it is legitimate then we're stuck again with dueling definitions.

So what's the point here. Sure, violence is weird and complicated. Most things are once you really look at them. But what does this tell us about our politics and government? The first thing it tells us is that government is violent. Some would say that violence is the defining feature of government. Policy such as the one I noted in my opening paragraph, are based on violence. Yes, they may be done for good reason, and they may work to reduce harm to society in general or to some specific group. But they are always based on force, or the credible threat thereof. And that force cannot always be legitimate and authorized. But without those things the government cannot exist.

And this is one of the important truths that many on the left really don't want to admit: You cannot be against all violence and be for a government. The two are fundamentally incompatible. Government is the single most violent institution throughout history. Government was created through violence and is maintained by violence. Government's central defining characteristic is violence, it is the thing which all government's share. So the fact is that most people don't in fact advocate for non-violence. Many people claim to praise it, and yet continue to push to implement their policies through a violent institution, the government.

The question then is whether we can order the world in a non-violent way. Can we organize ourselves and still hold to our ideals? Or are we doomed to continue the cycle of violence? To return to my initial call, is it worth it to use violence and the threat thereof to keep people safe on the road?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 1-)

    If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

    by AoT on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 03:00:15 PM PST

  •  Tonight's ACM has been crossposted to: (6+ / 0-)

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 03:09:32 PM PST

  •  ACM Schedule (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlueDragon, AoT

    February

    16th: Galtisalie
    23rd: Annieli

    March

    2nd: NY Brit Expat
    9th: Geminijen
    16th:
    23rd:
    30th:

    April

    6th:
    13th:
    20th:
    27th:

    Hi comrades! We have openings from the 16th of March onwards. If someone prefers the second of March, I will be glad to switch, but I can only do the 23rd in March. Please, can we get some volunteers to write for the group? Without your contributions, there is no group. So, please, the AC meetup needs you and your reports on actions, events, ideas, discussions on anything from an anti-capitalist perspective. Please reply to this post or send a kos-message to NY Brit Expat or write to our group email so that we can schedule it. If you want to write, but need an idea to write on, we can help you work through some ideas and we are willing to edit or proofread. Thank you!

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 03:18:15 PM PST

  •  AoT said that they would be (5+ / 0-)

    late to the dance tonight due to a personal commitment, but they will be here. So we need to keep the discussion going in their absence ...

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 03:23:42 PM PST

    •  A very thoughtful essay. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlueDragon, NY brit expat, andalusi

      However, as I am not necessarily opposed to violence, by any of these definitions, the precise definition of violence seems to me to have as little import as your definition of god.

      To me, it is the end, not the means, that seems important.

      But if I may, I could, in the famous words of a Supreme Court justice, suggest a "definition" that has sufficed in other instances:
      "I know it when I see it".

  •  This is a fundamental issue when it comes to (8+ / 0-)

    the current struggle for social justice.  Before I address the central point, I'd just point out (one more time) that when you talk about "our understanding of violence" and our attitudes towards it are totally distorted by the massive amount of propaganda we are being subjected to.

    When it comes to mass psychology, relating to issues of "conventional wisdom," widely-accepted memes, and our understanding of what is and is not possible in the realms of economics, governance, and social norms, as a society we are operating in a (artificially) limited (cognitive) space.

    And that is by design.  It is the product of being under (cognitive) attack 24/7.  So (in my view) there is no real agency when it comes to our collective understanding of these issues because we are under a constant (and very effective) propaganda attack specifically designed to affect mass psychology, to manufacture consent.

    Now, getting to the issue of violence, the bottom line is that the levers of power have been captured by criminal elements (business cartels) and have turned the state into a tool of oppression (exploitation and subjugation) against the citizenry.  That is as violent as it can get...

    The state then (acting on behalf of the real powers behind the scene) oppresses the population in multiple ways, including violence (of many flavors).

    Now, when it comes to the social justice movement (which I believe will eventually succeed), once it builds into a strong-enough force (through unity, solidarity, and a common understanding of the true nature of the system) capable of projecting real power (i.e., the capability to project more net violence than the captured institutions), that's when the corporate state will fall.  But not until then.

    •  I like Reinhold Nieburh's fluid term (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ray Pensador, northsylvania, AoT

      "coercion" better than "violence." I still hold out hope that desperately needed justice can come "peacefully" in many situations. As lousy and ineffective as it is sometimes, I still greatly value democracy's "real power." Here is my piece on the subject using Niebuhr's Olympian slope length paragraphs: http://gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com/...

      garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

      by Galtisalie on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 06:52:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Don't get me wrong. I don't mean to say that (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        annieli, Galtisalie, northsylvania, AoT

        only actual violence can succeed when it comes to rising up against state oppression.  But you need to be able to project power (and that implies the capability for violence).

        Basically, once the ruling elite comes to terms with the realization that if they don't back down (and allow democracy to take hold) they could be in actual physical danger (the projection of power), that's when you see revolutions (whether peaceful of violent) succeed.

        And for that you need unity and solidarity from the people.

        •  I knew you weren't saying that. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ray Pensador, northsylvania, AoT

          I think Niebuhrian coercion does not however rely upon the 1% sensing "actual physical danger," for the most part. We are after justice not "them." They will run away to oases of stored wealth long before they are in actual physical fear. When and if the masses achieve global democracy of the economy, they will justly seize the unjustly taken wealth where they can, but capital flight has long before that occurred. But hopefully then we can laugh for the most part, because the 1% will be the ones holding the worthless paper. Let THEM eat derivatives on Bermuda as the sea level rises. They might even have to change their own bed sheets! Global solidarity is the key then the justice will follow.

          garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

          by Galtisalie on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 07:34:10 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting but contains some assumptions that (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat, BlueDragon, AoT, andalusi

    you have not fully defended:

    Some would say that violence is the defining feature of government. Policy such as the one I noted in my opening paragraph, are based on violence. Yes, they may be done for good reason, and they may work to reduce harm to society in general or to some specific group. But they are always based on force, or the credible threat thereof. And that force cannot always be legitimate and authorized. But without those things the government cannot exist.

    And this is one of the important truths that many on the left really don't want to admit: You cannot be against all violence and be for a government. The two are fundamentally incompatible. Government is the single most violent institution throughout history. Government was created through violence and is maintained by violence. Government's central defining characteristic is violence, it is the thing which all government's share.

    After all of the careful parsing on what violence is, you just seem to assume, without demonstrating it, other than just a general referral to historical examples, that government is, by its very nature violent and that [government] force cannot always be legitimate and authorized.  

    You have to analyze what government is more carefully to make those statements. Even if this means that you define government as voluntary membership in a system which establishes a group of rules and regulations which all members of the society have agreed to follow and which
    they regularly have an opportunity to modify by consensus.

    You have to show that government force cannot always be legitimate and authorized. Unless, of course, you are saying that all rules and regulations, even those voluntarily entered into, are a form of force.

    •  Thank you for the reply (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      andalusi, annieli, ZhenRen

      The definition of government generally includes the use of force. And it is a fact that all nations have been founded by the use of violence. Certainly it may be that the could be a government that only uses force legitimately, but the bigger problem with that is that using that definition of violence means that things like speaking at the wrong time could be considered violence. That would mean that most lying would be considered violent.

      I think perhaps I conflated two different problems, that of defining violence and that of government violence.

      Even if this means that you define government as voluntary membership in a system which establishes a group of rules and regulations which all members of the society have agreed to follow and which
      they regularly have an opportunity to modify by consensus.
      I don't see how you can have a voluntary government, but I do see your bigger point here. I think that a discussion of what exactly constitutes a government would be a new diary entirely. I may have to start on that.

      If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

      by AoT on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 05:40:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Now that the clerical stuff is out of the way ... (8+ / 0-)

    I wanted to address what is in the piece and what I think is an excellent point about the role of the state throughout history in the context of a state and society defined by class and class oppression. The state is not a neutral force, it never has been. It serves the interests of those in power. In the context of bourgeois democracy, it needs to balance that fact against the ideological position that we live in a democracy and that the state is supposed to represent all citizens and not the ruling class only.

    I think that we need to understand what the role of a state is and how it evolves over time in terms of what it is and what is purports to be in the context of democracies.

    I think that AoT makes an excellent point and that it is one that we must understand; I think that we must also understand why states come into existence (not only how they come into existence) and what and whose interest it serves:

    You cannot be against all violence and be for a government. The two are fundamentally incompatible. Government is the single most violent institution throughout history. Government was created through violence and is maintained by violence. Government's central defining characteristic is violence, it is the thing which all government's share. So the fact is that most people don't in fact advocate for non-violence. Many people claim to praise it, and yet continue to push to implement their policies through a violent institution, the government.

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 03:47:10 PM PST

    •  Still think you ned a clearer definition of (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, AoT, northsylvania, ZhenRen

      government in the abstract including any possible future forms of government, before we can continue this discussion, especially since the point AoT seems to be making is as much about government as violence.

      •  agreed ... I am also substituting (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Geminijen, AoT, ZhenRen

        the state for government which are different things ... so we need to talk about the role of government, the state and what any different or future forms of government we are advocating for. None of us want what was called "socialism" under Stalinism. If we are advocating for a true democratic government under control by the majority (which has never existed) then we need to be saying that; talking about democracy as rule from the bottom rather than top-down is where my starting point is ...

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 04:45:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Though, if undo force is not to be applied (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NY brit expat, AoT, ZhenRen

          some might say we need consensus or much larger than majority or some combination of the two.

          •  I don't see how you can have a consensus to (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            northsylvania, ZhenRen, NY brit expat

            use force on someone within the body coming to said consensus because the person being so targeted with force would almost certainly object and there wouldn't be consensus. Do you mean that the rules and such would be determined by consensus and then the enforcement would be separate from that rule determining.

            Also, now that NY brit expat brought it up, I should be talking abut the state, and not government. I tend to use government when I'm not in political science circles because I find that it's less confusing to Americans.

            If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

            by AoT on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 05:46:03 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  In anarchist Spain (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AoT

          it did exist, for nearly three years, using variations of collectivism/syndicalism/communism, involving some three to eight million people.

          And there are a few other examples.

          "The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue." Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays

          by ZhenRen on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 02:35:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Anarchists (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AoT

        have developed some analysis of what constitutes a state.

        http://anarchism.pageabode.com/...

        However, as much as the state may change its form it still has certain characteristics which identify a social institution as a state. As such, we can say that, for anarchists, the state is marked by three things:

          1) A "monopoly of violence" in a given territorial area;

          2) This violence having a "professional," institutional nature; and

          3) A hierarchical nature, centralisation of power and initiative into the hands of a few.

                Of these three aspects, the last one (its centralised, hierarchical nature) is the most important simply because the concentration of power into the hands of the few ensures a division of society into government and governed (which necessitates the creation of a professional body to enforce that division). Hence we find Bakunin arguing that "[w]ith the State there must go also . . . all organisation of social life from the top downward, via legislation and government." [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 242] In other words, "the people was not governing itself." [Kropotkin, Op. Cit., p. 120]

                This aspect implies the rest. In a state, all the people residing in an area are subject to the state, submitting themselves to the individuals who make up the institution of authority ruling that territory. To enforce the will of this few, they must have a monopoly of force within the territory. As the members of the state collectively monopolise political decision making power, they are a privileged body separated by its position and status from the rest of the population as a whole which means they cannot rely on them to enforce its will. This necessities a professional body of some kind to enforce their decisions, a separate police force or army rather than the people armed.

                Given this, the division of society into rulers and ruled is the key to what constitutes a state. Without such a division, we would not need a monopoly of violence and so would simply have an association of equals, unmarked by power and hierarchy (such as exists in many stateless "primitive" tribes and will exist in a future anarchist society). And, it must be stressed, such a division exists even in democratic states as "with the state there is always a hierarchical and status difference between rulers and ruled. Even if it is a democracy, where we suppose those who rule today are not rulers tomorrow, there are still differences in status. In a democratic system, only a tiny minority will ever have the opportunity to rule and these are invariably drawn from the elite." [Harold Barclay, The State, pp. 23-4]

        "The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue." Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays

        by ZhenRen on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 02:55:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The last paragraph (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AoT

          is particularly relevant. To anarchists, the "democratic" State isn't equivalent to society due to the central authority that separates the majority of "ordinary" people from the echelons of the elite structure.

          The State, on the other hand, is a centralized authority characterized by a top-down hierarchy, and ordinary people at the bottom have little if any effective influence with elites at the top. Elites effectively control the electoral process, have an extraordinary degree of control over who gets access, and the governing culture is extremely corrupting (even if "legal").

          The State is not "the people" as a collective. Despite pretenses to democracy, the echelons of vertical hierarchy separate the majority from the ruling minority. "Representatives" quickly become part of an entrenched bureaucracy. New representatives find themselves isolated and useless unless they play ball. When people don't have direct self-management of their own communities, it is coercive.

          Whenever a central government using this top down command structure rules over a population, it is ultimately force which backs it up. This becomes evident when the population dissents, strikes, or tries to assemble outside of the hierarchical structure of the State.

          The State by its very nature maintains its existence by violence, rather than consent. It doesn't need to be captured by "criminal elements". After all, isn't crime itself, and the definition of crime, defined by the State?

          The State can make laws favoring the ruling class behaviors. Take for example, property. Proudhon famously said "property is theft," when public resources are expropriated by a ruling class. The concept of property is a violent construct because it requires authoritarian enforcement. But most states support the right to property (speaking especially of property used in production, whether owned by the state or owned privately).

          Most criminal prosecutions involve property. Police spend most of their time enforcing property laws. But when the State takes property (using aggression and violence) it is excused by its citizens as legal. The establishing of a state begins with large takings of property and establishing borders and dominion. Entire continents have been taken by States using force (ex. North America), all considered legal and non-violent or excusable violence by those States (since the State decides what is legal, and what is violent).

          Violence is usually defined by statists as aggression without the authority of the state. Hence, drone attacks on weddings are excused, breaking a window of a bank is not.

          "The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue." Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays

          by ZhenRen on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 03:11:51 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Very informing. (5+ / 0-)

    You've definitely altered my perceptions.

    As an aside, since October 1st, 2013, I have spent a great deal of time focusing on comments being written across the internet in response to articles about the rollout of the PPACA.

    I was merely observing -- sampling -- the reactions of USians to being given a specific human right -- as ratified by all the nations of the world (except the US) at the UN in 1948.

    I don't think I've ever seen anything quite so shocking and violent across an entire population on the Internet, hence my bemused sigline.

    I now realize that USians were meeting "violence against them" (aka subsidized health care) with their own rabidly violent spew. They were prepared to kill and they used emotionally violent language to express themselves.

    This has started to tone down just in the past two weeks.

    But I do believe a small majority of USian's brains do believe severe violence is being used against them by their government. They "feel" that and "know" it with every cell of their being.

    Viva la violence.


    “The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.” ― Eric Schmidt

    by Pluto on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 04:14:58 PM PST

    •  Oh, and let me be precise: (4+ / 0-)

      If we could remove these USian brains and physically examine them in a laboratory -- we would see clear evidence of the stress that "a terrible violence" has been done to the person who housed that brain.

      The brain doesn't know the difference between a "holocaust" or "subsidized health care." It only knows the neurological brine it is floating in, which informs it that severe violence has been done to this person.

      I am currently neutral on the gun issue in the US -- due to a similar investigation -- but I am certain that the identical "experience of violence" along with the ensuing " neurological brine" is surrounding the brains of those who are threatened with the "violence" of restricting their access to guns or ammunition.

      We are, after all, animals. And, the brain is a bodily organ that continues to evolve during a lifetime. This is the mechanism of that.


      “The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.” ― Eric Schmidt

      by Pluto on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 04:30:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My definition: an intentional painful contact (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geminijen, NY brit expat, Pluto, AoT

    to any part of the body of another human being or animal, which may be just or unjust depending upon the circumstances. Then we can debate those circumstances. But to me "violence" is not synonymous with government, even "unjust" government. Providing basic needs, including health care to people is not committing violence against them. Even an "unjust" government does not solely act through violence. Intimidation and repression, much as I despise them, are not violence.

    garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

    by Galtisalie on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 04:47:39 PM PST

    •  What if, as in capitalism/capitalist government (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, Pluto, Galtisalie

      the rules of the system - i.e. capitalist exploitation in the workplace, legal use of credit default swaps, very low minimum wages, unjust laws for single parents, uniust housing laws, etc. result in the forced removal of the  person's labor, malnutrition and sometimes death resulting from underpaid work, homelessness, etc

      Can't we call these results since they are intentionally built into the system,  violence?

      (Same goes for systemic sexism and racism).

    •  The issue of violence and government (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Galtisalie, annieli, Geminijen

      isn't that everything the government does is violent, there are plenty of good things that the government does. The problem is that the basis of government's power is violence. So you may want the government to do non-violent things, but for that government to exist it needs to do violence.

      Intimidation and repression, much as I despise them, are not violence.
      Repression is often violent, and intimidation requires the credible threat of violence.

      If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

      by AoT on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 05:54:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  the most radical thing that could happen (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pluto, AoT

    would be to strip the Supreme Court of jurisdiction where it has usurped power, and to provide laws for dismissal of justices who violate separation of powers. What starts a civil war, such as how Lincoln did it, is to question the Court's legitimacy. Most violence against the nation domestically since Reconstruction has emanated from the Court.

  •  excellent diary, sorry to be late (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geminijen, andalusi, northsylvania, AoT

    in the midst of a crisis

    I would like to point out the difference between violence's multiple meanings such as force vs. violation and its occurrence under ordered or disordered situations as well as natural versus cultured environments. Violence is also a matter of scale and symmetry as well as Foucauldian issues of power

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 06:22:06 PM PST

  •  isn't anarchism an attempt (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    genocideisnews, ZhenRen, AoT

    to get past the violence of governing?

    what about quaker unanimity?

    i agree that governments are inherently violent in their purposes to date.  and even non-Western cultures have violent ruling practices in many instances.

    •  Indeed! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, ZhenRen

      Great points. Other examples include The Levellers and some of the Utopian communities of the 19th century (of which some were explicitly anarchistic). Some would say worker-owned collaboratives acting collectively — i.e. anarcho-syndicalism, like the CNT of pre-Franco Spain — is another route.

      There's also Ursula K. LeGuin's The Dispossessed and probably lots of other scifi, fantasy or utopian writing that I'm forgetting that deals with these topics.

    •  Absolutely (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT

      That's the entire idea. Here's an explanation I will bang out for anyone interested:

      The view that the State is violent and coercive by nature, based on the authoritarian, violent concept of property, historically goes back to anarchists of the time of Bakunin and Proudhon in the mid 19th century.

      "The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue." Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays

      by ZhenRen on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 03:17:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Heh (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AoT

        I wrote this in the wee hours of the morning. I deleted most of what I wrote for the sake of brevity... but forgot to remove my reference to the once longer post.

        "The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue." Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays

        by ZhenRen on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 09:43:31 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  On force, 'legitimate' violence, and the state (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ZhenRen, AoT

    Three things from three greater thinkers than me, in no particular order:

    1. Force, conflict and violence. You write, "Who here would not argue for a great use of physical force if it could stop the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan?" I think, although I don't know for sure, that you're referring to direct action or civil disobedience — things like the Ploughshares Movement that intentionally damages (often symbolically) nuclear weapons (and in some cases nuclear power development). Here and elsewhere in the piece I think you're confusing violence and conflict.

    To my mind, conflict is necessary; violence is not. Gandhi pioneered this method — while having love for ones adversary, pursuing relentless nonviolent resistance (satyagraha or "soul force"). In an oppressive situation, conflict is necessary to end the oppression; Gandhi, King and others would argue violence is not necessary. Nor did he equate pacifism with passiveness; he wrote, for instance, "I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence... I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor." Conflict was clearly necessary.

    Studies on nonviolent social change movements often focus on their methods of (nonviolent) conflict — thus you have the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, and books by Gene Sharp like Waging Nonviolent Struggle and The Methods of Nonviolent Action.

    2. Legitimate and illegitimate violence. I was surprised you didn't quote Max Weber here, who argued that the definition of a state is an entity which has a "monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force" or a "monopoly on violence." Naturally, some of us question whether the state does (or should) indeed have such a monopoly, but it's the basic framework in which most modern states have evolved. Who decides what's "legitimate" force? The state does. Or more precisely, any force undertaken by the state is ipso facto legitimate. (Again, not saying I agree with that, but it's the prevailing philosophy.)

    3. The state, violence and persuasion. In her fantastic work On Violence, Hannah Arendt talks about how explicit violence enacted by a state demonstrates that the state is losing (or has lost) political power. A state with political power needs no violence to enforce its legitimacy. It's when that legitimacy begins to be undermined that violence begins to be used as a "solution," which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. Gandhi, King and others were actually masters at inducing violence (salt marchers being beaten, civil rights marchers enduring fire hoses and police dogs) as a way to make the implicit violence of the state explicit. Violence as often delegitimizes a state as reinforces it, and successful nonviolent conflict often exploits that with a dilemma action or dilemma demonstration.

    Anyway, good starting point of an essay but wanted to offer these additional resources.

    •  Gandhi was heavily influenced (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, genocideisnews

      by Tolstoy, who was an anarcho-pacifist. He and Tolstoy exchanged letters. As I understand it, Gandhi also read Kropotkin (as did Tolstoy).

      "The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue." Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays

      by ZhenRen on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 03:20:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Examples of correspondence (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, genocideisnews

      http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/...

      http://en.wikisource.org/...

      During an interview in London with Evelyn Wrench, the editor of The Spectator, Gandhi was asked, "Did any book ever affect you supremely and was there any turning point in your life?" Gandhi replied that he changed the whole plan of his life after reading Ruskin's Unto This Last, adding that "Tolstoy I had read much earlier. He affected the inner being." Gandhi's chief biographer and secretary in later life, Pyarelal, claims that so deeply was Gandhi's thinking "impregnated with Tolstoy's that the changes that took place in his way of life and thinking in the years that followed [his reading of Tolstoy] can be correctly understood and appreciated only in the context of the master's life and philosophy."
      http://www.sgiquarterly.org/...
      http://en.wikisource.org/...

      "The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue." Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays

      by ZhenRen on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 09:40:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  So, the point being (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      genocideisnews, AoT

      that Gandhi was to a degree, anti-state, even though not a full blown anarchist, and he questioned the legitimacy of the violence used by the state to oppress. Thoreau, also an influence on Gandhi, was an individualist anarchist who questioned the legitimacy of the state. Part of anarchist sociopolitical theory is the view that the State is inherently based on coercion (see my post upthread), and ultimately on violence, since States dominate not by consent of the governed (despite the veneer of democracy that may be present), but by a hierarchy with elites at the top, and the majority at the bottom. This is marked by the use of a professional body of enforcers trained in violence, which wouldn't be required if there weren't a high degree of coercion involved to maintain control.

      Anarchists do not view the authority of the state, which is linked to wage slavery, economic inequality, and exploitation, as legitimate, since it is based on unequal power relationships. Some view resistance to this unjust authority as a form of self defense.

      Some anarchists do not view (corporate) property damage as violent. For example, is driving a spike into an old growth tree marked for cutting, which may ruin saw blades, property damage? And strikers who sabotage vehicles used in production -- is that a wrong use of force? Cutting fencing is another example. Countless similar  examples exist.

      Graeber pointed out that Gandhi was dealing with people in the resistance movement who were blowing up trains and killing officials, and yet he refused to condemn the individuals involved, while not condoning the acts.

      Actually, why limit ourselves to Egypt? Since we are talking about Gandhian tactics here, why not consider the case of Gandhi himself? He had to deal with what to say about people who went much further than rock-throwing (even though Egyptians throwing rocks at police were already going much further than any US Black Bloc has). Gandhi was part of a very broad anti-colonial movement that included elements that actually were using firearms, in fact, elements engaged in outright terrorism. He first began to frame his own strategy of mass non-violent civil resistance in response to a debate over the act of an Indian nationalist who walked into the office of a British official and shot him five times in the face, killing him instantly. Gandhi made it clear that while he was opposed to murder under any circumstances, he also refused to denounce the murderer. This was a man who was trying to do the right thing, to act against an historical injustice, but did it in the wrong way because he was “drunk with a mad idea.”

      Over the course of the next 40 years, Gandhi and his movement were regularly denounced in the media, just as non-violent anarchists are also always denounced in the media (and I might remark here that while not an anarchist himself, Gandhi was strongly influenced by anarchists like Kropotkin and Tolstoy), as a mere front for more violent, terroristic elements, with whom he was said to be secretly collaborating. He was regularly challenged to prove his non-violent credentials by assisting the authorities in suppressing such elements. Here Gandhi remained resolute. It is always morally superior, he insisted, to oppose injustice through non-violent means than through violent means. However, to oppose injustice through violent means is still morally superior to not doing anything to oppose injustice at all.

      And Gandhi was talking about people who were blowing up trains, or assassinating government officials. Not damaging windows or spray-painting rude things about the police.

      http://nplusonemag.com/...

      "The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue." Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays

      by ZhenRen on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 11:49:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Great reference (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AoT, ZhenRen

        I've often tried to find Gandhi speaking directly on the issue of property destruction (specifically whether he considered it nonviolent) but haven't been able to.

        But his solidarity with others in the resistance despite their difference in strategy is very compelling.

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