- Taschenbuch: 120 Seiten
- Verlag: Mariner Books (11. März 1970)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0156695006
- ISBN-13: 978-0156695008
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 13,5 x 0,9 x 20,3 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 1 Kundenrezension
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 65.303 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
On Violence (Harvest Book) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 11. März 1970
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Presents an analysis of the nature, causes, and significance of violence in the second half of the twentieth century. This title also re-examines the relationship between war, politics, violence, and power.
Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende
Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) was an influential German political theorist and philosopher whose works include The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, and Eichmann in Jerusalem.
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After reaching the end of this sharply focused essay, I discovered it is best read in reverse, beginning with section III and working backwards.
It is a tutorial on the origins, use and misuse of violence, and its associated concepts of power, strength, authority, and terror, and to a much lesser extent also, influence, control, obedience, and command.
It is section III that deals with the origins of violence in both human and animal. And as is true with the other sections, existing common sense and settled sociological theology are reopened and challenged. Both Konrad Lorentz and B.F. Skinner's theories, for instance are placed anew under the microscope, in light of human, rather than just anthropomorphized animal experience, with surprisingly new understandings emerging.
Section II deals with the definitional slipperiness of these concepts as they have been used and misused -- again with surprisingly new interpretations. And again, the standard understandings are reopened for further analysis and the old authorities are challenged to redefine their often ossified and misleading meanings and interpretations.
Section I begins with the existing experience at the time the book was first written (1957) and includes analyses of violence at both the international and the national level, but not at the interpersonal level. Although these examples are anything but fresh, this in no way affects the freshness of the analysis. I was especially impressed with the way the author ripped the so-called revolutionary movements of the 60s, including the black power movement and Third World revolutionary movements in general. As she puts it so trenchantly: "The Third World is not a reality but an ideology." The section on terror however, left me cold: in light of the likes of Osama bin Laden, the role and effects of terror, could certainly use some updating.
My only other complaint is that the analysis is almost too abstract and almost too removed from the meat of contemporary experience, in the sense that the moral dimension is never brought directly into the picture. This omission makes the analyses seem almost synthetic, sterile and wholly academic, although I am sure with the author's background this could not have been her intent.
Still, even if one has to imagine how to factor her analyses back into contemporary situations, the wisdom contained in this short volume and the intellectual skill with which it is done, are priceless. Five stars
The first part of "On Violence" argues that the United States is no longer a country which can feel the sharp throes of political populism; she argues that individual action has been deadened by an institutionalized bureaucracy, aided by brain trusters in the illustrious think tanks whose hypotheses eventually turn into "facts," which in turn beget other "facts," and whose magical thinking has a way of hypnotizing us. The most common countervailing force to this phenomenon was the group of student protests in the 1960s whose use of violent resistance was often Marxian or Leninist in orientation. These were often set off in the name of "participatory democracy." Yet what makes this a bit of bittersweet irony is that neither Marx nor Lenin advocated any such like a participatory democracy. Especially in Leninism, the socialist utopia would have been run by a one-party, top-down system which would have rendered both political participation and democracy superfluous.
In the second part, Arendt adduces some very interesting, if semantically peculiar, distinctions that I would agree are fundamental to understanding the politics of the twentieth century. She differentiates between "power," "force," "strength," "authority," and "violence," which she says are often - mistakably - used interchangeably. Here is a short apercu of some of her definitions. Power applies uniquely to the ability to act not alone, but in concert with others; it can only be maintained by a group, and as soon as the group dissolves (physically or ideologically), so does the power. Strength is what the individual has, and applies only to a single person. Authority is most frequently abused, and "can be vested in persons - there is such a thing as personal authority, as, for instance, between teacher and pupil - or it can be vested in offices, as, for instance, in the Roman senate, or in the hierarchical offices of the Church (a priest can grant valid absolution even though he is drunk.)" Finally, violence is characterized by its instrumental character, i.e., that we use an object to commit violence other than the physical force of the individual or the group.
Most interestingly, Arendt intimates that while using radical tactics and espousing antiestablishment means, the student protesters of the 1960s had bourgeois, Enlightenment, technocratic ideas of "progress" and "betterment" in mind. That the means and the ends of these protests were out of synch, for Arendt, posts one of the most interesting questions of twentieth-century American protest politics.
Among the many useful concepts in Arendt's book are the definitions of power, violence, strength, force, and authority as distinct entities, despite our tendency to conflate them, or use them as synonyms. Most important is the difference between power and violence, which Arendt suggests are often found together but are in fact opposite in many ways. Specifically, while violence can undo power, it cannot build it. Violence is not simply power expressed in its most brutish fashion.
Also important is the final third of the book, in which Arendt takes apart the notion that political violence is somehow "natural" or part of the human condition.
In the end, it is this idea that is at the center of the book: violence is routinely accepted as inevitable--as a given in human society. Arendt asks us to acknowledge the much more troubling truth: violence is conscious human action. It should not be natrualized or taken for granted or romanticized, but carefully examined.
The book is well-written, yet dense and often casually drops historical and philosophical references without much explanation for the uninitiated reader. Despite that, it is readable despite its often abstract nature. It doesn't leave you with a clear call to specific action, but by openly questioning longstanding myths about violence and its alleged utility in solving political problems, it does a great service.
However, her interpretations of Sartre and Fanon range from plausible to completely absurd. I often found myself scrambling through "The Wretched of the Earth" (following Arendt's citations) in a attempt to elaborate on her incomplete quotations and scathing conclusions, only to be left asking myself how she possibly could read the thinkers in such a manner.
Sadly, her essay is also riddled with anti-Black racism, as many scholars have noted (See Kathryn Gines "Arendt and the Negro Question" for a full treatment of this theme in her work). She consistently reduces Black student radicalism to the desire of eliminating academic standards of admission and introducing "ridiculous reforms" into academia; I suppose police brutality, deplorable economic prospects, and continued discrimination were all off her radar. At times her bigotry is so extreme that it dives into conspiracy theory. She entertains the idea that Black Power movement seeks to create a world "in which the Negro would constitute an overwhelming majority of the world's population" (footnote 38)
This is a wonderful essay and I recommend it to anyone interested in the connection between philosophy and violence, but Arendt's elusive political commitment often shows itself as a confused normative position; you're never quite sure where her moral compass is pointing, which is obviously problematic when the issues of race, violence, and politics are the discussion at hand.