Walter Benjamin (1892 – 1940)
Communist or anarchist.
Opponent of capitalism and fascism. Fascism is the culmination of capitalism doctrine.
Capitalism and fascism are rife with a violence committed by the state, by commodity fetishism and by the oppressed who respond with own violence.
Origins of all forms of violence come from the fall of Adam, from humanities attempts to replace the truth of God with false forms of representation.
The Arcade project is a major inquiry into the formation of capitalism and the effects of commodity fetishism in 19th century Paris.
Benjamin’s political theology is critical to understanding his view of violence.
‘On Language as Such and on Language of Man’:
Before the Fall: In paradise, Adam had a direct and unmediated relationship to the objects in the garden. Adam did not engage in representation at all. He acknowledged what was present to him; his language was a direct path to what he spoke of. This relationship changes with the Fall.
After the Fall: humans have been forced to engage in a failed reproduction of Adam’s original language. Human beings have no recourse but to representation. Consequently, eternally separated from the things of the world.
Violence is our response to this separation.
The denial of this human condition renders us fetishist and producers of unreality defined ‘phantasmagoria’.
Distinction between ‘mythic’ and ‘divine’ violence.
‘Critique of Violence’:
Ordinary violence reflects a larger kind of violence; the imposition of law and rules means that the law in enforced randomly and according to the interest of those in power.
Most obvious in the action of the police.
While we ordinarily look to the state to protect us from violence, the state is the source of it.
The police fill in the gap between the appearance of legitimacy and the fact that all the bases for this legitimacy are false and unreal.
The state is marked by a condition of permanent anxiety about its status as legitimate.
The state needs a sign (usually of blood, e.g. capital punishment) to mark and produce its legitimacy.
Story of Niobe as example of mythic violence.
Mythic violence has no true basis and thus must resort to great shows of power by shedding blood and marking border posts.
This violence is both the source of power of the state and the sign of its permanent weakness.
Law-destroying. Boundless; expiatory; strikes; lethal without spilling blood.
It serves only to remove and unmake the falsities of mythic violence.
Originates from the fear of mutual disadvantage that threatens to arise from violent confrontation.
Distinction between political and general strike.
The political strike is violent as it is essentially a form of extortion. The workers do not challenge the hierarchies of capitalist forms of production. They force capitalists to share profits with them.
The general strike does not bargain or threat. The general strike represents simply saying ‘no’ to the enterprise of capitalism.
Political strike is law-making. General strike is anarchistic.
A completely passive form of resistance to violence is possible. In the face of overwhelming violence, human beings are not fated to choose violence themselves.
General strike is more active without losing the sense of being nonviolent.
Actions of states, societies and economies make violence basic to the very fabric of the world.
‘Thou shall not kill’: ‘It is not a criterion of judgement but a guideline for the actions of persons or communities who have to wrestle with it in solitude and, in exceptional cases, to take on themselves the responsibility of ignoring it.’ (Critique of Violence).
Neither violence nor nonviolence can be absolute dogmas.
When we act, we are taking on full responsibility as ourselves or as members of a community.
Nonviolence reflects a set of practices that are not continuous over time.
We are ontologically connected to violence. Violence reflects the most basic state of human existence.
Instead of looking for a form of revolution that ushers us into an entirely better world, we must instead look to a set of practices that maximises our ability to avoid being determined by violence.
Recent demonstration across the world have had a strong Benjaminian element: a decentralised, anarchic approach to revolution that refuses to engage in ends. E.g. Occupy Wall Street.
One should not try to out-violence the state but simply say no to it.
Many great movements of recent years – Greece, Spain, France, Brazil, Turkey – were orientated towards specific demands. They were not radical enough.
Nonviolence is a practice, a way of life and a method of engaging with material reality.
Hanna Arendt (1906 – 1975)
Her explicit arguments about violence are part of a larger argument about the nature of politics and of what it means to be human.
Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)
Three parts: ‘Anti-Semitism’, ‘Imperialism’ and ‘Totalitarianism’.
It’s a complex and detailed historical and theoretical analysis that covers development in European states and societies from late 19th century to mid-20th century.
‘Boomerang effect’: ideologies and modes of rule developed in overseas empires rebounded on Europe.
European imperialism connected with scientific racism. Racist hierarchies legitimated imperial conquest. ‘Civilising mission’ went hand in hand with the development of technologies of mass detention and massacre. These technologies came to be applied in the two world wars. The consequences of violence are unpredictable and uncontrollable.
Bureaucracy as a mode of rule. Rulers assumes their disconnection from the populations that they ruled. The disconnection between process and outcome in bureaucratic rule is one of the ways in which unimaginable and incomprehensible violence is able to be unleashed.
Organic understanding of historical and political processes. Social Darwinism, Marxism and scientific racism mistakenly position humans as subordinate to greater historical forces. Consequently, anything is permitted. It is either on the side of history or because it is part of a necessary unfolding of history.
Rise of ‘social’ as distinct domain of government. Definition of humans in social terms is homogenising. Equality becomes sameness and humans are understood as producers and consumers, as objects of government.
The Human Condition (1958)
On the meaning and value of politics. Based on three models of human activity: labour, work and action.
Labour: activities through which the possibility of the reproduction of the human species is ensured.
Work: the making of things.
Action: the human activity that is distinctively political.
On Violence (1970), has become one of the standard reference points for the discussion of violence in relation to politics. Clear distinction between power and violence.
Violence is instrumental, intentional and a means to an end, which is to command obedience.
Weber: ‘power’ is the capacity of A to make B do what B would not do otherwise.
Arendt: power is the consent of a plurality of actors acting together and it’s the sole source of political legitimacy.
European traditions mistakenly identificate power with violence. But power and violence are antithetical.
Statist political theory (Hobbes, Weber) identify the state as the legitimate location of political authority. The state holds the monopoly of legitimate violence.
Anti-statist political theory (Marx, Sorel, Fanon) challenges the state’s claim to legitimate power and identifies violence as the legitimate means in the cause of liberation.
Arendt refutes both theories based on their misconceptions of reality.
Sartre sees violence as liberating in itself. It is not just an instrument though which freedom might be obtained but an exercise and expression of freedom.
Arendt is not a pacifist. Non violence becomes irrelevant in contexts in which power is absent.
Acceptance of violence in certain circumstances with distinction between what is justifiable and what is legitimate.
Violence can be justifiable but never legitimate.
Violence is not identifiable with building a better world, righting a wrong or achieving autonomy in the face of a colonial oppressor, even when it is the means by which there ends are served.
Violence breeds violence, and the most likely outcome of a violent action is a more violent world.
General criticism against Arendt’s restriction of the concept of violence to the category of the intentional exertion of physical force against others.
For Arendt, violence is never either mythical or divine; it is always instrumental, intentional and defined in terms of its ends.
Historicism constructs an alibi for any current sacrifice.
Bureaucratic rule constructs the population as a determinable creature.
Combination of historicism and bureaucracy create the conditions of possibility for the emergence of a totalitarian mind-set.
Arendt’s work is a resource to understand and critique the pathologies of modern states. Particularly the ways in which they render some lives disposable and without value. Refugee camps, migrants, prisoners of the ‘war on terror’.
‘The practice of violence, like all action, changes the world, but the most probable change is to a more violent world.’
Frantz Fanon (1925 – 1961)
A Colonial subject from birth.
On the island of Martinique, the primary interaction on matters of violence was without the wide logic of dehumanisation.
The ongoing violence of colonial society woks on multiple levels of human, lived reality.
Violence vs Force:
Force is simply the impact of one object on another.
Violence requires a system of norms through which something wrong or underserved or unjust happens.
Violence is part of the human world and its variety of norms.
Fanon understood violence as endemic to the colonial situation. Once inaugurated, violence is not a phenomenon from which one can be easily disentangled.
The dream of dissociation from violence is naïve.
As a forensic psychiatrist he devoted his life to exposing knowledge held within the flesh.
Forensic proof of violence revealed by surface structure in flesh and/or stone.
Colonialism raises the constant threat of violence.
Being nonviolent maintains violence.
Police force: state sanctioned agents of violence.
All power is force (Foucault). Power is the possession of the means – the relations or activities of force affecting other forces – to make things happen.
Fanon was a radical democrat. He regarded all forms of government that limit the distribution of power to be ultimately violent.
Colonialism and its use of force was an ongoing reality of violence.
As illegitimate force, justification of violence is a contradiction in terms.
There are societies that make people into problems of addressing the social causes of the challenges they face.
Fanon asked that people question their condition.
Black Skin, White Masks (1952).
Criticized tendency to seek though in a white face instead of engaging with what emanates from a black body.
The colonised or racially subordinated subject who attempts to justify their existence through recognition from those who dominate them in effect makes the denominator the standard of legitimacy.
Colonialism produce beings who are neither the self nor the other, trapped in the ‘zone of nonbeing’.
In a pre-given sphere of ethical relations, the form of justice that emerge from the zone of nonbeing is seen as a disruption of a presumed right order. It is seen as a violation, a form of illegitimate effect or wrongful force – in other words violence – from the perspective of the governing regime of supposedly legitimate power relations.
A Dying Colonialism (1959).
No people can be handed their freedom. It is something they must seize.
Fighting for national independence awakens new ways of living in the world. Example of Algerian women who by participating in the struggle created a new understanding of practices such as wearing the veil in Muslim communities.
Revolution, at its core, is truth, precisely because it changes man, renews and advances society. It is the oxygen that invents a new humanity.
The Wretched of the Earth (1961).
Etymology of ‘damned’. Damnum, Adamah, Adom, Demm.
Imperialism and racism are ongoing practices of violence against people of colour.
Anything that threatened imperialist structure was considered to be a violation of rights. Thus, colonised people must either accept their situation and be called nonviolent or attempt to change their situation and be called violent.
Decolonisation is a violent phenomenon.
The colonised must face violence as the underside of their pursuit of freedom.
Violence involves the degradation of human beings.
Psychological consequences, as colonized subjects start to question their legitimacy.
Engels portrayed the state as a violent institution (hence intrinsically illegitimate) that is formed by violence. The police are the concrete manifestation of the colonial state in relation to the colonised.
The colonial condition is one of competing claims premised on apartheid or policed borders.
Antigone, Hegel. Both sides cannot win. Violence lurks in either direction. There is no outcome in which there isn’t a side that suffers violence.
Decolonial violence is what is manifested in the ‘replacement’ of one “species” of men by another “species” of men’. The players are changed but not the system.
A breakthrough of this logic is needed to achieve ‘the truth’.
Europe is literally the creation of the Third World. The ports of Holland specialized in slave trade and owe their renown from millions of deported slaves.
Etymology of word ‘Monster’, ‘to show’. Monsters are symptoms of greater forces at work. They show us disasters and often serve as sign of them.
The colonial condition forces people to question their humanity.
It is a systematic negation of the other, a determined decision to refuse to the other all the attributes of humanity.
‘Zombification’: To be present as flesh devoid of humanity. A zone of non-being.
Michel Foucault (1926 – 1984)
Bio Politics: the political strategisation/technologisation of life for its own productive betterment.
Life itself becomes the principal object for political strategies.
Triangulation between ‘security, territory and population’.
Recruitment of life into political strategies for the internal defence of societies.
Human life gets ‘invented’ as a political issue. It becomes subject to racial taxonomy. Race war follows.
Bio-political practitioners commit to the preservation of the fittest species against those who pose a threat to the best biological heritage.
Bio-politically speaking, for political modernity to function one always must be capable of killing to go on living:
‘Wars are waged on behalf of the existence of everyone. Entire populations are mobilized for wholesale slaughter in the name of life necessity; massacre have become vital… The principle underlying the tactics of battle – that one has to become capable of killing to go on living – has become the principle that defines the strategy of states.’ (Michel Foucault, history of sexuality).
From micro to macro. Giant sacrificial practice.
Killing does not mean simply murder as such.
Racism makes the process of elimination possible. Relatable to dehumanisation practices.
Political violence takes place in the name of human progress.
Deleuze: Bio-political systems perceive life as the new object of power. Acts of violence, justified in terms of necessity, against toxic or infectious agents. ‘biological dangers.’
Dehumanisation or ‘evilness of the other’ gets replaced by biological threats.
Auschwitz as bio-political example of ‘necessary killing’. Violence sanctioned in name of life necessity.
Racism has shifted its focus from biological supremacy to cultural differences.
‘Liberal war thesis’. War-peace continuum. War continues once peace has been declared.
John Gray vs Steven Pinker: https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/john-gray-steven-pinker-violence-review
Liberals reference to humanity to justify their use of military force.
Clausewitz: ‘Warfare is the continuation of Politics by other means.’
Foucault: ‘Politics is the continuation of war by other means.’
Use theory to help make sense of reality.
Danger emerges from within the liberal imaginary of threat. Accordingly, violence can only be sanctioned against those newly appointed enemies of humanity.
Jacques Derrida (1930 – 2004)
Two main topics of violence:
All forms of Racism
Criticism of bureaucratic and administrative logics of modern institution.
1980s accused of complicity and anti-Semitism. Charged with guilt by association. Attacked as obscurantist and a terrorist. Implicit nihilist, apolitical and anti-moral agenda.
On 9/11: ‘The world order that felt itself targeted through this violence is dominated largely by the Anglo-America idiom, and idiom that is indissociably linked to the political discourse that dominates the world stage, to international law, diplomatic institutions, the media, and the greatest technoscientific, capitalist, and military power’.
Hope for Europe to become separated from its alliance with the United States.
Europe as proponent of ‘democracy to come’.
The current democratic form of the state must be submitted to a constant deconstruction of its institutions and particularly of its relationship to religion and Christianity, to militarism and to a new order of imperialism and unprecedented global violence.
Critic of US domination of the global economic markets, from which an increasing proportion of the world’s population are excluded.
Democracy is the only political system, a model without a model, that accepts its own historicity, that is, its own future, which accepts its self-criticism, which accepts its perfectibility.
Democracy to come, is a promise that one can always criticize, and question that which is supposed to be de facto democracy.
‘Deconstruction is America’. The history of the United States represents the deconstruction of all European ideology and political institution.
Critic of the new order enforced globally by the US through militarism and violence.
In its own territory, the US institutionalises a legal system of extortion and intimidation through populations that voluntarily give up their political rights and freedoms in exchange for bio-political security. (much like the feudal of mafia system of protection).
Daily, every one of its citizens can be at any moment under a priori suspicion of being an enemy of the state.
Kant in Perpetual Peace (1795) concerns barbarous states that routinely violate international laws and become a threat to the security of all nations through their lawlessness and violence.
Europe should form an alliance against the US.
‘America is deconstruction’: The deconstruction of the idea of democracy in its latest historical instance brings forth a universal emancipation of the concept. Repeat and re-establish. Democracy is the only political form that exists without any specific model or ‘proper’ form.
Politics of Friendship (1994): Late 1980s seminars in Paris and Irvine, around the question of friendship and democracy. Aristotle: ‘Oh my friends there is no friend.’
The concept of the Political (Carl Schmidt, 1932): Friend-enemy distinction: the modern political state is founded on this concept. The need to determine the friend as a point of certainty that structures the social field.
‘The signification of “friend” can only be determined from within the friend/enemy opposition. The friend is identified by the definition of the enemy. The friend suffers not from a lack of signification but rather from too much signification.
The enemy comes first, prior to the friend. It is only after the enemy is determined that the relations to friends is made possible.
Parallel to the sculptural dilemma where the figure within the marble block comes to be determined by whet is not the figure. Sculptors need to remove the excess to identify the figure.
It is not the actuality of war that proves to be most decisive in determining the political, but rather its pure possibility, which takes the form of a ‘right to kill’, or jus belli. The political is the purest expression of a decision to kill.
The political would be the name for the ‘concrete situation’ of killing but before the actual act of killing.
After ISIS’ destruction of museum artefacts, sculpting has become a political statement.
‘The worst’: in a ‘time of terror’ there is no identifiable enemy in the form of a state. ‘A new violence is being prepared and has been unleashed for some time now, in a way that is more visibly suicidal or autoimmune than ever. This violence no longer has to do with world war or even with war, even less with some right to wage war.
Globablatinisation: the current age of the Anglo-American ‘return of religion’. An apparatus of global international law and of a global political rhetoric that will determine the meaning of public conduct and citizenship. As a result, not all cultures will be guaranteed to have equal access to the same world market.
Gesture of pacification, a stratagem or tactic invented by modern technological warfare.
Deleuze: today the rights of man can both preserve bio-political life and, at the same time, authorise another holocaust. ‘The pacifying gesture’.
Gilles Deleuze (1925 – 1995)
Violence was a central concern, though he rarely talked about it directly.
His social theory is directly related to violence.
Followed Nietzsche in thinking that all forms of government, from primitive to sophisticated, are inherently violent.
Government is a ‘grey zone’. It entails direct violence of coercion and indirect violence of ‘control’.
Deleuze focuses on the violence of control. Fascinated by control mechanism that rendered submission voluntary. E.g. television as mechanic enslavement. Facebook, which profits from the ‘free’ labour its users contribute to.
Defends Palestinian cause. Regarding Israel: ‘What kind of democracy is that whose political life is too much entwined with the activity of its intelligence service?’
Anything that curtails the real and practical autonomy of the subject is violence.
At times, it is necessary. Societies need structure, but the process that bind people together into a collective is violent.
The German occupation of France during WWII led to a suffocation of thought, a violence on the mind.
Primo Levi in The Drowned and the Saved distinguishes two kinds of violence:
‘useless violence’ (tattoo’s and shaving heads of Jews in concentration camps).
Purposeful violence: that which a governing body determines to exercise to bind people together and maintain order.
In between these two orders there is a ‘grey zone’. Their very existence teaches us the shame of being human.
It is inherent in the nature of government to exert violence, to enact social repression, but the means and method vary considerably according to the situation.
3rd chapter of Anti-Oedipus is Deleuze and Guattari’s attempt to schematize various socially repressive apparatuses, progressing from the ‘savage’ through the ‘barbarian to the ‘civilised’.
The civilised form is no less violent, its methods are less physically bound.
Necessary or purposeful violence of primitive people vs unnecessary violence of the state.
‘Schizoanalysis’: ‘Given a certain effect, what machine can be summarized in a single question?’
Is this relatable to the relation between ends and means?
Nietzsche: Humans are constituted as social beings by means of repression: ‘All laws, initiations, repression and education have the meaning to discipline man within the debtor-creator, which is a matter of memory straining toward the future.
The system of cruelty hews organs into the socius. Organs here are the points of contact between the individual and the collective. E.g. eyes according to Sartre and Lacan.
Three types of machine:
The territorial machine:
Social machines consist of two kinds of relationship between people in groups:
Filiation (linear: father to son). Violence by blood ancestry. Fixed primitive capital.
Alliance (lateral: brothers and cousins. Tribe) Violence of lateral bond. Circulating primitive capital.
The chief mobilises wealth to induce others to be in debt. Conversion of perishable wealth into imperishable wealth.
E.g. dinner parties, philanthropy.
Potlach rituals = deliberate destruction of accumulated wealth. Put tribes in debt of its neighbours, thereby ensuring by power of necessity that all members of the tribe work together to avoid starvation.
Cut marks on flesh record common cause and ensuing debt. Purposive violence in its purest form.
The despotic machine:
Urstaat. The state was not formed in progressive stages; it was born fully formed. A new alliance (with God) and direct filiation (to a chosen people).
Bureaucracy replaces inter-tribal alliance and stock can accumulate unchecked.
Debt is rendered infinite – God does not accept one off final payment.
Monotheism at the horizon of despotism: the debt becomes a debt of existence of the subjects themselves.
The civilised capitalist machine: capitalism broke free when it appropriated production.
Once again, a transformation of the relation between fixed (filiative) and mobile (alliance) stock.
Capitalism thrives on the crises it induces = ‘Schizophrenisation’.
Capitalist machine has two main characteristics: stimulates over-production and consequently retards over-production through anti-production measures (hyper-vigilant forms of neo-traditionalism)
Maybe comparable to contemporary art market in times of social media where everyone is stimulated to produce content while audience is directed only to a few.
Capitalist machine, in contrast to territorial and despotic, does not require our belief to function.
Capitalism is secular about money but utterly orthodox about civic order – people are free to believe whatever they like so long as they don’t stop buying things.
In the modern state relations of filiation and alliance not longer apply to people but to money.
Control Societies (1995). Control mechanisms are steadily overtaking disciplinary mechanisms as the dominant form of coercion.
The direct monitoring of the person is less relevant than monitoring their digital shadow.
Fascism refers to an entire way of thinking that is characterized by the love of power.
How is it possible for a people to desire against its interest, for fascism amounts to desire against one’s interest. It is always within and thus a mode of desire. Through which fascistic forms of violence are recreated anew.
Judith Butler (1956 -)
Denies a direct or natural link between (biological) sex and gender.
Gender is a performance that responds to the expectations and norms of society.
Concerned with the philosophy of how we become.
A politics of ethical living and nonviolence in the face of normative, ethical and state violence.
Norms are enabling but at the same time they also restrict the possibilities of how life can be lived.
They are fields of power and provide the cultural frameworks in which we become. They provide the implicit standard of normalisation. Causing normative violence.
Many laws that govern gender relations are subject forming. They set the limit on what gendered being means.
‘given the contemporary order of being, what can I be? What happens when I begin to become that for which there is no place within the given regime of truth?’
There is violence in the restriction imposed on being. But there is also violence once one becomes unintelligible to wider society. They need to be corrected or eliminated.
Also valid regarding identity and ambiguity in general.
Example of intersexuality as a social problem that is violently policed.
Normative violence is driven by restriction an may result in physical violence. Normalisation turn the blame for the violence upon the victim.
The perpetrator becomes the victim and vice versa.
The boundaries of being make certain lives unliveable.
Examination of grieving ceremonies disclose who is seen as included and who is not.
Process of dehumanisation. See grieving contrast between Iraqi and US victims during Gulf War or AIDS victims in Africa.
The powerful determine whom to grieve or not. The dehumanising effect of othering that makes violence possible and life ungrievable.
Violence perpetrated in the name of humanity that seem to legitimise a continuous violence.
The ‘infinity of the enemy’. Such lives must be repeatedly negated. ‘Threat and self-defence’. Resulting for example in generalised racism and dehumanisation of all lives that look Arab and Muslim.
The precarity of live: the vulnerability we have in relation to others.
Discourse on Governmentality and sovereignty following thoughts of Foucault and Agamben.
Sovereignty makes the state of emergency possible and the suspension of law.
The state that invokes its sovereign power to declare an exception to the law, strips certain lives from their ontological status as subjects (Agamben).
Comparison between political being, or bios, a life with rights, a citizen and bare life, or zoe, a life devoid of value. A biological minimum.
Bare life becomes a state of exception itself, where law does not rule or protect. It’s disposable.
Bare life invokes processes of dehumanisation and the possibility of violence perpetrated upon bodies.
Questioning of normative truths that guide and restrict life helps to expose violence that is otherwise tolerated, normalised and legitimized.
Analysis of mechanism of institutional violence related to vectors of inequality such as race, class, sexuality, religion, age, nationality and gender.
Politics of a good life are about biopolitics, nonviolence and the preconditions of mutual flourishing.
Strong critic against Israel’s ethno-nationalist Zionism that justifies and promotes state violence against Palestinians.
The only way to overcome ethno-nationalist violence is for each party to recognise the other as worthily human and incorporate it into one’s own identity.
Butler’s politics of nonviolence demand a continuous questioning and unsettling of the everyday common sense that feeds into a violent social and political world of precarious living.
If violence is an important part of how and what we become, our response to it is potentially the source of change.
Zygmut Bauman (1925 – 2017)
Associated with Marxist humanism.
Bauman’s work emphasises praxis: the creativity of human agency and the creation of the human word.
Praxis is a practical declaration of what it means to be human – it is to be free and therefore in conflict with the managerial interest of the state.
The state is a giant apparatus seeking to manipulate human creativity and responsibility so that we are all subjects who act and think in regulated and orderly way.
The Holocaust was ‘a significant and reliable test of the hidden possibilities of modern society’.
Two key topics:
Metaphor of the gardening state.
Modernity can be understood as a gardening project.
Modernity is built on the presumption that order is neither natural nor inevitable.
Order must be created and imposed. The state is the gardener. Anything that is out of place is subject to either be assimilated or annihilated.
Gardening was the typical practice of the Nazi state. But there is nothing unique. All modern states do it. But the Nazi state didn’t have social, cultural or institutional brakes.
The Holocaust was a by-product of the modern drive to a fully designed and controlled world, once the drive is getting out of control and running wild.
Weberian rational bureaucracy. Operates according to two principles:
Legitimacy of the ends.
All actions are morally neutralised.
Bureaucracy will become efficient when moral considerations are left aside. Focus on what ‘must be done’.
Think of psychological/motivational theories where people are encouraged to replace ‘should’ with ‘must’.
An action isn’t good or bad; it’s efficient or inefficient.
Also, dangerously applicable to sculpture. Efficiency in removal of material. The end justifies the means. Therefore, the most violent methods become legitimate.
The violence of the Holocaust was, in part, aesthetically inspired.
Violence as art! But it has ethical consequences.
Just like the gardener, the decision of the sculptor to remove specific parts from a block of stone and leave others is driven by his subjective aesthetic judgements.
‘Modern genocide is … meant to bring about a social order conforming to the design of the perfect society.
As the removal of material in sculpture is meant to bring an aesthetic order conform to the artists ideal of beauty.
‘Adiaphoric’ actions. I.e. indifferent: ‘neither good nor evil, measurable against technical (purpose oriented) but not moral values’
Three ways in which the actions of the Nazi state were rendered adiaphoric in relation to possible social control:
Through instrumental bureaucratic action, there is a stretching of the distance between action and consequences (see Eichmann)
The object of action is put in a position from which it cannot challenge the actor.
The victim as an object of action (as something to which things are done and that is prevented from acting on its own accord) is destroyed as a self. It becomes a thing.
All above mentioned points can be considerate as valid also on stones and the sculptor’s relation to them.
Trinity of territory: Nation, state and territory.
The holocaust was a problem of modernity.
9/11 was a problem of the liquid modern world. Nothing is certain, nothing can be assumed to last, everything is presumed to be fleeting.
9/11 was the ‘symbolic end to the era of space’. Space was identified with the state possession of territory. Ours vs theirs. Out there vs right here.
Milan Kundera: the dream of unified humanity has been achieved. Not in a global peace but by the possibility of global destruction. ‘Mutually assured vulnerability’.
In this world everywhere now is a frontier. ‘In the frontierlands, fences and stockades mark intentions rather than realities.’ Anywhere can be a frontier of violence.
Related to Benjamin’s theory of borders. See the boundary stones that are intended to demarcate frontiers. The violation of such a border is a declaration of war. Piece maintained by the threat of violence.
Conflict perpetrated by states. War has become a probing, exploratory activity. ‘Reconnaissance battles.’ Fought by ‘floating coalitions.’ Alliances, frontlines and adversaries are all in flux. They are liquid coalitions.
The paradox is that the global world is under-regulated and the coming together of the coalitions will deny the possibility of an international supervising authority.
See Libya and Syria.
Bauman refuses to see violence as a philosophical or intellectual problem.
Violence is neither abnormal not the product of pathology.
We must take responsibility for our own understanding of the violence we might endure, or very easily perpetrate.
Paul Virilio (1932 -):
Wartime childhood; youthful revolt in 1968; Parisian Academic during Cold War.
Examined how all aspects of life in the modern world are shaped by our histories of violence.
Writings on politics, society and security are overly pessimistic. “Apocalyptic”. “Mr. Catastrophe”.
The material world – buildings, towns, cities – is potentially as fragile and transitory as a film set.
This awareness left Virilio with a sense that a different world can be reimagined and redesigned.
Searching for a new way of writing out of a sense that we needed new concepts and terms (chronopolitics, endo-colonisation, integral accidents, dromology).
Virilio’s writings divided into four areas:
Technology, acceleration, and global politics and security.
Cities and architecture, technology and security.
Art, technology and (geo)politics.
Interviews and short essays.
Productivity Future Vision: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-tFdreZB94
“Propaganda Progress”: the promise of a better world to come, brought to us through new and improved technology. Modern age is a time of perpetual improvement in the human condition. ‘Setbacks’ will decrease, and we will become better at managing them. The path to a world of perpetual peace.
Response to violence will be shaped by responsible use of force. Humane war-at-a-distance, cleaner and more precise. ‘Revolution’ in military affairs that will ease violence and brutality from the human condition. Inequality and suffering will be overcome.
Resilience of liberal capitalist society.
Virilio is concerned with perception. Where are the poor, the street kids, the slums?
Policymakers, police and architects create cities and society where the poor are managed and controlled. Virilio’s work is a history of control in society.
Control the motor of attacks and urban disorder:
Cities as Paris have been designed to limit and control urban violence in times of unrest (width of city streets, uncomfortable park benches, studs on pavements).
Management of circulations:
The state is a brake. It wants people and objects to move but to see and control this movement (transparency). Street lights (removing darkness) are essential to policing and safety but also to consumerism.
Military dreams of making the whole planet fully transparent and controllable.
‘Administration of fear’ (constant anxiety over terrorism, fear as environment).
Politics of security corrupts politics and society, through ‘endo-colonisation’.
In an environment of fear and unease, citizens invest foremost in security, managing our ‘own protection’. “The consumption of protection”.
Constant living between the fear of the different (‘Siege Psychosis’) and moral indifference towards marginals.
Our world is dehumanising us, living in cities filled with accumulated hate. We are becoming indifferent to our indifference.
‘History progresses at the speed of its weapons system’. Speed and Politics.
Human beings set out to protect or safeguard the body (camps, castles, borders) while extending its powers by developing prostheses (arrows, bullets, drones, malware).
The desire to extend the power of the body drives innovation: orthopaedics as a response to the problem of soldiers having to walk long distances. Atlantic wall bunkers influenced the design and manufacturing techniques of post-war architecture. Satnav.
The speed of weapons systems transforms geopolitics. Fast states and armies dominate international relations.
The shift to nuclear weapons in combination with economic interdependence brought territorial ‘pure wars’ between ‘great powers’ to an end.
Globalisation lead to national security, a concern with threats to our ways of life emerging from our ways of life.
‘The politically declared reality of the “enemy” now disappears, making way for the indeterminacy of constantly redefined threats’ Negative Horizon, p.160.
National defence is about protection from external threats.
Security about threats that are inside and outside the state or threats that emerge from the way we live and consume (climate change).
‘Degradation of Political intelligence’. Political mental models about fear and panic as driving force, about optimism in war and security technologies, about ignorance of complex historical and societal development.
‘Globalitarianism’. A change in scale toward the smallest common denominator. A worldwide civil war.’
‘Integral accident’: accidents that can emerge from our fast, interconnected world (climate change).
What if history is the path to a world that will exceed our control. ‘Exponential instability’ (Baudrillard). Technological change is moving so fast that we are unable to respond to the pace of this disruptive change.
Cynthia Enloe (1938 -)
Violence is in two different places: at home (criminality) and abroad (war).
‘Individuals’ appear as ungendered. it is really a ‘male-shaped’ category.
‘Individual’ isn’t really woman. ‘Woman’ appears in opposition to this abstraction.
Begins study of politics away from the ‘high politics’ and moves instead to the everyday, domestic, non-international and non-public.
Enquired into the most basic building-block of the ‘woman question’.
‘No individual or social group finds itself on the “margins” … without some other individual or group having accumulated enough power to create the “centre” somewhere else’.
Distinction between ‘scandal (visible violence) and ‘normality’ (inexistent until revealed).
‘normality’ strokes up the potential for violence.
There is a causal link between organisational cultures that tolerate (inculcate) misogyny and organisational decisions that tolerate (create) the ‘gender gap’ between men and women.
Sexual violence is a dynamic of international politics because it is an easy place to normalise violence and brutality.
Food, toy and clothing companies, film studios, stock brokerages and advertising agencies are militarised in so far as they ‘imagine that promoting military ends servers the general welfare’.