Lucy Forman will be presenting a selection from Hannah Arendt’s On Violence, which can be found here Arendt_Violence
Lucy’s introduction is as follows:
In her essay On Violence, Arendt suggests that we need to distinguish between different
forms of how man rules over man. For Arendt, force is unintentional libidinal energy
released instinctively or naturally. Authority achieves obedience without coercion and only
requires respect for the individual or the office asserting it. Arendt describes strength as an
inherent property which belongs to an individual character and is essentially independent of other people’s strengths. Power, for Arendt is not about how man rules over man. Power, in Arendt’s conception, is an end in itself. It is always collective and relies on numbers, it cannot be owned by an individual, nor is it the sum of the individual strengths in a group.
For Arendt, power is more than the sum of the parts of a group. It can be created between
people when they talk, discuss, have new ideas, come to agreements and create unforeseen outcomes by the fact of their acting together without hierarchies, where each is equally responsible for participating without the coercion of leadership.
Violence is intentional and is always a means to an end but the unleashing of violence
carries the inherent danger of escalation where the means are likely to overwhelm the ends.
Arendt sees violence as threatening the creation of power and she sees violence as being
impotent without power. Arendt does not say that all power is necessarily applied for the
greater good nor that violence cannot be used effectively. She asserts however that the
continuous generation of power is central to all politics whereas violence, though sometimes necessary in the short term, creates silence and threatens the process of politics.
In On Violence Arendt is critiquing the glorification of violence (which she sees as inspired
by Fanon’s and Sartre’s earlier writings) apparent at end of the 1960‘s where minorities are increasingly believing (because of their conflation of the concepts of violence and power) that the use of violence will necessarily instigate the changes they desire.