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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (September 17, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616148314
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616148317
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #670,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

State violence is often seen as the continuation of politics by other means—to apply Clausewitz's famous observation on war. In his latest book, Johns Hopkins political scientist Ginsberg (The Fall of the Faculty) takes the contrary view, suggesting that violence is the driving force of politics. In six essays, Ginsberg analyzes such topics as bureaucracy and violence and how Cold War–era America became a nation marked more by warfare than welfare. He illustrates how the use of force can legitimate the state and examines the mechanization and depersonalization of warfare, noting that the Air Force now trains more drone operators than pilots. However, despite the book's original and exciting premise, it contains a number of stylistic and methodological flaws: for example, Ginsberg's use of the term violence, which he never defines, is so elastic that it includes wrongful prosecutions by overzealous federal bureaucrats. Ginsberg's penultimate chapter on Morality and Violence is marked by an antigovernment bias, and it includes the questionable claim that even democratic governments generally have few moral qualms about shedding the blood of disobedient citizens. Agent: Claire Gerus, Claire Gerus Literary Agency. (Sept.)


"The most insightful recent book on the relationship between politics and violence in American domestic and foreign affairs.”
Martin Shefter, professor of government, Cornell University

“Ginsberg shows that the modern world is the product of violence and the threat of violence, both of which shape our daily lives. A model of careful analysis, this fascinating book makes us think about human conflict in new ways. Ginsberg uses a wealth of engrossing examples to show not only where violence has led us but also what it means and how we can keep it under control.”
David Satter, author of It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway

“Ginsberg’s new study is important, whether or not you agree with it. It shines a searchlight on aspects of politics that mainstream approaches typically gloss over. It is also a pleasure to read, showing his characteristic combination of lucidity and insight.”
Thomas Ferguson, professor of political science, University of Massachusetts, Boston; senior fellow, Roosevelt Institute

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David S. Wellhauser on December 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Mr. Ginsberg's book, because of its title, may be off-putting to many readers, however if you can look beyond the title you will discover 'The Value of Violence' is NOT a glorification of violence and how useful it is on a practical level. Rather, 'The Value of Violence' is deeply unhappy about the fact that violence does solve many problems. The Author repeats the sentiment over and over again--in almost the same words. This part of the book can be a little tedious. What, in effect, 'The Value of Violence' is is an analysis of violence, its causes, and its uses--however, Mr. Ginsberg goes beyond this and actually critiques violence in many cases.

What really stands out, for this reader, is the way in which the author analyzes and critiques prison rape. Still and all, Mr. Ginsberg's main thrust is the analysis of the value of violence and its nature.

Mr. Ginsberb is interested in the following:

1.Violence if ths driving force of politics
2.In using violence, state generally have a number advantages relative to other actors.
3. Most states do not rely upon naked violence as an instrument of governance but seek to refine violence and make it a more effective tool.
4. Another instrument that reduces the state's need to rely upon overt violence is public welfare.
5.Governments use violence against their citizens every day.
6.Violence is...the great engine of political change.

These six points are carefully analyzed and then explored through examples...sometimes the examples are a little longer than they need the world of the ebook reader brevity is a virtue...this virtue is not always adopted by the author but the examples are very very good.

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I was very excited to read Prof. Ginsberg's book given my own academic research interest in political violence, only to be let down chapter after chapter. Despite being broken down into straightforward and exciting sounding chapters, the work constantly jumps back and forth between historical epochs, state and non-state actors, and political and non-political violence. It is clear throughout the book that Ginsberg is particularly interested in the American legal/prison system and its debilitating social effects. Unfortunately, many of his points are interjected at inappropriate points. His work jumps from talking about Black urban riots in the 60's to Mao's Cultural Revolution in about two paragraphs. This type of scatterbrained writing typifies the entire work.

Beyond the erratic writing style the book offers practically no original thought; it would probably work well as a supplementary text for a course on Social Violence 101. I was most excited to read his chapter on bureaucracy and violence, as I am researching that exact connection right now for my own work, only to be terribly let down by the mere synthesis of other author's work. This is not to say the book is not valuable, it just ends up talking a little about everything instead of giving detail about anything (except the prison system). I would be cautious before purchasing and consider buying works more focused on the particular area of violence you are interested in: Hannah Arendt, Georges Sorel and Frantz Fanon all have excellent philosophical essays on violence, and there are a multitude of better works chronicling the history of violence in a more general sense.
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