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On Violence (Harvest Book) Kindle Edition
"The Black Presidency"
Rated by Vanity Fair as one of our most lucid intellectuals writing on race and politics today, this book is a provocative and lively look into the meaning of America's first black presidency. Learn more
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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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent observation and ideas on social issues. This book acknowledges the sufferings of those oppressed in the society.Published 3 months ago by jeffrey carrion
Johanna "Hannah" Arendt (1906-1975) was a German-born political theorist, who wrote many books such as Antisemitism: Part One of The Origins of Totalitarianism,... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Steven H Propp
Hannah Arendt is n American philosopher whose most famous work is probably "Eichman in Jeruselem". Read morePublished 20 months ago by Gary E. Thorn
Arendt's work on violence is a wonderful contribution to the philosophical consideration of the issue. Read morePublished on November 15, 2013 by S. J. Boatwright
Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)was one of those rare people whose clear thinking could penetrate the vague nonsense and "academic bafflegap" that political liars and media gurus pass as... Read morePublished on June 25, 2013 by James E. Egolf
This was a really great work of political theory by Arendt. It explores violence, mostly through the lens of the 1960s when she was writing this book. Read morePublished on August 9, 2011 by Lindsey Peterson
The irony of viewing the natural need of men (and increasingly, women) to view power as dominance over rather than as a part of a coooperative spirit toward mutual goals is the... Read morePublished on June 5, 2003 by Patricia B. Ross
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