Monday, January 27, 2014

Great Books From Graduate School | Hannah Arendt on Why Violence is the Opposite of Power


Power and Violence are Opposites
“…. Politically speaking, it is insufficient to say that power and violence are not the same. Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power’s disappearance. This implies that it is not correct to think of the opposite of violence as nonviolence; to speak of nonviolent power is actually redundant. Power can destroy power; but it is utterly incapable of creating it.” Arendt 1969, 56

Power through Violence Can Never be Legitimate
“Violence can be justifiable, but it will never be legitimate. Its justification loses in plausibility the farther its intended end recedes into the future. No one questions the use of violence in self-defense, because the danger is not only clear but also present, and the justifying the means is immediate.” Arendt 1969, 52

Power Gained through Violence Negates its Own Power
“To substitute violence for power can bring victory, but the price is very high; for it is not only paid by the vanquished, it is also paid for by the victor in terms of his power.” Arendt 1969, 53
“It is often said that impotence breeds violence, and psychologically this is quite true, at least of persons possessing natural strength, moral or physically.” Arendt 1969, 53

Terror is the Condition of Holding Power Through Continual Violence
“Nowhere is the self-defeating factor in victory of violence over power more evident than in the use of terror to maintain domination, about those whose weird success and eventual failures we know perhaps more than any generation before us.
Terror is not the same as violence; it is, rather, the form of government that comes into being when violence, having destroyed all power, does not abdicate but, on the contrary, remains in full control.” Arendt 1969, 54, 55

Terror requires full social atomization
“It has often been noticed that the effectiveness of terror depends almost entirely on the degree of social atomization. Every kind of organized opposition must disappear before the full force of terror can be let loose.” Arendt 1969, 55

Climax of terror is the absence of opposition
“The climax of terror is reached when the police state begins to devour its own children, when yesterday’s executioner becomes today’s victim. And this is also the moment when power disappears entirely.” Arendt 1969, 55

Source: Hannah Arendt. 1969. On Violence. Pg. 52-55
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