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Violence and Democracy

Home Academic Politics and international relations Political theory. Add to cart Add to wishlist Other available formats: Paperback , eBook Looking for an examination copy? This is a highly topical book with a subject that has global interest Explores the path-breaking idea that violent behaviour and means of violence can and should be 'democratised' A work of applied political theory that will be of interest to philosophers, and any scholar interested in challenges to democratic institutions.

Log in to review. How do you rate this item? Reviews must contain at least 12 words about the product. Table of Contents 1. Related Books Global Civil Society? Tocqueville and the Frontiers of Democracy. The Future of Representative Democracy. Since they have bodies, arms and legs, they comprehend what it means to move, to squash, to kick, to be hit by something hard.

Conceptions of constraint come easily to these beings: Compare Melvin Small and J. The authors claim that between and 58 per cent of inter-state wars were provoked by democracies — wars being defined as violent conflicts claiming at least 1, lives. The claim is unconvincing, if only because democracies are defined poorly as regimes in which just 10 per cent of the population are enfranchised. These antipathies of democracies toward violence are well known, but unfortunately they are not the end of the story. All democracies, as we know them today and as they have existed in the past, are forced to play noughts and crosses with the violence of others, for instance, mercenaries, dictators, armies, guerrillas and networks of terrorists equipped with various weapons of violence that they are prepared to use against democrats, wherever they show their face.

Violence and democracy : WestminsterResearch

Persuaded by business deals and geopolitical calculations, democratic governments — when they can get away with it — secretly succour blood-sucking despots, like Idi Amin and Joseph Mobutu, Saddam Hussein and the Shah of Iran. And faced with the violence of their opponents, democracies find themselves trapped within a conundrum: Exactly because democracies are prone to non-violence they are unusually sensitive to its threatened or actual occurrence elsewhere.

Their parties, politicians and leaders come under pressure to sail ships and fly thousands of troops to places on earth where strangers are subjected to hellish acts of cruelty. Democracies find it difficult to hide from these atrocities. Especially when atrocities are hurled in their direction, democracies are prone to contradict themselves.

Their structures of open power not only enable their violent opponents to work like worms through the body politic.


Their grandiose strategies for dealing violently with the violent come to be seen as questionable in the courts of public opinion. Their actions are media covered and not covert, and for that reason these leaders often become publicly controversial. Their behaviour breeds disquiet, and for a good reason. Some years ago, in Reflections on Violence , I complained about the paucity of political reflection upon the contemporary causes, effects and ethics of violence.

At the time, attempts to spark discussion about the meaning or significance of violence and politics were bogged down in swamps of semantic confusion or political indifference or strong academic preferences for discussing theories of justice, communitarianism or the history of half-dead political languages. There were plenty of case studies of hot wars, cold wars, civil wars and other violent conflicts, certainly. And so Reflections on Violence set out to break this glum silence, initially by exposing its roots within a confused quagmire of unspoken prejudices and significant assumptions.

It pointed out, for instance, that violence often so shocks our senses that it induces forgetfulness, or mumbling embarrassment or silence. It is ugly enough to make even the most cheerful thinker pessimistic, and since optimists write badly as Valery said and pessimists tend not to write at all,the silence about violence of some parts of the profession of political theory was understandable.

Reflections on Violence examined other reasons why at the time the political imagination about violence seemed frozen. It pointed out that outbreaks of violence blinker the imagination, in that they induce pragmatism — a sense that the problems at hand must be solved urgently using such means as arrest, court trial and incarceration, criminology, clinical analysis, or police or military intervention.

Violence seems to be back and here to stay, in a big and disturbing way. Proponents of violence have taken their cue and, seizing the script, have risen to the occasion: The explosions, fear, injury and death are carefully staged, for a world audience. And so we are living in times when, just as night follows day, reports of violence flood in from all four corners of the earth. So this essay meets head-on the most sophisticated recent effort to speak of violence as a universal feature of the human condition: When democracies flourish, they call into question face-value thinking about violence.

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Democracies also tend to institutionalise procedures — periodic elections, police in uniform and subject to disciplinary procedures, laws against the violation of the body, chat lines, official inquiries, freedom of public assembly, press freedom, civilian control of the armed forces — for making sure not only that the violated get a fair public hearing, and fair compensation, but that those in charge of the means of violence are publicly known, publicly accountable to others — and peacefully removable from office. He admits that violence the term is left undefined, but seems to be synonymous with blood does not always have an immediately felt presence in human affairs.

It dons symbolic especially religious masks, and in its disguised form it may well appear to disappear, or to appear benign. There are times, says Girard, when violence surfaces in terrifying form, wantonly sowing the poisonous seeds of chaos and destruction. At other times, violence steps forward as a peace-maker offering the sweet fruits of justice and reconciliation.

At all times, however, violence is a constant.

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They have cells and prisons to lock you up in. They pass out sentences. You have to stay put until they give the word.

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