On Violence

A Reader

On Violence

Book Pages: 592 Illustrations: Published: December 2007

Politics > Political Theory, Religious Studies, Sociology > Social Theory

This anthology brings together classic perspectives on violence, putting into productive conversation the thought of well-known theorists and activists, including Hannah Arendt, Karl Marx, G. W. F. Hegel, Osama bin Laden, Sigmund Freud, Frantz Fanon, Thomas Hobbes, and Pierre Bourdieu. The volume proceeds from the editors’ contention that violence is always historically contingent; it must be contextualized to be understood. They argue that violence is a process rather than a discrete product. It is intrinsic to the human condition, an inescapable fact of life that can be channeled and reckoned with but never completely suppressed. Above all, they seek to illuminate the relationship between action and knowledge about violence, and to examine how one might speak about violence without replicating or perpetuating it.

On Violence is divided into five sections. Underscoring the connection between violence and economic world orders, the first section explores the dialectical relationship between domination and subordination. The second section brings together pieces by political actors who spoke about the tension between violence and nonviolence—Gandhi, Hitler, and Malcolm X—and by critics who have commented on that tension. The third grouping examines institutional faces of violence—familial, legal, and religious—while the fourth reflects on state violence. With a focus on issues of representation, the final section includes pieces on the relationship between violence and art, stories, and the media. The editors’ introduction to each section highlights the significant theoretical points raised and the interconnections between the essays. Brief introductions to individual selections provide information about the authors and their particular contributions to theories of violence.

With selections by: Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Osama bin Laden, Pierre Bourdieu, André Breton, James Cone, Robert M. Cover, Gilles Deleuze, Friedrich Engels, Frantz Fanon, Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, Mohandas Gandhi, René Girard, Linda Gordon, Antonio Gramsci, Félix Guattari, G. W. F. Hegel, Adolf Hitler, Thomas Hobbes, Bruce B. Lawrence, Elliott Leyton, Catharine MacKinnon, Malcolm X, Dorothy Martin, Karl Marx, Chandra Muzaffar, James C. Scott, Kristine Stiles, Michael Taussig, Leon Trotsky, Simone Weil, Sharon Welch, Raymond Williams


“[T]his anthology is a triumph of editorial serendipity.” — Steven Poole, The Guardian

“Even though its tone is unremittingly gloomy, reading through On Violence reveals an impressive selection of thinkers about this vexed subject. The brilliance of this collection lies in the editors’ courage to include unpalatable writings alongside noble ones.” — Tim Roberts, M/C Reviews

“Offering an eclectic roster of voices on the subject, this useful reader also raises the suspicion that the history of violence is a red herring. The pervasiveness of violence makes it difficult to distinguish violence from change, or history itself. Violent change requires some kind of ethical marker to make narrative sense as history. Violence is never morally or politically neutral: context is everything.” — Priya Satia, TLS

"Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through professionals/practitioners." — L. Steffen, Choice

“This volume provides a long-needed anthology of major writings related to the subject of violence. The readings include excerpts from classic contributions of Marx and Freud along with pieces by modern thinkers such as Girard and Bourdieu and social activists from Gandhi to bin Laden. The selections are skillfully chosen to address a central theme, that violence always takes place in a context. The readings explore the idea that social, internal, ritualized, and other forms of violence are part of the processes of life and not necessarily anomalies. This is a thoughtful and arresting set of essays on an important topic that will be useful in the classroom and much discussed in the public forum.” — Mark Juergensmeyer, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Bruce B. Lawrence is the Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Humanities Professor of Religion at Duke University. He is the author of The Qur’an: A Biography; New Faiths, Old Fears: Muslims and Other Asian Immigrants in American Religious Life; and Shattering the Myth: Islam beyond Violence. He is the editor of Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden and Muslim Networks from Hajj to Hip-Hop (with miriam cooke).

Aisha Karim is Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Foreign Languages at Saint Xavier University. She is a coeditor of Poetry and Protest: A Dennis Brutus Reader.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

General Introduction: Theorizing Violence in the Twenty-first Century 1

Part I. The Dialectics of Violence 17

Phenomenology of Spirit / Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 27

Anti-Duhring / Friedrich Engels 39

Capital: A Critique of Political Economy / Karl Heinrich Marx 62

Concerning Violence (The Wretched of the Earth) / Frantz Fanon 78

Part II. The Other of Violence 101


Hind Swaraj, or Indian Home Rule / Mohandas K. Gandhi 110

The Right of Emergency Defense (Mein Kampf) / Adolf Hitler 127

The Ballot or the Bullet / Malcolm X 143


Selections from the Prison Notebooks / Antonio Gramsci 158

Keywords; Marxism and Literature / Raymond Wiliams 180

Outline of a Theory of Practice / Pierre Bourdieu 188

Domination and the Arts of Resistance / James C. Scott 199

Part III. The Institution of Violence: Three Connections 215


Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego / Sigmund Freud 226

Social Control and the Power of the Weak (Heroes of Their Own Lives) / Linda Gordon 245

Battered Wives / Del Martin 255


The Shah Bano Case (Shattering the Myth) / Bruce B. Lawrence 262

Critique of Violence (Reflections) / Walter Benjamin 268

Feminism, Marxism, Method, and the State: An Agenda for Theory / Catharine MacKimmon 286

Violence and the Word / Robert M. Cover 292

Human Rights and the New World Order / Chandra Muzaffar 314


Violence and the Sacred / Rene Girard 334

Liberation and the Christian Ethic (God of the Oppressed) / James Cone 351

Dangerous Memory and Alternate Knowledges (Communities of Resistance and Solidarity) / Sharon Welch 362

The Iliad, or the Poem of Force / Simone Weil 377

Part IV. The State of Violence 391

Leviathon / Thomas Hobbes 399

The Origins of Totalitarianism / Hannah Arendt 416

Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison / Michel Foucault 444

Savages, Barbarians, and Civilized Men (Anti-Oedipus) / Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari 472

Part V. The Representation of Violence 491

Manifesto: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art / Andre Breton and Leon Trotsky 498

Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing / Michael Tuaussig 503

Shaved Heads and Marked Bodies: Representations from Cultures of Trauma / Kristine Stiles 522

Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places / Osama Bin Laden; In the Name of Osama Bin Laden: Global Terrorism and the Bin Laden Brotherhood / Roland Jacquard 539

Touched by Fire: Doctors without Borders in a Third World Crisis / Elliott Leyton 547

Copyright Acknowledgments 555

Index 559
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3769-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3756-0
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