Violence and Democracy (Contemporary Political Theory) by John Keane

By John Keane

John Keane bargains an unique account of the origins of violence, its effects, its makes use of and treatments, and the connection among violence and democracy. Rejecting the view that "human nature" is violent, Keane demonstrates why democracies don't salary conflict upon one another, and are surprisingly delicate to violence. He emphasizes moral questions, corresponding to the conditions within which violence could be justified, and argues that violence can and will be "democratized" and made publicly responsible.

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15 All sober restrictions governing the ground rules of war are swept aside. The enemy is demonised as all-powerful, as all-threatening, as all-violent. The rituals of violence against them are thus repeated endlessly, shamelessly, without limit. Acts of violence become gratuitous. The killers’ faces look blank. Sometimes they smile. Their words are cynical, or spill out as cliched ´ accounts of their private or group fantasies. Alibis flourish, certainly. Yet the laws of engagement are quite transparent: murder and counter-murder innocents, sever the hands and genitals of the enemy, cut out their tongues or stuff their mouths with stones, destroy graveyards, rape women, poison food, torch crops, make sure the victims’ blood flows like water.

He described moving ‘through many nations and languages unknown to the civilised world. ’ Contact with the uncivilised in an Ireland where ‘Politeness is as much a Stranger as Cleanlyness’ was both fascinating and repulsive.

Compare the retort of Herbert Marcuse against legalist definitions of violence (New York Times Magazine, 27 October 1968, p. 90): ‘Thanks to a kind of political linguistics, we never use the word violence to describe the actions of the police, we never use the word violence to describe the actions of the Special Forces in Vietnam. ’ t h i n k i n g v i o l e n c e 35 experiences like ‘harm’, ‘misery’, ‘unhappiness’, ‘alienation’, ‘cultural discrimination’ and ‘repression’. To say that ‘violence is present when human beings are being influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations’,8 is paradoxically to wreck the concept.

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