This about the competing approaches to defining “violence” that the authors from this week’s texts discuss and present. Which approach (or definition) do you find the most compelling, and why? Which do you find the least compelling, and why? What factors do you think are the most important in deciding between competing definitions of a concept like “violence”? Discuss with reference to specific aspects at least two of this week’s four texts.
We have multiple Authors having their input on what they consider the definition of violence. Among these Authors, I would say that Arendt’s definition is most compelling to me. She defines violence as an instrument use when power fails. She states that “Violence is by nature instrumental; like all means, it always stands in need of guidance and justification through the end it pursues.” (Arendt, pg. 51) She sees violence as destructive where it can destroy power. “Violence can always destroy power; out of the barrel of a gun grows the most effective command, resulting in the most instant and perfect obedience. What never can grow out of it is power.” (Arendt, pg. 53) I like the fact of her thought of violence diminishing power and never enhancing it. Though she has not given a clear-cut definition on violence you can see where she is going with it. And where she is going with it, I align more with it.
I found both Wolff and Galtung’s definitions not compelling. I will start with Wolff. Wolff’s definition on violence was to me more a definition for coercion versus violence. He stated that “Violence is the illegitimate or unauthorized use of force to effect decisions against the will or desire of others.” (Wolff, pg. 606) As stated earlier I think that definition best suit coercion. My opinion violence is a behavior that involves physical force that is used to hurt or cause damage or even kill an individual.
Galtung definition was not compelling in the fact that it was too broad. He feels that it could operate in a physical and psychological way. It could be intended or unintended. It can be negative influence or positive influence. In my opinion if you are going to inflict violence on someone, I don’t see how it can be unintended. Your whole intent is to cause harm or damage even death. He states six distinctions to violence which I feel is dividing it up into too many categories to the point where it becomes complex. There are too many choices of what violence is. A straightforward one definition is not given but multiple definitions are given. He divides it up into personal and structural and the further divides the person into different groups and the same for structural. So, violence is intended or not intended as well as manifest or latent. Then under personal, it can be physical, psychological, with object and without object. The same is broken down on the structural side. This is too broad a definition. The definition of violence should be straight forward to the point and not having multiple avenues to head which causes confusion.
I find Wolffs argument on violence the most compelling because his constructivist like approach shows how an individuals own ideologies and opinions change their personal definition of violence. Examples from the text include “Thus, murder is an act of violence, but capital punishment by a legitimate state is not.” (Wolff, 606), and also found on page 606, his explanation that if someone steals your wallet forcefully it is violent, but if someone scams you out of the same amount of money online, it is not labeled the same way. An example outside of the text is that I believe a woman should have the right to chose an abortion and it is violent to force her to have a baby that can cause more harm than good. Obviously on the other hand, people believe it is violent to abort a fetus. These contradictions about what is violent/nonviolent stem from opposing political or moral beliefs. Finally, the quote “If ‘violence’ is taken in the strict sense to mean “an illegitimate or unauthorized use of force,” then every political act, whether by private parties or by agents of the state, is violent, for there is no such thing as legitimate authority.” (Wolff, 608) comes from an anarchist position, but also influenced my views on how we think about authority and the violence they can cause (think of the example above about the state authorizing a punishment – the death penalty).
I disagree with Galtung’s definition of violence because it is too broad (Gultang, 168). I do not think that by influencing someone there is violence present. (I do see that this word has taken on a new meaning since this was written so it would be useless to use a counter argument that says Alix Earle is not committing an act of violence against me simply because she is an influencer). I also do not think that there needs to be a definition. Everyone has a sense of what violence is, but as Wolff pointed out, people will make their own definitions.
That being said, when given such an ambiguous term like violence it is important to be wary of the slippery slope of broadening the term (Gultang was not wary). People should not be able to inflate the word violence to apply to any unfortunate thing that happens to them; it’s not violent to have a sassy cashier at the grocery store, and the last thing we need is some Karens dramatizing their slight mistreatment. A strict definition of the term violence will go unnoticed; violence is what people make it to be. That is why Wolffs argument is so insightful, because it addresses that the word is given meaning through someones beliefs, not the other way around.
After reading and analyzing the texts by Wolff (1969), Arendt (1970), Blumenthal (1972), and Galtung (1969), each author’s perspective on “Violence” offers unique insights, making it essential to examine their arguments and determine which definitions are most and least compelling. In deciding between competing explanations of a concept like “violence,” it is crucial to consider various factors, such as comprehensiveness, the ability to capture different forms of violence, and its power relationship. Wolff’s approach to defining violence is particularly striking because it emphasizes that the human will act as a central aspect. He posits that violence occurs when an individual’s will is imposed upon another against their consent (Wolff, 1969, p. 12). This definition captures the essence of violence as coercion and recognizes that violence encompasses more than just physical harm.
Galtung’s definition of violence offers a broader perspective by introducing the idea of “structural violence.” He contends that violence can manifest directly and indirectly, with the latter emerging in social structures and institutions perpetuating inequality and harm (Galtung, 1969, p. 170). This approach is appealing because it extends beyond singular acts of aggression, addressing systemic factors contributing to societal violence. Arendt provides a more philosophical perspective, stressing the relationship between power and violence. She asserts that violence is a means to an end, capable of temporarily upholding power, which ultimately relies on the consent of the governed (Arendt, 1970, p. 52). While her insights hold value, her definition of violence is less comprehensive than those of Wolff and Galtung, as it does not explicitly address the variety of forms violence can assume.
Finally, Blumenthal centers his argument on the psychological components of violence, suggesting that violent behavior often stems from individual aggression and frustration (Blumenthal, 1972, p. 6). Although this perspective underscores the importance of understanding the psychological motivations behind violent acts, it is arguably the least compelling because it primarily focuses on individual actions and neglects broader social and structural factors contributing to violence. When evaluating competing definitions of “violence,” comprehensiveness and the ability to address various forms and manifestations of violence are vital. In addition, factors such as the relationship between power and violence, the role of social structures, and the psychological aspects of violent behavior are critical in developing a well-rounded definition.
In conclusion, Galtung’s concept of structural violence emerges as the most compelling approach because it transcends individual acts of aggression, acknowledging the systemic factors contributing to violence in society. Conversely, Blumenthal’s emphasis on psychological motivations is the least compelling, as it fails to account for broader social and structural factors involved in violence. Ultimately, it is essential to weigh various factors in developing a comprehensive and practical definition of “violence” that resonates on a human level.
With the competing approaches to defining ‘’violence’’ that the authors from this week’s texts discussed and presented. The approach that I find most compelling is the vision of Hannah Arendt, and the least compelling is Johan Galtung because he claims that people only commit violence due to influence which demands the control of freedom to an extent that’s valued by people who are visited upon the use of influence.
Hannah Arendt had evaluated the senses of how power is a contributing senseable act that is demonstrated within the ideas of society in which it brings the objective of new coming to present. Arendt has shown that power is as strong when people are together to an extent of when varnishing, it comes to violence in a collaborative way of formation in how ‘’All politics is a struggle for power, the ultimate kind of power is violence’’ (Arendt 1970) I believe in the approach that Hanah Arnedt resonated within the approach of violence, most likely because it is united with how people use their ideal humane right to capture their individual beliefs within the opposing party of government in where it relates to, ‘’The extreme form of power is All against one, the extreme form of violence is one against all.’’ (Arnedt 1970)
The reasoning of myself contradicts the idea of Galtung on facts of what lead to violence within how people are influenced to take place in an influence of violence. Galtung has mentioned that violence occurs with influence, most likely within the ideological leaders. Galtung certainly thought of the idea of how influence is nobility within violence, in terms of ‘’It is useful to conceive of violence in terms of influence, as indicated in the statement we used as a point of departure above. A complete influence relation presupposes an influencer, an influence, and a mode of influencing.’’ ( Galtung 1969) I certainly do not agree with Galtung, due to the fact that people don’t necessarily need to be influenced to take necessary actions such as violence, but people should take necessary actions on their beliefs and not incapacitated influences. Violence is certainly an important aspect of power, that ideally defines that violence itself, that is perpetuated from the people are powerful, ‘’If we turn to discussion of the phenomenon of power, we soon find that there exists a consensus among politician theorists from left to right to the effect that violence is nothing more than the most flagrant manifestation of power.’’ (Arendt 1970)
To conclude, I highly agree with the characterization of violence in terms of Hannah Arendt due to it bringing an uprise scale of how on the people to ensure such corporation of violence to occur, rather than Galtung takes the not of how people are influenced to do what’s right in terms of violence.
Whether they know it or not, people constantly disagree about which action constitutes the label of violence. A survey conducted in 1972 indicates total contention about the application of the word. 57% of respondents think police shooting a looter does not classify as violence, 22% think sit-ins are violence, and it is almost evenly split, although slightly favoring yes, the question of whether not letting people have their civil rights is violence. This contention has been seen and has led to many authors attempting to address the concept of violence.
Hannah Arendt goes against what she considers a “consensus from the left to right” (page 35), that violence is the most flagrant manifestation of power, and argues not only are power and violence different but opposites. This is due to power being based on cooperation and collaboration, while violence is an act relying on force and coercion perpetrated to assert control or achieve a goal. Violence usually appears where power is in jeopardy.
Wolffs’ view flips many attempts at explaining the concept on its head, he argues violence is a term for political rhetoric and therefore not as useful for bringing clarity as originally thought. Strictly speaking, however, violence is the illegitimate or unauthorized use of force to effect decisions against the will or desire of others. Hence, it depends on legitimacy. Since different groups have different interests and beliefs on the means of which to achieve them, it follows that there are numerous conflicting definitions of violence. He incorporates this view into his anarchist beliefs about there being no legitimate state and how different groups interact with each other, although that gets you a bit too far away from the discussion on violence.
According to Johan Galtung, “violence is present when human beings are being influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realization.” When someone is being driven below this potential realization harm is being done. Galtung distinguishes between different types of violence such as physical vs psychological, intended vs unintended, but the most impactful and innovative one is the distinction between personal and structural violence. He explains the differences in various ways, such as structural violence being stable over time and personal violence being susceptible to fluctuations. Though, more simplified, systemic violence refers to the violence perpetuated by societal systems.
I found all approaches being compelling in their own way, although they differed substantially they all made sense. Power being the opposite of violence, violence being a term for political rhetoric and what that entailed, etc. One that did surprise me however was how violence was described in terms of actual vs potential realization. The existence of the counterfactual now seems crucial for the concept of violence, I question any variation of the concept without it. I would also add the distinctions Galtung does are innovative, especially how it eventually goes to structural violence. Nevertheless, some of Wolff’s statements on violence, such as there being objectively numerous conflicting definitions of the concept, are probably true and thus taint to an extent all the other authors’ attempt at pinpointing the concept.
The most compelling approach and definition of violence for me is Johan Galtung’s definition of political violence. The approach is very compelling because he provides so many levels and nuances that are easily justified and grounded in reality. He believes that there must be a decisive and precise definition of violence when approaching the debate between what is nonviolent and what is violent in political disobedience a sentiment that I agree with. The nuance that comes into play that I find very compelling is the separation of different types of violence. Galtung identifies that there is both physical and psychological violence included in the spectrum of political violence. He states “ Under physical violence human beings are hurt somatically, to the point of killing” (Galtung 169). The distinction between physical violence and psychological violence comes from the actions of the people in power. Physical violence is easy and simple to understand as bodily harm being involved while psychological violence is a plethora of actions that are not seen or heard but felt such as social mobility being nonexistent or even education opportunities being unavailable. I find that Galtung’s distinction is a very compelling way to have a conversation about violence in a society.
The argument that I found least compelling was Arendt’s argument about violence and power and how they are opposite to each other. Arendt believes that in order to have power there will be no violence at all but I disagree and find that argument to not be grounded in reality. In order to have power a political entity in society must be capable of violence or else they would not have power at all. For me power and violence are intrinsically connected and it is impossible to have one without the other. For Arendt she believes that true power has no violence at all and that sentiment I just can not agree with.
The most important aspect in deciding violence in my opinion is the threat of bodily harm or death physical violence is for me the violence that defines the word. Violence in its most basic form is the threat of being injured or killed as a result. Violence is something that humans have been since even before society was born and has been a staple of humanity ever since. Therefore, I believe that violence in its most basic and important sense is threat of injury of death.
After reading this week’s excerpts, I do see a connection between all the excerpts and their approaches to defining violence. Arendt, Wolff, and Galtung all give their own clear definitions of power, force, and authority, which all seem to be intertwined with the concept of violence and how we can define or try to begin to define political violence. The excerpt I did find the most questionable would-be Arendt’s approach to violence. Her approach caught my attention the most because it was so tied solely to power, giving a very interesting way to look at political violence. She was very in-depth with her analysis, as she always is but in comparison to Galtung, I feel she was very abstract. The specific line that struck me the most from her excerpt proceeds by stating, “Indeed one of the most obvious distinctions between power and violence is that power always stands in need of numbers, whereas violence up to a point can manage without them because it relies on implements.”(Arendt, 42) She moves forward and gives clear distinctions between the definitions of some words she feels help to define violence, and those are power, strength, force, authority, and of course violence itself. All giving new perspectives on what can be considered true violence or causes therefore of violence. Arendt dives deep into these different categories, that entail what people consider political violence, but it is still hard to define true violence in the end with her abstraction. Following that concept of what defines true violence brings me to Wolff’s conception, in which he states, “the concept of violence is inherently confused, as is the correlative concept of nonviolence; these and related con- cepts depend for their meaning in political discussions on the fundamental notion of legitimate authority, which is also inherently incoherent.” (Wolff, 602) Wolff, just like Arendt gives definitions of power, authority, and force as well. And I can say I agree with him, in that defining violence, especially after reading Arendt, is very confusing and hard to define given certain social and political approaches. He states that violence cannot be clearly defined, because all people have different perspectives and opinions on what is right from wrong. If you find certain political activities as wrong, you may see acts against that ordinance as violent and wrong or even justified, leading to your own definition of what political violence can be. Wolff leans mostly on the fact that authority is not enough to define violence. All of which I can agree with, but still left me feeling a little blurred between the lines. When it comes to political violence it is very hard to find one true definition of what truly can be called violent action but in some ways, we can put it in simple terms, Which was done with Galtung. The excerpt of Galtung was the most concise to me. Out of all the excerpts, I feel his approach was the least abstract, and very straightforward. His approach to defining violence is the most relevant to how I see society viewing violence nowadays. First, he simply defines violence as an act with intent to cause harm to another, whether it be by his definition of “structural or personal” violence. He goes more into detail with his six distinctions of what defines different forms of violence but put quite simply his approach to understanding and explaining violence to me was the most accurate, and comprehensible.
Hannah Arendt’s “On Violence” and Johan Galtung’s “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research” provide competing approaches to defining violence. Arendt suggests that violence is distinct from power and strength and is a means to an end that aims to achieve total destruction, while Galtung defines violence as the avoidable impairment of basic human needs, including physical harm, material deprivation, psychological harm, and deprivation of freedom and autonomy.
Arendt argues that violence is a manifestation of the absence of power, rather than an expression of it. According to her, violence arises when people resort to it as a substitute for power or when they are deprived of power. Arendt also distinguishes between violence and power, stating that power is the ability to act in concert with others to achieve a common goal, while violence is the power that is employed without limit, always with the aim of achieving total destruction. However, Arendt’s definition of violence may be too narrow, as it fails to recognize the complexity of the different forms that violence can take.
Galtung’s definition of violence, on the other hand, is broader, encompassing a wider range of actions that can cause harm. He suggests that violence can be direct, structural, or cultural. Direct violence is physical violence, while structural violence refers to violence that results from social structures and institutions, such as poverty, racism, and sexism. Cultural violence, according to Galtung, refers to violence resulting from cultural practices and symbols, such as the glorification of war and the celebration of masculinity.
In my opinion, Galtung’s definition of violence is more compelling, as it recognizes the systemic and indirect forms of violence that are often overlooked. Galtung’s definition also emphasizes the importance of basic human needs, such as freedom and autonomy, which may be impaired through structural and cultural violence. Furthermore, Galtung’s definition allows for a more comprehensive understanding of violence, which can help to identify its root causes and develop effective strategies to prevent and address it. When deciding between competing definitions of a concept like violence, it is essential to consider the context in which the concept is being applied. Depending on the purpose or goal of the analysis, one definition of violence may be more useful than another. For example, in a legal context, a narrow definition of violence may be required to determine whether a crime has been committed. However, in a social context, a broader definition may be necessary to identify and address systemic and cultural violence. Additionally, it is crucial to consider the potential consequences of using a particular definition, as it may have implications for how violence is addressed and prevented in practice.
In my opinion, the most compelling and interesting account of what the definition of violence is given by Arendt. She begins her argument early on by giving Engel’s definition of violence that it is an accelerator of the economy and on the same page goes into the violence involved in war and that rather than the historical notion that war is an “extension of diplomacy “ that it is in her opinion the opposite with peace being a continuation of war by other means (Arendt, 9).
Her argument intrigues me the most because from this point of view it seems that violence is an act that can not only start wars but keep them at bay. Later on in the excerpt in part two, Arendt examines how this violence works it’s way into politics by explaining the means of power through violence. With this identification it seems to stand that with the implementation of or the threat of violence a population, whether foreign or domestic, can be controlled.
On the opposite end, the argument that was least compelling to me was the research done on Predicting Attitudes Toward Violence. Although there is data and polls and such to back the claims of Blumenthal, I believe that there is better definitions and accounts given by the other excerpts.
Blumenthal states, “It appears from the data that attitudes toward violence are strongly related to basic values, attitudes toward others, and the language used to describe events” (Blumenthal, 1302). This would stand to mean that the “attitude “ towards violence connotes its definition. This in my opinion lends too much to the general population in understanding what is and isn’t violent. If public opinion is what decides whether something is violent then we are free to give any and all understanding to the meaning of the word. This is established even in Blumenthal’s own research wherein some of the participants indicated that force or violence used by police was regarded as necessary by some and unnecessary by others. Regardless of the participants opinions on whether it was necessary or not it is still violent.
To get a full understanding of the word and deciding what the complete definition should be it is important to understand past definitions and build on that foundation. Arendt does this by referring to the past while also recognizing, “it is a game that bears no resemblance to whatever war games preceded it” (Arendt, 3). This she said in regards to war but can be applied to violence in general. The previous definition of the word still holds value but it is important to take into account the world we live in now contains more subvert and indirect grievances that constitute violence. In order to choose a proper definition I believe it is important to compile both past and present events within their contextual standards. There also needs to be a limit on public input because it can skew our understanding.
The topic of defining “violence” is a complex one, and the authors of this week’s texts present different approaches and definitions. In my opinion, Johan Galtung’s definition of violence is the most compelling. This is because his definition of violence is compelling because it expands our understanding of what constitutes violence beyond just physical harm. Galtung defines violence as any avoidable impairment of basic human needs, whether directly or indirectly, and he argues that violence can take many forms beyond physical violence, including structural violence and cultural violence (Johan 180). This definition takes into account the many ways in which violence can manifest and recognises that violence is not limited to physical harm.
On the other hand, I find Robert Paul Wolff’s approach to defining violence to be the least compelling. Wolff argues that violence must involve physical harm and that other forms of harm, such as economic harm or psychological harm, cannot be considered violence. Economic harm, for example, can have a significant impact on people’s lives. In many cases, economic harm can lead to poverty, unemployment, and a lack of access to basic necessities such as food, shelter, and healthcare (Robert 610). This type of harm can have severe physical and psychological consequences for individuals and communities, including increased rates of illness, homelessness, and suicide. Similarly, psychological harm, such as emotional abuse or trauma, can have profound and lasting effects on individuals. Psychological violence can include things like verbal harassment, intimidation, or gaslighting, which can lead to feelings of fear, anxiety, and low self-esteem. This type of harm can be just as debilitating as physical violence and can even lead to physical health problems over time. This narrow definition overlooks the many ways in which harm can be inflicted on individuals and communities.
One of the most important factors in deciding between competing definitions of a concept like “violence” is the context in which the concept is being used. For example, (Monica D. Blumenthal’s pp 1300) study on attitudes toward violence demonstrates how cultural and societal factors can influence people’s perceptions of what constitutes violence. In her study, Blumenthal found that people who were exposed to more violence in their daily lives were more likely to have a broader definition of violence that included economic and psychological harm. Hannah Arendt’s essay “On Violence” (pp 25), also highlights the importance of context when defining violence. Arendt argues that violence is inherently unpredictable and can arise when power is threatened, but she also emphasises that violence is not the same as power. Understanding the context in which violence occurs is crucial for developing effective strategies for preventing and addressing violence.
Overall, the competing approaches to defining “violence” presented in this week’s texts highlight the complexity of the concept and the importance of taking into account the many ways in which harm can be inflicted upon individuals and communities. While some definitions may be more limited in scope, others take a broader view that recognizes the interconnectedness of different forms of harm. Ultimately, the most compelling definition of violence will depend on the context in which it is being used and the goals of those who are working to prevent and address violence.
The authors of this week’s texts present competing approaches to defining violence. Johan Galtung proposes a broader definition of violence, including physical harm and structural and cultural forms. Galtung argues that violence is a “social disease” that pervades all aspects of society, including political, economic, and cultural institutions (Galtung, 1969). On the other hand, Robert Paul Wolff argues that violence is inherently destructive and dehumanizing and is always a result of a power struggle. Wolff argues that violence is used to assert power over others and perpetuates a cycle of conflict and suffering (Wolff, 1969).
Personally, I find Galtung’s definition of violence to be the most compelling, as it recognizes the pervasive and insidious nature of violence beyond just physical harm. By including structural and cultural forms of violence, Galtung’s definition highlights the ways in which violence can be perpetuated through social institutions and systems of power. This allows for a more comprehensive understanding of violence and its underlying causes, which can inform more effective strategies for preventing and addressing it.
In contrast, I find Wolff’s definition of violence to be the least compelling. While it acknowledges the destructive nature of violence, it fails to account for the broader social and systemic factors that contribute to violence. Additionally, Wolff’s emphasis on power struggles as the underlying cause of violence overlooks the ways in which social inequalities and systemic injustices can create conditions that lead to violence.
When deciding between competing definitions of a concept like violence, it is important to consider the context in which the definition is being used and the goals of the analysis. For example, Galtung’s definition may be more useful in a broader analysis of social and political structures. In contrast, Wolff’s definition may be more appropriate for examining the dynamics of interpersonal violence.
Hannah Arendt also presents her own perspective on violence in her work “On Violence.” Arendt’s definition of violence differs from both Galtung and Wolff, as she argues that violence is distinct from power and force. Arendt suggests that violence is a form of action that aims to destroy and replace power with domination (Arendt, 1970). According to Arendt, violence differs from force because it lacks legitimacy and is not backed by authority or right. On the other hand, force is legitimate and can be used by those in power to maintain their authority. Arendt argues that violence is used by those who lack the power to achieve political goals and is a symptom of the breakdown of political institutions and norms.
Arendt’s definition of violence is compelling because it emphasizes the political nature of violence and its relationship to power. By distinguishing violence from the force, Arendt highlights the ways in which violence can be used as a means of challenging and subverting existing power structures. At the same time, her emphasis on the illegitimacy of violence underscores the need for political institutions and norms that can prevent its use and ensure the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
Overall, the different perspectives on violence presented by Galtung, Wolff, and Arendt highlight violence’s complexity and varied nature as a social and political phenomenon. While each definition has its own strengths and weaknesses, they all underscore the importance of understanding violence to address its causes and prevent its use in achieving political goals.
The most compelling text I found was Arendt’s “On Violence”. Throughout her text Arendt critically analyses the connections between violence, war, power, and politics, and directly addresses her two audiences: authorities who sought corrective measures to restore peace to American life and people who were actively creating turmoil throughout the country. Her main argument was that the theories that equated violence with power were wrong and showcased the dichotomy and faulty line of reasoning reinforced by the Judeo-Christian religion that “violence” was custom of an angry God. Arendt’s reasoning for bashing he ideology of Judeo-Christian religion and their take on violence was that it was illogical as it primarily imposed conformity through physical coercion. Rather, she argued that power is the ability of a social entity to act together.
To conclude on Arendt, she uses a definition of violence in relation to power that truly stood out to me and reads as follows: “Violence can always destroy power; out of the barrel of a gun grows the most effective command, resulting in the most instant and perfect obedience. What can never grow out of it is power” (Arendt, 53). This quote was the true definition of her stance, that the only real resolution to conflict is through peaceful means to ensure all of the involved parties’ satisfaction. The in-depth analyses Arendt does connecting violence to war, power, and politics was simply extraordinary to me.
Although not exactly a definition per sé, I found Blumenthal’s approach the quite compelling as well because in her text she explored the different kinds of violence that inhibit American life. The most compelling in my opinion being “instrumental violence” which explored the theory of violence being used “as a tool for achieving a variety of goals, some of which are political” and others which can simply be for personal and selfish gains and have a faulty line of reasoning (Blumenthal, 1296).
The text I found the least compelling was Wolff’s “Journal of Philosophy” because I found his text to go in circles – not giving a direct definition of “violence”. Note that in the very beginning of his text he stated that violence followed “a number of familiar questions [and] confusions which [garnered] no coherent answers” (Wolff, 602). I disagree with this stance. Aside from this, I found his texts to be more suitable for defining “coercion” rather than “violence” because of what he says: “violence is the illegitimate or unauthorized use of force to effect decisions against the will or desire of others” (Wolff, 606) – to me, that is exactly what coercion is, not violence. Coercion, in accordance to Wolff uses violence as its weapon of choice but the same does not work vice versa.
The factors I found to be important when defining a term like “violence” are distinguishing between the different types of violence that exist and defending the stance of nonviolence, which personally made me think back to last week’s texts on King and Gandhi and fighting violence with nonviolence. Like I previously stated, Arendt’s distinction between “violence” and the one imposed by the Judeo-Christian religion was one that especially stood out to me as she pinpointed the illogicalness of this ideology which sought to blame “violence” on an angry God rather than holding people accountable for their acts.
The least compelling approach to defining violence is Hannah Arendt. Arendt defines violence as “distinct from power, force, or strength” (Arendt, 4). She uses a lot of Engel’s words in her arguments. For example, talks about the economic development of a country. The contradiction between political power structures will lead to violence. This is where her definition of violence relates to power and politics. She also makes a distinction between the relationship between war and violence. I find her definition least compelling because her definition and arguments are very narrow.
On the other hand, I find John Galtung’s approach more compelling. He emphasizes that there are many types of violence. Therefore, a definition of violence isn’t important. For him, it is more important to find the theoretical significance dimensions of violence. Yet he does give a broad definition as the basis of what violence is. “Violence is present when human beings are being influenced so that their actual soma- tic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations” (Galtung, 168). In this definition, he provides six important dimensions of violence. He points out the difference between what is potential and actual within violence.
Additionally, he provides an example of the difference between ‘potential’ and ‘actual’. “If a person died from tuberculosis in the eighteenth century, it would be hard to conceive of this as violence since it might have been quite unavoidable, but if he dies from it today, despite all the medical resources in the world, then is violence” (Galtung, 168). With this scenario, we can understand the importance of having a broad definition. When the potential is higher, it becomes unavoidable therefore there is violence present. While if the actual is unavoidable there is no violence present.
In his third distinction, he talks about physical violence and indirect threats of physiological violence. He emphasizes the idea that the destruction of things is not inherently violent according to his definition. Moreover, he mentions in his third distinction between personal violence and structural violence. He refers to structural violence as a social injustice. His fifth distinction talks about intended and unintended violence. Unintended violence can be biased and fail to notice structural violence.
With Galtung’s arguments, it becomes very noticeable that the biggest factor in deciding which definition is more compelling is how broad and at the same time, as specific can the definition be. Galtung’s definition is broad, but he talks about different significant varieties of violence. That makes the definition specific at the same time.
First of all, I am going to touch base on the argument I found less compelling:
Out of all the scholars that we read this week, I found that Galtung’s argument is the most confusing. I am not sure about his definition when saying “Violence is here defined as the cause of the difference between the potential and the actual, between what could have been and what is” (Galtung, 168), I feel like this is too confusing, and I understand that we need the definition of peace to understand that violence ultimately, is the contrary of peace. But peace is also a very complex definition, and peace can mean many things to different nations and communities. This is why I cannot find his argument as compelling.
With Arendt, I love how she writes. Her ultimate conclusion is that “violence in the shape of war and revolution may appear to constitute the only possible interruption” (Arendt, 30). I feel like this one can be a great definition because violence is ultimately a disruption of something, a normal situation. Moreover, she also states that violence is “ruled by the means-end category”, and this is something definitely finds compelling because it ties with the end justify the means, and personally, it ties well itself with my own definition of violence (my personal one)
For Blumenthal, I found it too scientific but she has valid quantitative data to support the argument and opinions of violence. I personally believe that the question of “do the media simply serve as a model for imitation, or do they project modify fundamental social values that inhibit or facilitate violent behaviors?” (Blumenthal, 1296) and the three arguments for identifying violence are valid. We do need to ask these various questions, and, like her, make surveys and studies to see any correlations between the groups that perform more violence vs the ones that do not.
Lastly, I agree with Wolff’s arguments the most. I found them the most compelling because with “the concept of violence is inherently confused, as is the correlative concept of non-violence; these and related concepts depend for their meaning in political discussions on the fundamental notions of legitimate authority, which is also inherently incoherent” (Wolff, 602). THIS is what I found more compelling because it leaves room for interpretation. Wolff presents us the argument that it really depends on the political environment. As I said above, violence and non-violence are interpretative depending on the nation or community in question. There are different levels of violence and non-violence that are acceptable or completely non-sense depending on the community, culture, nation, etc.
“Tradition has been to think about violence as personal violence only, with one important subdivision in terms of violence vs. the threat of violence. . . physical vs. psychological war, intended vs unintended” (Galtung 173). Johan Galtung’s idea is the most compelling one because of the widely broad definition of violence and the distinctions between all the kind of violence that exist. He concludes that the only, or more important distinction, should be between structural and personal violence. And yet structural violence can be easily overlooked, and this is because the object of personal violence (the person) receives the violence directly, whereas the object of structural violence can be persuaded not to perceive it (Galtung 173). Structural violence is silent because it has to do with inequality, unbalanced distribution of power, and its main weapon is social stratification (Galtung 175).
Hanna Arent focuses her discussion on the comparison between power and violence. She explains that the concept of violence will depend on the political goal and the specific society, mainly, “power is nothing more than the most flagrant manifestation of power” (Arendt 35). This idea of violence as an extension of power wrongly used, is very compelling as well. The ideas about the type of society and political goals are comparable to Monica D. Blumenthal article about the results of a social survey published in 1972, that showed what Americans perceived as violence and nonviolence at the time. 58% of the respondents believed that burning draft cards is a form of violence, 38% agreed that student’s protests are another kind of violence, and 22% said that sit-ins are violence as well (Blumenthal 1300). In the same study, only 56% of men believed that beating students was violence (Blumenthal 1301). This shows how irrational and malleable are people’s perceptions, in this case, in regard to violence.
Robert Paul Wolf’s article is the least compelling one because of his idea that there is not true meaning of violence, and it is just a rhetorical term used in politics, and that what is considered violence will depend on legitimacy of authority, but the idea of legitimate authority is “inherently incoherent” for him (Wolf 602). However, in spite of not being the strongest arguments it is still somehow backed by what the study showed, because for a person to think that sit-ins are violent there has to be a cognitive impairment, or the structure of society and culture has led this person to believe this, which in the any case proves that somehow violence is an abstract concept that can be understood differently depending on the society and historical moment.
Throughout the readings this week I’d have to say in my opinion that Robert Wolff has the most compelling argument to the concept of Violence. Wolff is quoted as saying in the text that “The concept of violence is inherently confused, as is the correlative concept of nonviolence; these and related concepts depend for their meaning in political discussions on the fundamental notion of legitimate authority, which is also inherently incoherent”. What I take away from that quote on violence is that when you have a violent moment, whether it’s war, a murder, a political martyrdom, and many more circumstances, is that their is a grand lack of communication from the multiple parties involved. This will change under each and every circumstance because of the factors involved. A great example of this was January 6th when Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the capitol in Washington in the name of overturning the results of the election. People were killed, trampled, injured. The capitol was ransacked. This was a great example of violence with one party being completely clueless and confused. The crowd was controlled and the violence was definitely created by the vast manipulation set forth by Donald Trump in the media calling the election stolen and that the democrats rigged it in multiple states. This was obviously a lie and anyone with any common sense could see that the election was secure. This whole statement by definition that Wolff states suggests that violence has confusion when being committed.
The author who I believe has the least compelling concept of violence is Arendt’s concept. Arendt defines it as “Violence is by nature instrumental; like all means, it always stands in need of guidance and justification through the end it pursues.” I believe this is compelling in a way because truth be told all the authors had compelling arguments for the definition of violence. But in my opinion Violence doesn’t always need justification when being committed. Political violence sure, one can argue that Political violence needs justification for the ending that it is pursuing. There’s strong belief in the argument when someone is committing political violence because the act is committed on strong belief that they are left no choice but to act with violence, hence January 6th. But most violent acts aren’t thought out processes. You commit violence and most of the time it’s the wrong decision. A lo of times in political violence cases, the person running the act of violence will try to go down as a martyr. Whether they were coerced into believing that being a martyr was the right choice is in question, but what isn’t in question is that they’re 100% sure that this act needed to be committed.
There are multiple authors that attempt to prove their definition of violence being superior over the other, yet among these authors, I believe Galtung’s definition is the most compelling due to his ability to put a broad definition out there that can cover many forms of violence whether it be political or social in nature. As Galtung states on page 168, “Violence is here defined as the cause of the difference between the potential and the actual, between what could have been and what is. Violence is that which in-creases the distance between the potential and the actual, and that which impedes the decrease of this distance.” Galtung therefore believes violence can be almost anything that is destructive to one’s physical or psychological well-being. Galtung also delves deeper into subcategories or six distinctions that determines what can qualify as being referred to as violence. Some of these include manifest and latent, physical and psychological, negative and positive, and the differences between each other.
The fourth distinction by Galtung is probably the most compelling, as he states, “We shall refer to the type of violence where there is an actor that commits the violence as personal or direct, and to violence where there is no such actor as structural or indirect” (Galtung, 170) In other words there might not be a person or group, or even organization or government to blame when referring to violence, and it becomes part of the structure of the situation. I also feel that Galtung’s definition could also define things like domestic violence which can often be more psychological than physical, therefore adding to the broadness of his definition it is able to be applied to various situations.
This is ultimately putting me against both Arendt and Wolff’s definitions, the latter simply due to the fact that Wolff’s definition was simply that there should be no definition or that one definition cannot exist. He also stated that “Violence is the illegitimate or unauthorized use of force to effect decisions against the will or desire of others.” (Wolff, 606) which is not always true whether you refer to violence being illegitimate or unauthorized, or the mentioning of it to be used to effect decisions against the will or desire of others. While with Arendt I could agree on the argument she makes about the difference between power and violence which she states, “Power is indeed of the essence of all government, but violence is not. Violence is by nature instrumental; like all means, it always stands in need of guidance and justification through the end it pursues.” (Arendt, 51) However I believe the big connection being missed is the fact that power, when in the wrong hands, can often lead to violence, therefore making her argument invalid. Arendt also believes that violence can destroy power, as a result defining it an inherently diminishing force, which again sounds too good to be true. One could simply refer to multiple past and present dictatorships and their ties to both violence and power as the reason, the leader themselves, still hold on to that very power.
In summary, Galtung’s definition of violence is probably the best one (according to my belief) due to the fact that it is broad enough to cover necessary aspects of what can define violence, but not too broad that it contradicts itself. With both Arendt and Wolff’s argument, the need to provide a single definition of violence is what shaped both of their material, while Galtung not only provided a framework but provided numerous examples of how each of his distinctions could be applied to various events in history.
After reading several of this week’s passages, I found Hannah Arendt’s to be more compelling on the topic of violence. I really enjoyed reading her take on both violence and power. She explains, 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. (Arendt pg. 56) I also like her comparison of violence and strength, which, finally, as I have said, is distinguished by its instrumental character. Phenomenologically, it is close to strength, since the implements of violence, like all other tools, are designed and used for the purpose of multiplying natural strength until, in the last stage of their development, they can substitute for it. (Arendt pg. 46) Generally, Arendt emphasizes the instrumental nature of violence, its resistance to power, and its capacity for destruction. She also mentions that when violence is used, all it does is open the way to more violence, which can lead to the downfall of communities. Which is why I found her to be compelling. I found Robert Paul Wolff’s least compelling. I understand he is speaking from a philosophical standpoint, however, his point of view has to do more with… Wolf take on violence is that it is an illegitimate or unauthorized use of force to effect decisions against the will or desire of others, and If violence is understood, on the other hand, as the use of force to interfere with someone in a direct, bodily way or to injure him physically, then the doctrine of nonviolence is merely a subjective queasiness having no moral rationale.(Wolff pg610). In my opinion, Wolff’s writing style is a bit less practical when it comes to reality. He believes that violence should also come. With several others hams besides physical. My definition of violence is any type of pain to be inflicted. on someone.
The factors that are important when understanding the definition of “violence” are the contexts it is used in and the accuracy of the definition. For example, Arendt mostly focuses on violence and the link with power. Wolff, however, focuses on the role of the state in trying to maintain power, which can lead to violence. Wolff’s take is more philosophical and could also be harder for people to understand. However, both Arendt and Blumenthal touch on how context is important.
The most compelling definition of violence is the one offered by Arendt, who defined violence as a phenomenon close to strength, with instrumental character, which uses its implements and tools to multiply natural strength until their substitution that may end power (Arendt, 1970, p. 48). She also stated that violence needs implements, a revolution in technology and tool-making (especially warfare), that often overpass the needed goal, full of arbitrariness, unpredictability, and uncertainty (Arendt, 1970, p. 6), being besides inherent to human affairs (Arendt, 1970, p.10). In America, serious violence started with the appearance of the Black Power movement on the campuses to lower academic standards and radicalize the student movement against police brutality. According to the Report on Violence in America: “Force and violence are likely to be successful techniques of social control and persuasion when they have wide popular support.” The most crucial factor for this choice is her statement that technical development of the implements of violence and war (Arendt, 1970, p.5) can reach the highest potential for massive destruction, such as the attitude of the superpowers with the arms race, making an unjustified and irrational way of ending civilization.
On the other hand, the less precise definition of violence corresponds, in my opinion, to Galtung, who defined violence as the cause of the difference between the potential (what could have been) higher than the actual (what is) and it is avoidable by definition (Galtung, 1969, p. 168). Examples would be life expectancy today (whether due to wars, social injustice, or both). The most crucial factor for this choice is that, according to him, we would talk about violence if the literacy level of determined people is lower than what it could have been; thus, it would be a manifestation of violence. Moreover, he does not consider destroying things as violence but as some “degenerate” form.
The other authors showed their points of view. Wolff sustained that violence is a confused concept related to legitimate authority, its use in politics, if black or student movements are violent, or even if anything good in politics is ever accomplished by violence (Wolff, 1969, p. 602). Thus, violence is the illegitimate or unauthorized use of force to effect decisions against the will or desire of others (Wolff, 1969, p. 606). Examples of this: murder is an act of violence, but capital punishment by a legitimate state is not; theft or extortion is violent, but the collection of taxes by a legitimate state is not. He also said that the contradiction between violence and nonviolence in contemporary American politics is just ideological rhetoric for keeping or revoking the power and privileges or their redistribution. Blumenthal analyzed attitudes toward violence, such as justification for violence for social control and their differences about race (for instance, black people consider property damage or bodily injury a good choice for gaining attention and fast changes) (Blumenthal, 1972, p. 1298). She used a model of patterns in different situations like fundamental cultural values against and in favor of violence, identification with the aggressor or the victim, the definition of violence, self-defense, retributive justice, property defense, police response, humanism, and kindness.
All readings were very much enlightening nonetheless, John Wolff and Johan Galtang readings gave a elaborate meaning of violence. Galtang’s quoted that “violence is present when human beings are influenced so that their actual somatic and mutual realizations are below their potential realization” (Galtang 175). He further notes that violence is overall an injustice of their true potential that limits the higher actuality of individual and society as a whole’s potential. Moreover, he digs a bit deeper defining both physical (e.g., killings, constraint on human movement) and psychological violence (e.g., lies, indoctrination, threats and anything that decreases mental potential). More importantly without reading this article and their definition of concept, I would have never categorized psychological violence as indoctrination and anything that decreases mental potential. This decrease of mental potential could be the choice of food consumption, words in music, movies, video game (entertainment), and or a toxic relationship. Furthermore, I can agree with his perspective of violence built into a class system or caste structure. He notes that violence can also be considered unequal power and life which limits social status. Shockingly what comes to mind is Cuba, the injustices and violence over Cuba is merely psychological violence and financial gain is the fuel to the Castro dictatorship. Additionally, this hindrance can be based on low education, resources, health and overall power even in a democratic republic. He elaborates and gives examples of the socialist Marxism theory of capitalism whereas producers who work towards producing the most have the ability to rank higher in a society therefore receiving top of the line and elite social status and resources. Galtang labels this social structure as a violence however, without corruption and financial gain, I can disagree with this statement because I believe that if all citizens worked toward natural order and within a society must seek purpose and talent above all and in that order form political justice.
On the other hand, Wolff defines and outlines political power as a sense and use of violence. This political power justifies its ability to make and enforce laws upon others under the matters of social importance. This social importance in my opinion triumphs over anyone and anything to hold all resources and power. Moreover, Wolff agrees that the ability to obtain good education, healthcare, and the ability to attain good resources is a right. He continues to note that political and individual power is a right to both parties and gives the example of a citizen’s ability to spend and plan their own money as they please and the government’s ability to tax both a fundamental right. This statement alone I believe can defend democracy without corruption however government corruption and the separation of power is an underlying issue when it comes to socioeconomic class structures. Then Wolff explains that being “disputed by a fist” (Wolff 613) and explains the use of money which is also used as force to control. This statement alone can be relevant in a recent pandemic with elite corporations and shareholders who infuse tactics to gain financial power and later using the financial gain to investment in resources for purposes of civilization dependence. This force and decapitation of human movement can be considered political violence as it focuses on power and wealth in a self-interest motivation to remain in power. Lastly, this structured violence is a social injustice built to ensure unequal power and cripple potential in a sovereign nation.
Compared to Wolff’s (1969) concept of violence, Arendt’s (1969) formulation is less convincing. Arendt’s argument fails to fully identify viciousness or explain how it may be employed as a tool for political transformation. Moreover, Arendt’s viewpoint ignores the possible benefits of violence, such as its ability to function as a sort of self-defense. Furthermore, Arendt’s idea of violence is unduly simple and ignores the complexities of human conduct. Wolff provides a more persuasive definition of violence because he considers violence’s possible good impacts, such as its ability to function as self-defense among individuals. On the same, Wolff’s understanding of violence is more delicate and profound than Arendt’s, allowing people to better understand human behavior’s complexities. Besides, actual evidence from a study on aggressive behavior add credibility (Wolff, 1969).
When deciding between contradictory definitions of a concept like “violence,” various crucial criteria must be carefully considered. Context, intentionality, intensity, and the perspective of those affected by the violence are only a few of the most important factors to examine. Understanding violence requires context since what constitutes violence in one setting may not constitute violence in another. Some people, for example, may not regard physical self-defense force to be aggressive. Consequently, depending on the political, economic, and social background, a violent act might be perceived in various ways. Similarly, while defining the word, it is critical to incorporate the perspectives of individuals affected by violence. A victim or survivor may view and experience violence differently than a non-victim. Since abuse in relationships is tolerated, some persons who have previously suffered domestic violence may not perceive their experiences as violent.
When describing terms like violence, another key thing to consider is intent. For example, even if a medical procedure produced bodily injury, accidental harm induced by that method is not usually considered part of violence. A person’s intentional injury may be considered violent, even if not bodily. The severity of violence influences how it is characterized. Aggressive characters can lead to both physical and psychological issues in varied degrees among individuals, some of which may be undetectable. The severity of a violent act’s impact on the people involved may determine its categorization.
When deciding between contrasting definitions of a concept like violence, examining the context, intentions, severity, and perspective of those affected by the violence is critical. These factors can help to provide a more comprehensive and complicated understanding of violence and other terms that requires a serious concern in their definition depending on the population to be addressed and their possible consequences.
After analyzing each excerpt I found Monica Blumenthal’s approach the most compelling because when speaking on violence and its effect she mentions the history of violence that has occurred during the years such as assassinations, riots, student disruption, and the percentage of people who believe violence is needed or not in certain situations. she defines violent behavior as forceful and destructive. Many individuals believe that the act of violence is essentially motivated by anger and frustration. There are several different forces regarding violence. The degree of violence that is considered to be acceptable may be seen as the product of conflicting forces, some of which tend to drive the level down until no violent act is considered to be acceptable while others usually push the power up until acts of extreme violence are considered to be normal. It is intriguing how she compares how Americans reacted during world war II and how Hitler killed thousands of civilians. Blumenthal distinguishes each type of violence and includes a scale with a set of questions to measure attitudes justifying violence for social control and attitudes justifying violence for social change along with the percentage of those who agree or not.
I found Johan Galtung least compelling due to how Violence is defined as the cause of the difference between the potential and the actual, between what could have been and what is. Galtung mentions that violence also involves human beings being influenced in such a way that their actual somatic and mental realizations fall short of their potential realization. He stated, “Violence is that which increases the distance between the potential and the actual, and that which impedes the decrease of this distance”. In this except he uses an example involving tuberculosis and how it may have been quite preventable in the eighteenth century, it would be difficult to consider this to be violence; however, if he passes away from it now, in defiance of all available medical resources, then violence is present. I believe this example doesn’t seem to be the best way to describe violence which is why it is the least compelling.
In my perspective, The factor that is most important in deciding violence is purposely using physical strength or influence, whether threatened or used, against another person that can have a strong chance of resulting in harm to one’s death or even psychological harm in some way which should be avoidable.
I think that the four authors offer quite interesting definitions of violence, with logical and reasonable approaches from their perspective and their time. I think that the concepts alone do not provide a complete definition of what violence is in which we can apply it to every situation, because Galnugt defines it quite broadly, but that broad definition could fall into disuse and could lead to confusion and unclearness precisely for the same. On the other hand, overly specific approaches such as Wolf and Ardent’s concept, which give their meaning from unique perspectives, would not allow us to contemplate violence in other important aspects. I could say that their definitions and approaches are highly salvageable to build a more complete one.
For example, Arendt’s perspective itself speaks of the relationship between Power and Violence. Considering violence as a tool to achieve the objective that would be Power. Therefore, the definition of his violence is focused as a tool sometimes used when fundamentally cooperative power cannot be exercised in action. For her, violence is purely instrumental. It is a means to another end, and never an end in itself. For her, violence is the result of the failure of true power, because you resort to instilling fear to make people act in concert. Relying on force, terror. In short, destructive forces instead of creative forces.
I also find Wolff’s proposal compelling because its definition provides what is and is not violence, and how they work.
“The dispute over violence and nonviolence in contemporary American politics is ideological rhetoric designedeither to halt change and justify the existing distribution of power and privilege or to slow change and justify some features of the existing distribution of power and privilege or else to hasten change and justify a total redistribution of power and privilege.” (Wolff, 602) Here Wolf indicates that violence and nonviolence is confusing and the related concepts have been used in political debates regarding their legitimacy and coherence.
“Strictly speaking, violence is the illegitimate or unauthorized use of force to effect decisions against the will or desire of others.” (Wolff, 606) Providing an analysis from political concepts and with our own values, goals and interests politically.
Finally, Galgnut proposes the term of structural violence, which would operate in systematic ways, and distinguishing it from personal violence within the structure of a situation. In his 6 distinctions, he defines what violence is. Noting its levels and when it is intended or unintended. “Our list of dimensions of violence, although many more could be included. One question that immediately arises is whether any combinations from these six dichotomies can be ruled out a priori, but there seems to be no such case. Structural violence without objects is also meaningful; truncation of the complete violence relation can go so far as to eliminate both subjects and objects. Personal violence is meaningful as a threat, a demonstration even when nobody is hit, and structural violence is also meaningful as a blueprint, as an abstract form without social life, used to threaten people into subordination: if you do not behave, we shall have to reintroduce all the disagreeable structures we had before” (Galtung, 172). It makes it quite compelling because the 6 distinctions are broad enough, addressing every type and extent of what is violence or could be violence.
Truly, the proposals of Ardent, Galtung, and Wolf seem quite convincing to me because of what has been said above and by their extension that is quite good for the time that was lived when they proposed their approaches.
Hannah Arendt, Monica Blumenthal, Robert Paul Wolff, and Johan Galtung are prominent authors who have offered different approaches to defining violence. Arendt defines violence as a means to an end, while Blumenthal emphasizes a more literal perception of violence. Wolff distinguishes between violence and force, and Galtung argues that violence is a systemic issue. Although these authors have differing approaches when it comes to defining violence, they all offer insight and make great arguments supporting their claims.
Of these competing approaches, I find Johan Galtung’s definition to be the most compelling. Galtung defines violence as an avoidable impairment of human needs. In Violence, Peace, and Peach Research he argues, “when the potential is higher than the actual is by definition avoidable and when it is avoidable, then violence is present (Galtung, 1979 pg. 169) In addition, he writes, “thus, the potential level of realization is that which is possible with a given level of insight and resources. If insight and/or resources are monopolized by a group or class or are used for other purposes, then the actual level falls below the potential level, and violence is present in the system (Galtung, 1979 pg. 169)”. His definition recognizes the harm caused by social, political, and economic structures that perpetuate inequality and injustice, which may not be immediately obvious as violence. For example, the lack of access to basic necessities such as food, shelter, and water, are forms of violence that can lead to physical and psychological harm. This definition also allows for a broader understanding of violence, which can help in identifying and addressing harmful systemic issues.
Contrastingly, I find Monica Blumenthal’s definition to be the least compelling. Although I found her findings to be very interesting and her definition straightforward and easy to understand, it focused solely on physical harm. This definition fails to recognize the harm caused by non-physical forms of violence, such as emotional and psychological abuse, which can be just as damaging. With that being said, in her paper “Predicting Attitudes Toward Violence: A Test of Social Learning and Social Structure Theories she provided useful insight in understanding the attitudes and behaviors of individuals in relation to violence. She emphasized, “since agreement on what acts are considered violence as far from universal, one can ask whether the way in which languages use is related to attitudes towards violence (Blumenthal, 1972 pg. 1301).” Even though I found her approach to be the less compelling, her survey was informative and helpful, and I appreciate her insights.
All in all, the definition of violence is complex and multifaceted, and different approaches may be more or less compelling depending on the context. I find Galtung’s definition to be the most compelling as it recognizes the harm caused by systemic issues and allows for a broader understanding of violence. When deciding between competing definitions of violence, it is important to consider the context and potential consequences of using a particular definition.
“Violence has always played in human affairs” (pg.8). I agree that violence is always played in human affairs here we are in 2023 and violence is seen everywhere, seen in politics, in schools, police brutality here there and everywhere. A great example of violence in politics, the president inauguration when conservatives rushed the capital two years ago. Then we have the police brutality officers abusing their power and hurting and killing citizens. School violence to me is the worst. Seems every year more and more students are killed by peers, students bringing guns to school and creating a massacre.
“Engle’s defining violence as an accelerator of economic development” (pg. 9). The truth is if there’s violence it will result in people going out and spending money buying weapons armor, ammo, etc. I also agree with “the laws of woman alone are eternal. Page 26. That we are born perfectly, but we shall never be perfect.” I agree, we are born perfect and pure and as we grow and life shapes us to be who we want to be. Some want the easy way, and some want a more challenging way.
Talks about different wars and how in the future robot soldiers will make human soldiers obsolete. In my opinion this doesn’t sound bad, think about it robots would be made to fight in wars and humans will not. Having robots in war will save human lives instead of sending our men and women so front lines of war sounds amazing. This not only will help our soldiers, but also keep the human population alive.
Going back to Sartre, that the states, and power, it turns out, is an instrument of rule, while rule, we are told, oh its existence to the instinct of domination. A man feels himself more of a man when he is imposing himself and making others the instrument of his will, resulting in incomparable pleasure. Page 36. my interpretations that is the essence of power is command.
This to me is insane, how do you compare gunmen to an officer? If you don’t recall where this comes from, I’ll clear it for you. Basically, they are saying that someone with a gun holds the power because and I assume if the person holding the gun pulls the trigger, they can kill you. So, what the person on the other side of the gun barrel must comply to that person’s command resulting in them having the power to control.
The concept of violence has been a subject of significant interest and debate in various disciplines such as philosophy, sociology, and politics. Different scholars have presented varying approaches to defining violence, each with its strengths and weaknesses.
According to Monica Blumenthal, violence is defined as physical harm or injury caused to a person or group by another person or group. While this approach may be effective in some circumstances, it fails to capture the complexity of violence, particularly when it takes non-physical forms like structural violence, which has systemic effects on individuals or groups.
Hannah Arendt’s definition of violence is broader than Blumenthal’s. Violence, according to Arendt, is anything that prevents a person from being who they truly are, “Violence can always destroy power; out of the barrel of a gun grows the most effective command, resulting in the most instant and perfect obedience” (Arendt, pg. 53). Arendt contends that in addition to being physical, violence can also be psychological, cultural, or structural. Arendt accepts the complexity of violence and all its manifestations in her definition. She provides a subjective and ambiguous meaning, which makes it challenging to use in some circumstances.
According to Robert Paul Wolff, violence is the deliberate use of force to influence another person’s actions. Wolff’s method of categorizing violence is straightforward and specific, making it simple to recognize violent behaviors. His definition does not, however, consider the accidental use of force, which can occasionally be violent.
Johan Galtung’s definition of violence is more complex, encompassing physical and non-physical manifestations. Galtung defines violence as the result of denying a person’s or a group’s fundamental needs. This concept covers other types of violence, such as structural violence and cultural violence, which can hinder people’s or groups’ fundamental needs. Galtung’s definition of violence is complicated, though, and identifying violent acts may call for more thorough research.
Galtung’s method of defining violence is the strongest. His definition recognizes the multiple ways in which violence can influence people or organizations and the different forms it might take, “Violence is present when human beings are being influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations” (Galtung, 168). Also, his strategy acknowledges the reasons for violence at its origin, such as the repression of fundamental needs, which aids in a better comprehension of how violence functions. Monica Blumenthal’s approach is the least compelling because it fails to capture the multidimensional nature of violence and its various forms.
When choosing between conflicting definitions of a notion like violence, accuracy, comprehensiveness, and applicability are the most crucial factors. A definition of violence should be precise in describing its nature, thorough in accounting for its various manifestations, and applicable in a variety of situations. An ideal definition should be clear, concise, and easy to use in various contexts.
I find John Galtung’s interpretation of violence in his work, Violence, Peace, and Peace Research, more compelling. Galtung’s assertions on structural and physical violence resonated with me. Many people view violence as only a physical phenomenon and don’t recognize the danger of structural or indirect violence. The implicit nature of structural violence makes it deadly and it is something that we see in our everyday lives. Subtle bias is just as dangerous as physical violence. Galtung states that in both cases “…individuals may be killed or mutilated, hit or hurt in both senses of these words, and manipulated by means of stick or carrot strategies” (Galtungs, 170). The reality of the situation is that the harm that has been positioned in the system creates generations of violence and can be argued to be even more damaging than physical violence. Galtung’s analysis of violence introduces to his readers the different exhibitions of violence in society.
Hannah Arendt’s approach to violence in her work On Violence is the less compelling in my opinion. However, an interesting point that caught my attention was the blunt distinction between violence and power. While “…power always stands in need of numbers…violence up to a point can manage without them because it relies on implements” (Arendt, 42). Despite their differences, there is a relationship between power and violence. When there is a lack of power to influence or essentially control the people there is a manifestation of violence to ensure unwarranted dominance over a population. For Arendt, violence is counterproductive and it is destructive in nature. It’s detrimental to progressive movements in the political or social scene. Arendt states that “[v]iolence can destroy power; it is utterly incapable of creating it” (Arendt, 56). In other words, there is no prosperity when violence is acted upon, instead it ‘results in impotence’. Throughout her work, Arendt promotes the idea that violence begets violence.
The characteristic that I find most important when identifying violence is its ability to be destructive and the recognition of the danger it poses to entire systems, from social to political. Violence’s damaging nature creates instability and leaves no room for progress. I do have to say that both Arendt and Galtung made it a point in their discussion on violence.
I found myself most compelled by Wolff’s definition. Although I would love to live in a world where violence is defined by the objective truth of whether or not the act is violent, Wolff’s definition of violence claims that it is subject to ideological beliefs and that this definition can change depending on who is being asked and what their interests are. This definition compelled me because it is the only one that, I believe, properly explains the results of Blumenthal’s study. How else could 58% of respondents believe that burning a draft card is violence and 57% of respondents believe that police shooting at looters is not violence. This definition is the only one, in my opinion, that can currently be seen today. We are currently seeing debates on whether shooting unarmed suspects, invading government buildings through force, and attacking protestors in the street should be considered violence. This debate should be simple but it is because of ideological differences that it is ongoing which is the epitome of Wolff’s definition.
I thought Arendt’s definition of violence and its relationship to power was somewhat helpful in expanding Wolff’s definition but I felt that it did not go far enough. She writes that violence and power are opposite of each other and that violence is used when power fails. I didn’t agree with this definition because I felt like it could not explain the results of the study. I would argue that violence is simply not recognized as violence by those in power/people who benefit from the current power placements. This definition would better explain the results seen in the study and would also better line up with Wolff’s definition that violence is subjective. I could not agree with Arendt that violence and power are opposites since there have been multiple occasions of the powerful using violence to stay in power.
I found Galtung’s definition the least compelling. “The cause of the difference between the potential and the actual” sounds more like a description of a lab experiment that the definition of violence. He goes on to make six distinctions to clarify this definition at which point his original definition seems highly underinformed. He also leaves very little room for non-violent civil disobedience and makes it extremely difficult for any of these acts to actually not be considered violent since his definition encompasses so many traits. Despite its vagueness, this definition still cannot account for the results of Blumenthal’s study. Under his definition, virtually all the acts asked about in the survey should have been described as violent since they were all acts of personal or structural damage. However, as seen, some acts that would objectively be considered violent were described as non violent and objectively non violent acts were described as violent.
The biggest factors I found in the competing definitions were who was committing the “violence” and who was being victimized by the “violence”. I thought these factors played influential roles in how each of the authors chose to define the term.
Interestingly, there are many different approaches to defining violence and determining what exactly falls into the category of violence.
I find Wolff’s definition of violence to be the least compelling. Wolff reduces violence down to the unauthorized use of force that affects the decision making of others (Wolff p. 606). I find this ridiculous as Wolff then goes on to elaborate that force used by a legitimate government for discipline is not violence. He then continues to clarify that Hitler’s use of force was violence because Hitler’s regime was illegitimate. However, I feel this definition is extremely limiting and provides a pass to governments that abuse the use of force against their citizenry. For example, slavery was the law of the land in the United States until 1865, which is a legitimate government. Was slavery not violence? Slavery was accompanied by many killings, whippings and disfigurement of black people in order to assert dominance and keep black people in an obedient state. Is this not the use of unauthorized force, as black people did not consent to enslavement and abuse? Further, does slavery not affect the decision-making and will of others as black people were forced into submission to save their own lives? How can this not be determined to be violence, simply because it was at the hands of a legitimate government? This definition of violence leaves room for legitimate governments to exert unnecessary force and violence unchecked simply because they have authorized power as a legitimate regime.
On the contrary, I find Galtung’s description of violence to be the most compelling. They are both dated the same year, so this leaves even less of an excuse for Wolff to describe violence in such a limited way as if only citizens can commit violence against one another. Galtung, on the other hand, acknowledges there are different types of violence that can be inflicted by anybody. Physical and psychological violence are the most prevalent as they both are damaging whether somatically or mentally. Rather than focusing on authorized or unauthorized violence, Galtung specifies the importance of the distinction between intended and unintended violence instead (Galtung p. 171). These are both much more compelling definitions of violence because they acknowledge the harm that can be done in several different ways and the true scope of violence. Intended violence is obviously the more harmful of the two, but unintended violence is important as well. For example, whether or not someone meant to hit someone with their car while drunk driving does not absolve them of manslaughter, thus making this act unintended violence but violence nonetheless.
Violence is clearly a subject with widely varying definitions and perspectives. It is important to acknowledge that violence it not just causing someone intentional physical harm against their will, but also extends to manipulation, accidental harm, and the inherent absence of peace. Without peace violence has a place to exist.
The plain definition of violence is the behavior involving a type of force that intends to harm or damage something or someone to be destructive. When it comes to politics, violence, although I do not agree with or condone it, may be used as a tool to achieve a set goal within society. The most common ways or methods of political violence are Ethnic conflicts, and capital punishment, and more extreme methods include terrorism, torture, and genocide. A clear example of violence that was used to set fear and a goal for a state’s ultimate purpose was Nazi Germany back in the 1940s during World War II and Hitler’s rule of such a nation. He mainly used genocide as a tool to induce fear in society, giving the message that “the ultimate race” should be the one to rule over the world. A less although still horrific method is police brutality, which we still see to this day. George Floyd’s tragic death was the pinpoint to a serious matter that made the United States of America wake up as per se. As Wolff mentions in “The Journal of Philosophy, ‘On Violence’”, “A claim to authority must be sharply differentiated both from a threat or enticement and a piece of advice. When the state commands, it usually threatens punishment for disobedience, and it may even on occasion offer a reward for compliance, but the command cannot be reduced to the mere threat or reward.” pg. 603 I mostly agree with Wolff’s input on what violence means, and his inner thoughts on it. As mentioned before, states threaten punishments upon society so said society can comply with certain rules, and on some occasions reward certain personnel that helps to “catch” certain people. In the United States, this concept can be described as a bounty, if you commit an elevated crime, they may put a bounty price on you. If a person rats, you out or catches you there are rewarded while the individual who committed that crime is welcomed with punishment. Although “just punishment” is difficult to define, we have the Eight Amendment to protect all of those that have committed a crime from unusual punishment. “If peace action is to be regarded highly because it is an action against violence, then the concept of violence must be broad enough to include the most significant varieties, yet specific enough to serve as a basis for concrete action.” pg. 168  In conclusion, violence has a simple meaning in the dictionary, but when it comes to politics the use and definition of violence can be highly broad.
Defining violence has been a fundamental question which has sparked wide debate and speculation since Blumenthal published his survey in the Journal of Science. In the survey, many individuals defined the burning of draft cards and sit-ins as violence and the execution of looters as non-violence. Therefore, the 1970’s had a period of social scientists questioning the concept of violence and how violence should be understood. Arendt, Wolff, and Galtung take up the challenge of defining violence, with not just different conclusions but different methods all together. Arendt, Wolff, and Galtung offer influential ideas that lead to more conceptual ways of examining the term violence and respond to Blumenthal’s survey in different ways.
Wolff argues that there is no true definition of violence and the way one uses the term is based on self-interest and political goals. Wolff believes the way in which one defines terms of violence and non-violence depends on what society believes to be legitimate. Wolff referred to this as “legitimate authority” and thought “the concept of violence is [confused]” (Wolff 602). Wolff viewed defining violence as an ideological argument based on authority and the term of violence can not be defined in most ways due to political concepts which are inseparable from our self-interest. Furthermore, Wolff argues that people have different definitions of violence and non-violence based on their interest and these differences can be grouped into four socioeconomic class positions and their interests are always colliding. Thus, Wolf uses the approach of distinguishing different ways of conceptualizing violence in terms of people’s interest.
Unlike Wolff, Galtung has a widely expansive definition for violence. Galtung believes social scientists need a definition for violence to political and social phenomena. Upon analyzing the text, Galtung defines violence as anything destructive in an individual’s life. “Violence is present when human beings are being influenced so that their actual semantic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations” (Galtung 169). Furthermore, Galtung argues violence can operate in psychological and physical ways and believes that violence can operate without any person responsible for the violence. Galtung refers to this as structural violence, which is “an avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs” (Galtung 1993) Galtung believes physical violence is more easily noticed and compares structural violence to “tranquil waters” that contain much more violence (Galtung 174). Galtung’s distinction between classical violence and structural violence is the core of his arguments.
After analyzing the text of Arendt, Wolff, and Galtung, I find Wolff to be the least compelling as I coincide with Galtung in the importance of defining violence without a concept that rests on self-interest but a broader concept for the basis of more ideas. The potential of an individual being hindered by the impairment of human needs can constitute psychological violence that is often unseen and ultimately defining violence in this widely expansive way can lead to more ideas to political and social phenomena.
When contextually looked at throughout history, no other word except “violence” conveys and attaches itself to a more enormous amount of transformation and upheaval. Whether by using the term in conjunction with the effects of “revolutionary change” or for its “individual purposes”, violence, to Blumental, is “instrumental” to getting there (Blumenthal, 1296). Her idea of violence and its definition -one which uses violence as a virtue to “achieve a variety of goals”- had been continually applied to the surveys found in her work, and the results have not only been proof of the applicability of her definition but also of the practicability of its presence in everyday life. Her connotation of violence was applied to surveys that asked respondents the varying means of violence they see fit onto a situation that should cease. These examples ranged from “hoodlum gangs…terrifying citizens” to “campus disturbances” (Blumenthal, 1297). In these surveys, she was not placing an absolute label of violence onto the situations themselves, rather she was asking the respondents to gauge the means by which violence is necessary to the situation. This is an interesting idea of the definition of violence as actual acts cannot be ascribed the connotation of violence in this regard; it is only violence as a means which can lead to the performance of an act. From this, an inference is posed; if one must commit an action to set about an action, and therefore that action as the instrument to the other is violent, then it would infer from Blumenthal’s definition of violence that the instrumentality of an action takes supreme precedence over an action’s possible connotation of violence than the action itself. In other words, what matters most for an action to be violent, to Blumenthal, is its instrumentality; the actual transformation of a “change in the distribution of power” cannot be violent in this context within itself, but what it took to see such change -revolution, riot- is violent in the eyes of Blumenthal (Blumenthal, 1296). This idea of violence contrasts with Galtung’s, which puts violence not as an instrument to an outcome but as the outcome itself; the “absence of peace”, and is in many “significant dimensions” which could lead to “thinking, research, and…action” (Galtung, 167, 168). In this sense, the idea of violence is centered around the possibility of its erosion through action, as to where violence is the -intentional or not- denial of actual “somatic and mental realization” (Galtung, 168). In other words, Galtung believes violence is the “cause of the difference” an outcome when the full mental or physical ability of someone is denied intentionally or not, and this definition is unique because it not only allows for violence to happen unintentionally but expands the idea of violence to be from the merely physically or mentally injurious -killing, hitting, slanderous words and threats- to where it is present in present-day deaths from disease and deaths where future preventable catastrophe. Now that both authors’ ideas of violence are known, their examinations can be used to see which one is more compelling. While Galtung’s idea of violence is certainly interesting and can definitely be further analyzed, Blumenthal’s idea of violence is far more applicable to historical contexts -actual displays of violence, whatever it may be- and characterizes the intricacies of violence as a means to a higher goal. Violence, in the historical context mentioned, is the suffering of the common man and his toppling of the systems which forbid his sovereignty. Violence is, in short, an attempt of pursuit beyond the norms of convention.
After reading the texts by Wolff, Arendt, Blumenthal, and Galtung each author’s view on “Violence” offers different perspectives, making it important to analyze their arguments and in this to determine which are least and most compelling. Arendt’s definition of violence is most compelling to me. Arendt defines violence as a resort for when using power does not work. She mentions that it is so destructive it can diminish power. “Violence is by nature instrumental; like all means, it always stands in need of guidance and justification through the end it pursues.” (Arendt, pg. 51). Though she does not really define violence, she gives her perspective on it. From that perspective, we can assume what she is trying to say and I agree. She sees the thought of violence as destroying power rather than adding to it.
The definition of violence that I did not find compelling was Wolff’s. Wolff stated that “Violence is the illegitimate or unauthorized use of force to effect decisions against the will or desire of others.” (Wolff, pg. 606). To me this does not seem like the “definition” of violence. This would be more along the lines of manipulation or coercion in my opinion. I do somewhat see the perspective Wolff is trying to paint here but I think it needs to just be re-worded a little different. Violence also kills people, not just to do something against other people’s wills.
It is important to have an understanding of what violence means as there is no clear cut definition as to what it is. Some authors give their definition on what violence means. Other authors simply give an idea of what they believe it should be and we assume what they are trying to say. To me, violence is the use of force to take over or to take something for yourself. Violence can sometimes end in death or injury. Arendts “definition” is how I would agree with the term.
The texts this week offer opposing definitions of what it means to be violent. Johan Galtung proposes a more comprehensive definition of violence that includes both structural and cultural forms as well as physical harm. According to Galtung (Galtung, 1969), violence is a “social disease” that affects political, economic, and cultural institutions alike. Because it acknowledges the pervasive and insidious nature of violence beyond just physical harm, I find Galtung’s definition of violence to be the most persuasive. Galtung’s definition emphasizes the ways in which social institutions and power structures can perpetuate violence by including structural and cultural forms of violence. This makes it possible to acquire a deeper comprehension of violence and its underlying causes, which may lead to more potent strategies for dealing with it and preventing it.
However, according to Robert Paul Wolff, violence is always the result of a power struggle and is inherently destructive and dehumanizing. Wolff argues that violence perpetuates a cycle of conflict and suffering and is used to exert power over others (Wolff, 1969). Wolff’s definition of violence, on the other hand, I find to be the least compelling. Although it acknowledges violence’s destructive nature, it fails to take into account the broader social and systemic factors that contribute to violence. Additionally, Wolff’s emphasis on power struggles as the root cause of violence fails to take into account the ways in which systemic injustices and social inequalities can lead to violent situations.
Overall, Galtung and Wolff’s perspectives on violence emphasize the variety and complexity of violence as a social and political phenomenon. Even though each definition has its own advantages and disadvantages, they all emphasize how crucial it is to comprehend violence in order to address its causes and prevent its use to achieve political objectives.
The authors discussed this week engaged in discussions conveying their input on the meaning of violence. Whilst reading their claims I found Hannah Arendt’s “On Violence” essay the most compelling as I find myself drawn to the claims illustrated by Ardent and her ability to introduce the relationship between power and violence and the appearance of violence as a result of power failing. Within this piece, she explores the nature of violence and its relationship to power. In parts I and II of the essay, Arendt discusses the origins of violence and its role in politics. Arendt argues that violence is not the same as power and that the two are often mistakenly conflated. Power is the ability to act in concert with others to achieve a common goal, while violence is the use of force to achieve a particular end. According to Arendt, violence is a form of instrumentalism, in which means are used to achieve a desired end.
Arendt also explores the relationship between violence and authority. She argues that violence is often used by those who lack authority to gain power, but that it is not an effective means of maintaining power in the long term;”Violence can always destroy power; out of the barrel of a gun grows the most effective command, resulting in the most instant and perfect obedience.” (p. 5) (highlights one of Arendt’s key arguments: that violence is a means of achieving power, but it is not the same thing as power. While violence can be effective in the short term, it is not a stable basis for power because it does not rest on legitimacy or consent)
Authority, on the other hand, is based on legitimacy and consent, and is a much more stable basis for power. Furthermore, Arendt discusses the distinction between violence and strength. Strength is the ability to persevere and endure, while violence is the use of force to destroy. Arendt contends that violence is a sign of weakness, not strength and that it is often used as a substitute for genuine power and authority.
Additionally, when attempting to find an effective means of defining violence, I find that its context and utility are paramount in its understanding. The context in which the term is being used can be a crucial factor in deciding between competing definitions. For example, the definition of “violence” in a legal context may be different from the definition in a philosophical or sociological context. Furthermore, the utility of a definition should be considered. This involves assessing whether the definition is useful for achieving the goals and objectives of the research or discussion in which it is being used and whether it accurately captures the essence of the concept being defined. Ultimately, determining a means of defining violence, is a complex issue that as discovered through the readings can bring about a multitude of varying perspectives.
The texts provided in this week’s module all offer valid, interesting, and thought-provoking angles from which we can view violence. Some are more colorful than others, but the general concept remains that violence is a broad term and one that requires reworked thought in any area, especially in an era like post-war modernity. By indulging in the facets of deep thought, the contents of these texts debate each other in the mind of the reader and present striking approaches to understanding what constitutes and defines violence. With this, I believe that Hanah Arendt’s position stands as the most colorfully compelling of all the others stemming from her unorthodox, and quite possibly radical, stance which takes the most abstract view of the topic at hand.
By taking the concept of violence, and pairing it with the idea of power, she postulates that the two are strictly opposites in the sense that they complement each other rather than act symbiotically. In essence, power is the foundation of legitimacy as it is the acting of the masses investing their support in a figure or system(Arendt, pg 46). The one or few that rule over the masses are given their rights to authority and strength due to their gained support from those governed. Power does not mean strength or authority but it is the prerequisite that enables those facets of legitimacy to be unlocked. While violence on the other hand, to Arendt, is the presence of diminishing power rather than a representation of it (Arendt, pg 56). While the consensus around the definition of violence is hotly debated, this stance suggests that the term in all its broadness and subjectivity is the rejecting of the contemporary and the symptom of its decaying legitimacy. Violence can be used by a power base to combat unrest, in a fight-fire-against-fire situation, and although the government/higher power can win it is only ensured when the stability of its legitimacy is robust(Arendt pg.50) Moreover, the triumph of the superior being over the other does not constitute a gaining of power, and if anything, only displays its impotence; as Arendt would agree that the fact that violence was needed to quell an uprising already demonstrates that a government is unpopular and waning in general support.
Of other scholars, I found Blumenthal’s approach to be the least compelling, not to imply that his work was unconvincing, but rather that his stance was one that I feel resided in a more logical and pragmatic field; which diminished the prospect of a unique viewpoint as seen in Arendt’s writings. Discussing graphs and questionnaires that reveal trends allowing an understanding of how perspectives toward violence are formed and consolidated in society is powerful(Blumenthal, pg1-5); but not forcefully compelling in my view. In other words, I feel that the findings and concepts echo the obvious rather than present a new method of understanding. Blumenthal shines a light on how the personal experiences of an individual and their relationship towards a subject, which could be formed through interactions and environment, are what shape their definition of what violence is; and more importantly what constitutes an action as being too violent(Blumenthal, pg. 2-3). Although many factors do influence our understanding of the world around us, I feel that emphasizing that; for example, a child growing up in a white supremacist home matures into hating other races or growing up to social constructs such as cowboy westerns that emphasize violence(Blumenthal, pg.7) which rubs off onto children who believe that being “trigger happy” is normal, is not an overtly compelling stance but instead a patent view to any reader.
Lastly, the debate surrounding the definition of violence is so contested in these readings that their overlapping meanings make explanations difficult. However, I feel that my definition leans more on the writings of Robert Wolff who leaves the answer to be found more in individual beliefs. Cycling through various examples, we find that it’s difficult to identify a strict meaning of the term as the answer from one is challenged indefinitely when applied to an alternate scenario. In other words, to Wolff violence is a homonym. Even if we mention Arendt’s abstract meaning that violence is the instrument of decaying power, Wolff might suggest the opposite of violence being used to rather expand power. With this, I feel that the factors that best constitute a definition of violence are a merging of both writers. We can take the view of Arendt to emphasize the meaning of violence when it is active and present in a bigger picture sense and utilize Wolff’s stance to broaden the definition to the individual when used in specific instances such as a clash between protesters or altercation between two parties.
I had an American Government professor who said that everyone discriminates, though I think the term ‘biased’ is a little more digestible; nevertheless, through that understanding we can see how matters concerning violence are often molded to carry a certain narrative whether intentional or not. Wolf himself says that “Force, in and of itself, is morally neutral.” He considers himself an anarchist, he seems to view the world as filled with illegitimate states and autonomous individuals. So if violence is neutral, a simple occurrence without moral bias, then what happens when it has to be interpreted? To Wolf this means that the “distinctive political concept of violence can be given a coherent meaning only by appeal to a doctrine of legitimate political authority.” (pg 607) And since there is no thing as legitimate authority then “every political act […] is violent, for there is no such thing as legitimate authority. (pg 608)
For the most part I do think he brings some very important concepts and arguments into the discussion and I agree on analyzing the way power structures form our perceptions. On the other hand, I don’t agree with his ideas on nonviolence and I also think believing that the world is fundamentally anarchical can only get you so far.
Gultang, brings a lot more of a detailed breakdown to the concept of violence and it’s many different forms and interpretations. Particularly he makes a case in the distinction of personal and structural violence and how the two can mesh in certain times, “Absence of one type of violence is bought at the expense of the threat of the other.” (pg 180) However, he studies the two and their relationship within the world and ultimately concludes that “it is hardly possible to arrive at any general judgment, independent of time and space, as to which type of violence is more important.” (pg 183).
The two scholars go hand in hand in this idea that violence can thrive in the unregistered. To Wolf, when discussing violence through financial means and how normalized it is he states: “we are accustomed to one and unaccustomed to the other.” (pg 613) To Galtungs, when discussing structural violence and its perception he says that it “may be seen as about as natural as the air around us.” (pg 173) Both Wolf and Galtung have good arguments. Ultimately, I align myself most with Wolf since it’s always important to consider the way language is used to emote certain feelings and assumptions. Perhaps sometimes it’s essentially to observe structure as more temporary than foundational in order to study the dynamics of power and how they are used to talk about and inflict violence.
Out of this module’s four texts, I found myself drawn to John Galtung’s analysis of violence and its varieties which he categorized as direct, structural, and cultural. Understanding conflict as an issue that we can both see (direct violence) and not see (structural and cultural violence) covers the wide spectrum that is violence through a unique lens. I like the way that he challenged the vague definition of violence: “Humans are being influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations.” If “somatic incapacitation” really is the end all be all definition of violence, then havoc would ensue on all social orders because of such loose limitations. Although some believe that the word “peace” is thrown around all too much, I think that’s exactly the way it should be used. Why not speak about peace more than strife? It’ll always be important to recognize war and exploitation, but expressing a longing for peace doesn’t paint a false image of the world – it paints hope in a painful one. I enjoyed reading about Galtung’s tenets of peace and respect the simple “peace is absence of violence” explanation next to the complex comprehension of violence. On the other hand, I wasn’t a big fan of Robert Paul Woolf’s view of violence as a subjective subject. The facts of terror will never be opinion-based. Suggesting that there’s no true meaning behind violence belittles its pain on those affected by it. It’s like he’s implying that if a proponent of guns watched someone get shot, they wouldn’t declare it as a violent act because they favor the weapon. I can’t wrap my head around how he approaches violence as an abstract concept when it concretely occurs in front of us time after time.
When I hear the words “violence” and “America” in the same sentence, two very specific images come to mind with one common denominator – gun violence. The devastating epidemic of school shootings has become a trademark of this country. Alongside it is the disproportionate rate of police sanctioned gun violence. From mass shootings in malls to mosques, firearms are both an accessible and destructive force across the nation. With that being said, I don’t believe that violence depends on the existence of an authority figure, but an authority tool instead. The perpetrator of a violent act doesn’t have to be someone with great power – they just need a powerful instrument. Scarily enough, the United States doesn’t come close to regulating adequate gun control. This means that anyone is capable of violence no matter their perceived status in society. Per my definition, violence is an act carried out by one or more people with the intention to forcefully assert themselves over others with damage. Violence can be executed verbally and/or physically with means to cause harm. While violence is typically thought of somatically, psychological abuse is vocalized violence with the consequence of detrimental, long-term effects.
When people discuss authority, we usually associate the term with adults, wealth, and a sense of control. It’s socially accepted that parents, teachers, and police officers take up this role in most communities. But if that’s the case, how could anyone possibly explain the case of a 6-year-old shooting his teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia this year? According to Ardent, violence results from the failure of a power to provide for its people. Now from a broader scope, we can say that the U.S. government has failed to protect its citizens from this issue, enabling the murders of 321 people everyday. The very body designed to serve its people has politicized a problem that terrorizes the livelihoods of innocent Americans on a daily basis. While violent offenders are completely responsible for their horrors, we can also understand how this violence results from systemic failure.
This week we have multiple readings and their authors’ having their input on what they consider as the definition of “violence”. Among the readings, I would say that Arendt’s definition is the most compelling to me because she defines violence as an instrumental tool when power fails. She states that “Violence is by nature instrumental; like all means, it always stands in need of guidance and justification through the end it pursues.” (Arendt, pg. 51). Hannah Arendt had evaluated the senses of how power is a contributing sensible act that is demonstrated within the ideas of society in which it brings the objective of new coming to present. The least compelling is Johan Galtung because he claims that people only commit violence due to influence which demands the control of freedom to an extent that’s valued by people who are visited upon the use of influence.
Blumenthal (1972) states that violence has been a vividfeature of American life in the past decades i.e. seen through “assassinations, riots, student disruption and violent crime which is increasing in proportion to the population”. I find Blumenthal’s definition and approach most compelling as she outlines what events characterize America as a violent place. She further outlines a model that was formed to predict attitudes towards violence. A survey of attitudes toward violence in a representative random sample of 1374 American men(Bluementhal, 1972). She states that measuring attitudes toward violence is a crucial venture. She states that the extent to which mass media exposes us to violence is one feature of modern American life. I think one of the most important factors in deciding between competing definitions of violence includes differentiating the types of violence as Blumenthal (1972) recognizes that people have different attitudes towards violence as the same individual that supports violence to maintain the status quo would not accept violence to for revolutionary transformation.
Another factor to be considered is whether the level of violence is as a result of opposing forces some which hold any violent act as unjustifiable and those that justify extreme violence. Blumenthal (1972) states that these forces may include simple cultural values against violence e.g., the Christian ethic “thou shall not kill”, and the basic cultural values in favour of violence e.g., Blumenthal (1972) states that the Bible influences the development of values that are anything apart from love for instance “eye for eye, tooth for tooth”. Another factor that may be considered when defining a term like ‘violence’ is the motivating factor behind the type violence. For instance, some types of violence are committed by people who identify with certain groups that commit the aggression. Blumenthal (1972) states that the extent to which a person views himself to be associated with the members and motives of the aggressor(s) can determine the level at which he will view a specific act of violence as justifiable.
I agree with Wolf (1969) where he states that the elites argue that a line can be drawn between typical violence and legal use of force and are also the same people that perceive police action and ghetto living situations as ‘violent’ as both are legitimate competing legitimacy claims. I also find Wolf’s (1969) ‘On violence’ very compelling whereby he defends three prepositions about violence stating that first: the concepts of violence and nonviolence are utterly confused. These concepts rely on their meaning in political talks concerning legal authority used which is also intrinsically unclear. Secondly, he states that there are no clear answers for the questions raised regarding violence as no clear answers can be given to questions like e.g. when it is permissible to switch to violence in politics and if anything good is ever achieved in politics through violence. In the third preposition about violence, Wolf (1969) states that the debate on violence and nonviolence in America is strategically designed to slow down change and justify the existing division of power which I find compelling as to how public debate control is used to control the population and slow down change while certain groups of people fight for change which sometimes is unsuccessful. I did not find any approach form this week’s readings that was the least compelling. Both were very compelling to me.
The text that stood out to me as the most compelling was Arendt’s “On Violence”. In this work, Arendt delves into the interconnections between violence, war, power, and politics. She addresses both those in power who sought to restore peace in America and those who were actively causing unrest. Arendt’s primary argument is that theories equating violence with power are flawed, and that the Judeo-Christian religion’s view that “violence” is a custom of an angry God reinforces a dichotomy and a faulty line of reasoning. She criticized this view as illogical, as it primarily enforces conformity through physical coercion. Instead, she posited that power is the ability of a social entity to act together. Arendt’s definition of violence in relation to power was particularly striking to me. She writes, “Violence can always destroy power; out of the barrel of a gun grows the most effective command, resulting in the most instant and perfect obedience. What can never grow out of it is power” (Arendt, 53). This quote highlights her belief that peaceful means are the only true resolution to conflicts, ensuring the satisfaction of all parties involved. I found her detailed analyses of the connections between violence, war, power, and politics to be quite remarkable.
Although not providing a definition, Blumenthal’s approach is compelling as she explores the different types of violence that exist in American society. Particularly interesting is her concept of “instrumental violence,” which suggests that violence can be used as a tool to achieve various goals, some of which are political in nature, while others may simply be for personal gain (Blumenthal, 1296).
In contrast, I found Wolff’s “Journal of Philosophy” to be the least compelling of the texts I reviewed. His argument appeared to be circular and failed to offer a clear definition of violence. In fact, he opens his text by acknowledging that violence raises many questions and confusions that cannot be adequately answered (Wolff, 602). I disagree with this position. Furthermore, I found his text to be more about defining “coercion” than “violence,” as he argues that violence is the unauthorized use of force to make decisions against the will of others (Wolff, 606). To me, this sounds more like coercion than violence. While Wolff acknowledges that coercion may use violence as a tool, the reverse is not necessarily true.
When defining a term like “violence,” it is important to differentiate between the various types of violence and to sometimes support the position of nonviolence. This reminded me of the readings from last week about King and Gandhi and their approach of responding to violence with nonviolence. Arendt’s differentiation between “violence” and the one associated with the Judeo-Christian religion was especially noteworthy to me, as she highlighted the irrationality of this ideology, which sought to attribute “violence” to an angry God rather than holding individuals accountable for their actions.
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