m of care – may 19

part 1 of walter benjamin’s critique of violence (part w – m of care – sept 15)

david graeber on structural violence.. graeber man with stick law.. graeber violence/quantification lawness et al.. walter benjamin on critique of violence


Walter Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence” is a seminal text that in just a few steps dismantles the very idea that any form of legitimate violence can exist, or that means can be separated from ends so that a just end can make a wrong means just. 

For that alone, this would be a great text, and the theoretical foundation of consistent and absolute nonviolence. 

Yet there’s even more in it: as David Graeber pointed out, Benjamin’s ruling out of legitimate violence hits the very notion of modern State, as “a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory” (as per the definition popularized by Max Weber in “Politics as a Vocation” (1918)), since if there’s no such a thing as a legitimate use of violence, because of the contradiction that forbids, then there’s no such a thing as a legitimate, democratic monopoly of this use. In David’s words: 

“The contradiction is not simply one of language. It reflects something deeper. For the last two hundred years, democrats have been trying to graft ideals of popular self-governance onto the coercive apparatus of the state. In the end, the project is simply unworkable. States cannot, by their nature, ever truly be democratized. They are, after all, basically ways of organizing violence. (…) The coercive nature of the state ensures that democratic constitutions are founded on a fundamental contradiction. Walter Benjamin [in “Critique of Violence”] summed it up nicely by pointing out that any legal order that claims a monopoly of the use of violence has to be founded by some power other than itself, which inevitably means by acts that were illegal according to whatever system of law came before.” (David Graeber, “There Never Was a West” . https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/david-graeber-there-never-was-a-west#toc9

david graeber..

In days like these, when the appeal to violence and the make-believe of people identified with nations, and nations identified with States and with their monopoly of violence are stronger than ever, it is particularly important to revert to this text, and discuss, with Walter Benjamin and with David Graeber, what are the possibilities, the consequences and the inner logic of violence and of seizing the power of the State, and how much we want or can accept of them. 

ie: a nother way

notes/quotes from meeting (hosted by simona):

simona: on acting as if the end of the days had already come.. if married.. act as if not married.. if have goods.. act as if you don’t.. since end of time is coming.. it’s already here.. i was stricken of this ‘living as if’.. because david’s revolution life.. as if already free ness

as if already free ness

pehr martens joining.. friend of w benjamin?

simona: i suggested this because relevant to violence and military violence of the moment.. wb and relationship between violence and the state.. and also about alt’s to this violent frame.. one of main ideas of david is that revolution should not be placed in the future.. and focus on how to build a revolution

ie: a nother way


1\ undisturbed ecosystem (common\ing) can happen

2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b legit free people

simona: god gave to christians path to life.. but unable to see the life.. jews have life in present day.. but to see had to go inside selves.. so no history in time

simona: means that aren’t charted by violence.. means of agreement.. consensus.. human relationships that are not negated by the law/state.. this essay is important because in first part it proves why we need relationships that are not negated by state and how state is fundamentally anything about violence..

simona: benjamin says violence can be addressed only if we look at the law/justice.. violence is a means.. we can see how circular is the argument.. connecting means and ends.. justifying each other..

simona: 2 kinds of violence.. sanctioned and unsanctioned.. useful to understand the nature of violence from the pov of law

simona: violence is a foundation/maintenance of state.. even if war appears to be outside law.. it always require peace ceremony/treaty..

simona: military prescription is violence that maintains the law and creates the violent creation of a people/nation.. both cannot be justified.. it is the violence that creates the state and conditions that justify violence..

simona: continues of idea of a general strike.. a violence that tries to do a way with state.. w no objective.. because that would mean foundation of another system of law .. that would be another system of violence.. and this sanctioned violence is the problem.. even personal relationships are tainted when inside frame of state law.. which means even contracts between two people or agreements in a group are tainted by violence when enforced by law

actually contracts ness and consensus ness are violent from the get go.. w or w/o law.. they are a law in themselves..

simona: when loans/agreements started to be enforced by law.. it changed.. started to change community

again.. already red flags.. any form of m\a\p

simona: on opposition between human relationships/agreements.. connected to seeing what relationships are in present day and looking at possibility of acting as if we are already free

nika: sorrell: ‘reject every kind of lawmaking for rev.. ‘.. i didn’t read sorrell.. i just need more clarification to understand deeper what does he mean

simona: i haven’t read sorrell either.. i cannot talk of him..

nika: p 246 ‘sorrell has explained on strike getting rid of violence in rev’.. interesting to read him.. he’s always popping up in david’s texts

simona: sorrell was a popular anarchist thinker.. i totally dislike him.. he ended up in fascist movements.. he overrated the idea of mythical violence.. there is an issue w the idea of people that is very well describe in there never was a west.. the problem is w sovereignty (also means a foundational future of the state).. sovereign is the one to which everyone transfers.. it’s power.. in order to have peace.. a great condition is that it is outside the state.. theoretical/political disaster when the sovereign is the people.. have foundation outside.. but at same time concedes w state.. so only solution is to idolize the people and general will

[avi in chat: I didn’t fully understand benjamins pint about strikes, but from that section i got that in general strike (as he uses it) you are stepping outside legal agreement and status quo, and thus outside of violence within the context of state. this seems premised on idea that extortionist strike does not question state violence. (i don’t really get how that addresses violence outside a legal context, but i guess that’s part of him saying violence is contextual matter, not an objective description). quick rough thought]

simona: here violence is totally considered as a philosophical concept.. in previous page.. benjamin used gen strike as proof of lawmaking nature of violence.. he says strike is the only violence toward natural ends.. inside frame of positive law

simona: sanctioned violence is the only one enforced by state and inside a legal system..

simona: no law is violent if not enforced.. so essence is the violence behind that can potentially be enforced.. putting someone in jail is legit violence.. because put someone thru trial.. in italian trial is protest.. but it is a process.. rules.. sentencing by a judge that is inside the framework of a legal system..

but law ness.. is embedded in enforcement.. so is embedded in violence..

public consensus always oppresses someone(s).. any form of m\a\p (ie: law) kills us

nika: that’s clear.. but he is also talking about natural law (beside positive law)..

simona: the problematic nature of all legal violence is that it mixes ends and means.. positive law says ends justified.. natural law says means are justified.. so you can have a just war.. because it is a mean that ends to a just end.. of the ugly/bad enemy

nika: so gen strike in this rev movement.. where people come together to question this violence.. so it is violence but outside the law.. am i right

simona: yeah

nika: so i still don’t understand.. what was his position about sorrell

simona: he’s saying strike is one of ie’s of violence that has lawmaking function.. it establishes a new system of law.. but if establishing any system of law is bad/violence.. so even the gen strike that aims to get any goal.. to obtain anything thru violence.. a new order.. because strike is violence.. that’s establishing a new order based on violence

nika: david was saying always saying.. all strike is violence because protest was about changing the law

we need a way that goes beyond changing the law.. we need a legit other way to live.. sans all the irrelevant s

simona: the point for benjamin is that it is violence.. it is legal.. the only case where the state allows a subject to put ends inside state w/o making appeal to the law.. you could enforce your right to decent salary.. just saying a law of min salary.. when you want something you can either say.. it is lawful and i ask the state to enforce my lawful right.. or you can fight for it.. benjamin says only case it is allowed inside state monopoly of violence to fight for rights is strikes in trade unions et al.. but this is actually extortion.. strike is to prove power of workers by refusing to work.. this makes damage to the master .. so he will be obliged to comply w your requests if you ask strong enough.. it’s a confrontation of power.. just like war.. it’s class war at the end of the day.. benjamin says it’s ok.. let’s be clear.. it is violence

simona: reading quote ‘right to strike..’ from page 239-40

nika: it’s interesting that occupy was gen strike.. because refused to put up demands.. trying to change laws w/o violence

simona: this idea of not making requests .. w/o lawmaking

avi: i feel like people that read/participate in anarchist theory.. aren’t going to find benjamine that difficult.. to me.. for each new iteration (of legal changes) .. you use the referee.. i always look for referees trying to insert themselves.. if that is correct understanding.. then. how to stop/kill a referee is not something i have an issue.. the question is.. what does it mean to live w/o a referee.. a referee is a 3rd power that you invest .. how does it feel to say you would remove top down 3rd parties that mediate your life.. to me.. that is the argument i hear david building on benjamin’s point

max: we want to feel security in our life.. certificates on the cheese you can trust..

nika: from on kings.. society is always from irrational structure.. problems start when some people who are sovereign and making the law.. killing the referee is not an option .. actually.. if i understand what avi mean by referee.. it’s legit because of violence.. it.. if talk about sun (as sovereign) diff story.. power structures always exist.. no human society w/o power structures

on kings

always exist in sea world.. we have no idea of the possibilities w legit free people

siona: ref’s only make sense in impersonal markets

yeah that.. but that means.. all markets.. all market ness.. any form of m\a\p.. same to certification/security ness et al..

10-day-care-center\ness ness et al

simona: so the certification of parmesan by 3rd ref.. if you sell to someone you’ll never meet again.. here (in italy) we have strict laws about what paresan is

oi.. any form of m\a\p.. killing us.. if we were legit free.. certification et al.. would be irrelevant

simona: on laws.. messing w trust in human relationships..

pearson unconditional law et al

avi: my view is that referees don’t help.. my question is how do we go there

hari rat park law et al

ie: a nother way

max: seems like the responsibilities of relationships bring the violence w it.. pulls it out of focus.. i didn’t get mythical violence

nika: p 248 on mythical violence

simona: p 249 ‘far from integrating..

nika: p 250 2nd para

simona: on destroying w/o rebuilding.. diff between a plan enforced by somebody and the absence of perpetual building of negotiations.. the infinite play..

begs a means to undo our hierarchical listening


imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..

what the world needs most is the energy of 8b alive people

nika: divine power also found in everyday life.. stand outside law.. one of manifestations.. david was saying rev was changing the common sense.. suddenly everybody would decide.. and whole thing set up diff

graeber make it diff law

simona: also on the conscious refusal..

nika: coming back to anthro.. and diff structure ness

avi: so .. what does it mean to allow yourself to be vulnerable.. in a shared context that accepts that.. w/o having to have security of hiding

brown belonging law.. fix vs not hidden

[avi in chat: vulnerability = being not sure 100% that i am acquiring real cheese]

simona: why should one accept to be vulnerable

siomna: when i was young my project for degree was about .. prof said i should read benjamin, bloch, and learn hebrew it all.. it was too much for ba degree.. but he was right.. these are the group of thinkers who taught about these constellation of thoughts.. and their criticism of national states is deep.. it was about the basis of consensus.. not expected to have a conversion.. if don’t have task of getting everybody to believe in your belief.. you can accept multiplicity/diversity.. don’t need everybody to believe what you believe.. accept that each one has his mind.. other interps are equally valid.. key point is not accepting to be vulnerable.. it’s accepting you don’t need everybody to agree.. just need to agree on the rules in this group in this time

still public consensus always oppresses someone(s)

nika: we started from concept of time.. maybe you can give names of who is good to talk about in this future/present ness .. and rules you have to do if want future you want

[simona in chat: Rosenzweig.. Scholem]

avi: i got the point of universalism vs pluralism..

discrimination as equity ness







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