on violence

on violence.png

(1969) by Hannah Arendt

intro’d here via Maria – on how bureaucracy fuels violence


The greater the bureaucratization of public life, the greater will be the attraction of violence..t.. 

In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one could argue, to whom one could present grievances, on whom the pressures of power could be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless we have a tyranny without a tyrant.

These definitions coincide with the terms which, since Greek antiquity, have been used to define the forms of government as the rule of man over man—of one or the few in monarchy and oligarchy, of the best or the many in aristocracy and democracy, to which today we ought to add the latest and perhaps most formidable form of such dominion, bureaucracy, or the rule by an intricate system of bureaux in which no men, neither one nor the best, neither the few nor the many, can be held responsible, and which could be properly called the rule by Nobody. Indeed, if we identify tyranny as the government that is not held to give account of itself, rule by Nobody is clearly the most tyrannical of all, since there is no one left who could even be asked to answer for what is being done. It is this state of affairs which is among the most potent causes for the current world-wide rebellious unrest..t

too much ness



p 1


since the end of human action, as distinct from the end products of fabrication, can never be reliably *predicted, the **means used to achieve political goals are more often than not of greater relevance to the future world than the intended goals.. t

*predict\able ness

**2 convers sans agenda

fabrication/production et al.. not organism as fractal


the chief reason warfare is still w us is neither a secret death wish of the human species, nor an irrepressible instinct of aggression, nor, finally and more plausibly, the serious economic and social dangers inherent in disarmament, but the simple fact that no substitute for this final arbiter in international affairs has yet appeared ..t..on the political scene..

a nother way: gershenfeld something else law


predictions of the future are never anything but projection of present automatic processes and procedures, that is, of occurrences that are likely to come to pass if men do not act and if nothing unexpected happens; ..t

predict\able ness

proudhon’s passing remark, ‘the fecundity of the unexpected far exceeds the statesman’s prudence’ is fortunately still true.. it exceeds even more obviously the expert’s calculations.



to call such unexpected, unpredicted, and unpredictable happenings ‘random events’ ..condemning them to irrelevance ..is the oldest trick in the trade; the trick no doubt, helps in clearing up the theory, but at the price of removing it further and further from reality..t

the danger is that these theories are not only plausible, because they take their evidence from actually discernible present trends, but that, because of their inner consistency, they have a hypnotic effect; they put to sleep our common sense ..t.. which is nothing else but our mental organ for perceiving, understanding and dealing w reality and factuality

no one engaged in thought about history and politics can remain unaware of the enormous role violence has always played in human affairs, and it is at first glance rather surprising that violence has been singled out so seldom for special consideration (in the last edition of the encyclopedia of the social sciences ‘violence’ does not even rate an entry).. this shows to what an extent violence and its arbitrariness were taken for granted and therefore neglected; no one questions or examines what its obvious to allt


instead of war being ‘an extension of diplomacy (or politics or pursuit of econ objectives)’.. peace is the continuation of war by other means– is the actual development in the techniques of warfare.. t



he (marx) regarded the state as an instrument of violence in the command of the ruling class; but the actual power of the ruling class did not consist of or rely on violence. it was defined by the role the ruling class played in society, or more exactly, by its role in the process of production..t

norton productivity law


sartre: irrepressible violence is man recreating self – thru mad fury that the wretched of the earth can become men.. hegel: man produces self thru thought.. marx: thru labor – the human form of metabolism w nature


though one may argue that all notions of man creating self have in common a rebellion against the very factuality of the human condition – nothing is more obvious that than man,  .. whether species or individual.. does not owe his existence to himself..  and therefore what sartre, marx and hegel have in common is more relevant that the particular activities thru which this non-fact should presumably have come about.. .. still it cannot be denied that a gulf separates the essentially peaceful activities of thinking and laboring from all deeds of violence..


the first gen to grow up under the shadow of the atom bomb.. learned in high school and college about concentration/extermination camps, genocide and torture, wholesale slaughter of civilians in war w/o which modern military operations are no longer possible even if restricted to ‘conventional’ weapons.. their first reaction was revulsion against every form of violence, and almost matter of course espousal of a politics of nonviolence. the very great successes of this movement , esp in the field of civil rights, were followed by the resistance movement against the war in vietnam.. which has remained an important factor in determining the climate of opinion in this country..


student rebellion is global phenom..  most obvious/potent factor: tech progress is leading straight into disaster.. have reached a stage in development where‘there’s no damn thing you can do that can’t be turned into war’ – jerome lettvin.. (to be sure.. nothing more important to integrity of uni’s – which, in senator fulbright’s words, ‘have betrayed a public trust when they became dependent on govt sponsored research projects ‘- than a rigorously enforce divorce from war oriented research and ll connected enterprises; but it would be naive to expect this to change the nature of modern science or hinder the war effort naive also to deny that the resulting limitation might well lead to a lowering of uni standards..


the only thing this divorce is not likely to lead to is a general withdrawal of fed funds; for  as jerome lettvin of mit recently pointed out ‘the govt can’t afford not to support us’.. just as uni’s cannot afford not to accept fed funds;but this means no more than that they ‘must learn how to sterilize financial support’.. a difficult but not impossible task in view of the enormous increase of the power of unis in modern societies)

in short.. machines, far from only threatening certain classes w unemployment, menaces the existence of whole nations and conceivably of all mankind

if ask.. what will life be like in 50 yrs.. provided still a world.. provided i’m still alive.. – george wald: ‘a gen that is by no means sure it has a future’


often heard question ‘who are this new gen:… those who hear the ticking.. and.. who are they who utterly deny them..? those who do not know or refuse to face, things as they really are

student rebellion a global phenom but its manifestations vary.. country to country.. uni to uni.. serious violence entered the (uni) scene only w the appearance of the black power movement on the campuses. negro students, the majority of them admitted w/o academic qualification, regarded and org’d themselves as an interest group, the reps of the black community. their interest was to lower academic standards..

? what



it seems that the academic establishment, in its curious tendency to yield more to negro demands, even if they are clearly silly and outrageous, than to the disinterest and usually highly moral claims of the white rebels,



also thinks in these terms and feels more comfortable when confronted w interest plus violence than when it is a matter of nonviolent ‘participatory democracy’.. the yielding of uni authorities to black demands has often been explained by the ‘guilt feelings’ of the white community; i think it is more likely that faculty as well as admin and boards  are half consciously aware of the obvious truth of a c conclusion of the official 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’



progress, to be sure, is a more serious and more complex item offered at the superstition fair of our time.. the irrational 19th cent belief in unlimited progress has found universal acceptance chiefly because of the astounding development of the natural sciences, which, since the rise of the modern age, actually have been ‘universal’ sciences  and therefore could look forward to an unending task in exploring the immensity of the universe..  the ceaseless, senseless demand for original scholarship in a number of fields, where only erudition is now possible, has led either to sheer irrelevancy, the famous knowing of more and more about less and less or to the development of a pseudo scholarship which actually destroys its objects.


it is noteworthy that the rebellion of the young.. has been chiefly directed against the academic glorification of scholarship and science.. both of which.. are gravely compromised in their eyes..  progress in other words, can no longer serve as the standard by which to eval the disastrously rapid change processes we have let loose.

i must warn against a tempting misunderstanding.. if we look on history in terms of a continuous chronological process, whose progress, moreover, is inevitable, violence in the shape of war and revolution may appear to constitute the only possible interruption..  (..seems to me incontestable that the disruptive student activities in the last few years are actually based on these convictions).. it is the function, however, of all action as distinguished from mere behavior, to interrupt what otherwise would have proceeded automatically and therefore predictably..

p 2


‘all politics is a struggle for power; the ultimate kind of power is violence’ said c wright mills, echoing as it were , max webers’ defn of the state as ‘the rule of men over men based on the means of legit, that is allegedly legit, violence’


the consensus is very strange; for to equate political power w ‘the organization of violence’ makes sense only if one follows marx’s estimate of the state as an instrument of oppression in the hands of the ruling class..

may prompt us to ask.. whether the end of warfare would mean end of states.. would the disappearance of violence in relationships between states spell the end of power.

the answer it seems will depend on what we understand by powers. and power, it turns out, is an instrument of rule, while rule, we are told, owes its existence to the ‘instinct of domination’

satre: ‘a man feels himself more of a  man when his is imposing himself and making others the instruments of his will’.. which gives him ‘incomparable pleasure’

voltaire: ‘power consists in making others act as i choose’

it is present wherever i have the chance ‘to assert my own will against the resistance’ of others – max weber


if the essence of power is the effectiveness of command, then there is no greater power than that which grows out of the barrel of a gun, and it would be difficult to say in ‘which way the order given by a policeman is diff from that given by a gunman’ –  alexander passerin d’entreves in the notion of the state.. the only author i know who is aware of the importance of distinguishing between violence and power


today we ought to add (to state and govt) the latest and perhaps most formidable form of such dominion: bureaucracy or the rule of an intricate system of bureaus in which no men, neither one nor the best neither the few nor the many, can be held responsible, and which could be properly called rule by nobody.. (if in accord w tradition political thought, we id tyranny as govt that is not held to give account of itself, rule of nobody is clearly the most tyrannical of all, since there is no one left who could eve by asked to answer for what is being  doing..


it is this state of affairs, making it impossible to localize responsibility and to *id the enemy, that is among the **most potent causes of the current world wide rebellious unrest, its chaotic nature, and its dangerous tendency to get out of control and to run amuck)

perhaps via gabor – *id the pain – aka: the missing pieces

**hmm.. thinking we need to go deeper

the many recent discoveries of an inborn instinct of domination an dan innate aggressiveness in the human animal were preceded by very similar philosophic statements..

i would question that inborn ness.. more like learned/manufactured..

according to john stuart mill ‘the first lesson of civilization is that of obedience’..


the extreme form of power is all against one, the extreme form of violence is one against all. and this latter is never possible w/o instruments..


when we say of somebody that he is in power we actually refer to his being empowered by a certain number of people to act in their name.. the moment the group.. disappears, his power also vanishes..


it was a textbook case of a revolutionary situation.. that did not develop into a revolution because there was nobody , least of all the students prepared to seize power and the responsibility that goes w it..

50 no govt exclusively based on the means of violence has ever existed.. even the totalitarian ruler, who chief instrument of rule is torture, needs a power basis – the secret police and its net of informers..  only the development of robot soldiers, which, as previously mentioned, would eliminate the human factor completely and, conceivably, permit one man w a push button to destroy whomever he pleased, could change this fundamental ascendancy of power over violence..

even the most despotic domination we know of, the rule of master over slaves, who always outnumbered him, did not rest on superior means of coercion as such, but on a superior org of power – that is, on the organized solidarity of the masters.. single men w/o others to support them never have enough power to use violence successfully


hence, in domestic affairs, violence functions as the last resort of power against criminal or rebels – that is , against single individuals who, as it were, refuse to be overpowered by the consensus of the majority.. and as for actual warfare, we have seen in vietnam how an enormous superiority in the means of violence can become helpless if confronted w an ill-equipped but well-organized opponent who is much more powerful..  learned from history of guerrila warfare..

to switch for a moment to conceptual language: ower is indeed of the essence of all govt, but violence is not.. violence is by nature instrumental; like all means, it always stands in need of guidance and justification thru the end it pursues.. and what needs justification by something else cannot be the essence of anything..  the end of war – end taken in its twofold meaning – is peace or victory; but to the question and what is the end of peace.. there is no answer.. peace is an absolute, even though in recorded history periods of warfare have nearly always outlasted periods of peace. power is in the same category; it is, as the say ‘an end in itself’..  the power structure itself precedes and outlasts all aims, so that powers, far from being the means to an end, it actually the very condition enabling a group of people to think and act in terms of the mens ends category..  and since govt is essentially org’d and institutionalized power, the current question – what is the end of govt? does not make much sense either..  the answer will be either question begging – to enable men to live together – or dangerously utopian – to promote happiness or to realize a classless society or some other nonpolitical ideal.. which if tried out in earnest cannot but end in some kind of tyranny


power needs no justification, being inherent in the very existence of political communities; what it does need is legitimacy

? – i don’t know

the common treatment of these two words as synonyms is no less misleading and confusing that the current equation of obedience and support. power springs up whenever people get together and act in concert, but it derives its legitimacy from the initial getting together rather than from any action that then may follow.. legitimacy , when challenged, bases itself on an appeal to the past, while justification relates to an end that lies in the future.. violence can be justifiable, but it never will be legit.. its justification loses in plausibility the farther its intended end recedes into the future. no one questions the use of violence in self defense, because the danger is not only clear bu also present, and the end justifying the means is immediate.

we saw that the current equation of violence w power rests on govt’s being understood as domination of man over man by means fo violence..


violence we must remember does not depend on numbers or opinions but on implements, and the implements of violence, .. increase and multiply human strength.. those who oppose violence w mere power will soon find that they are confronted not by men but by men’s artifacts, whose inhumanity and destructive effectiveness increase in proportion to the distance separating the opponents.. 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. whatever can grow out of it is power..

rule by sheer violence comes into play where power is being lost.. loss of power becomes a temptation to substitute violence for power..


nowhere is the self defeating factor in the victory of violence over power more evident tha in the use of terror to maintain domination.. , about whose weird successes and eventual failure we know perhaps more than any generation before us..  terror is not the same as violence: it is, rather, the form of govt that comes into being when violence, having destroyed all power, does not abdicate but, on the contrary, remains in full control..


it has often been noticed that the effectiveness of terror depends almost entirely on the degree of social atomization. every kind of org’d opposition must disappear before th full force fo terror can be let loose.. this atomization – an outrageously pale, academic word forth horror it implies – is maintained and intensified thru the ubiquity of the informer, who can be literally omnipresent because he no longer is merely a professional agent in the pay fo the police but potentially every person one comes into contact with..

the decisive diff between totalitarian domination, based on terror, and tyrannies and dictatorships, established by violence, is that the former turns not only against its enemies but against its friends and supporters as well, being afraid of all power, even the power of its friends. the climax of terror is reached when the police state begins to devour it s own children, when yesterday’s executioner becomes today’s victim.  and this is also the moment when power disappears entirely.


to sum up – politically speaking, it is insufficient to say that power and violence are not the same. 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..  this implies that it is not correct to think of the opposite of violence as nonviolence; to speak of non violent power is actually redundant. violence can destroy power; it is utterly incapable of creating it..

i simply want to stress that violence cannot be derived from its opposite, which is power, and in order to understand it for what it is, we shall have to examine its roots and nature..

p 3


the greatest danger comes from the other direction; since violence always needs justification, an escalation fo the violence in the streets may bring about a truly racist ideology to justify it..  the climate of opinion  in the country might deteriorate to the point where a majority of its citizens would be willing to pay the price of the invisible terror or a police state for law and order in the streets..  what we have now, a kind of police backlash, quite brutal and highly visible, is nothing of the sort..


to expect people k who have not the slightest notion of what the res pulbica, the public thing is, to behave nonviolently and argue rationally in matters of interest is neither realistic nor reasonable..


violence, being instrumental l by nature, is rational to the extent that it is effective in reaching the end that must justify it. and since when we act we never know w any certainty the eventual consequences .. violence can remain rational only if it pursues short term goals..  violence does not promote causes, neither history nor revolution, neither progress nor reaction;  but it can serve to dramatize grievances and bring them to public attention…

william o’brien: sometimes violence is the only way of ensuring a hearing from moderation

violence is more the weapon of reform than of revolution..


no doubt violence pay.. but the trouble is it pay indiscriminately, for ‘would courses’ and instruction in swahili as well as for reforms..  and since for short-term goals.. even more likely .. as was recently case in us.. that the established power will yield to nonsensical and obviously damaging demands – such as admitting student w/o the necessary qualifications and instructing them in non-existent subjects –


the practice of violence, like all action, changes the world, but the most probable change is to a more violent world


back to sorel’s and pareto’s earlier denunciation of the system as such – the greater the bureaucratization of public life, the greater will be the attraction of violence

in a fully developed bureaucracy thereisnobodyleft w whom one can argue, present grievance, on who th epressures of power can be exerted. bureaucracy is the form of govt in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by nobody is not no rule, andwhereall are equally powerless we have a tyranny w/o a tyrant…

the crucial feature in the student rebellions around the world is that they are directedeverywhereagainstthe ruling bureaucracy..

the transformation of govt into admin, or of republics into bureaucracies, and the disastrous shrinkage of the public realm what went w it have a long and complicatedhistorythroughout the modernage.. the process has been considerablyaccelerated during the last 100 yrs thru the rise of party bureaucracies.. (70 years ago pareto recognized that ‘freedom.. by which i mean the power to act shrinks every day, save for criminals, in the so called free and democraticcounties)..


philosophically speaking.. to act is the human answer to the condition of nationality..


kohout: what world today stand in greatest need of may well be ‘a new ie’.. t

let’s try this one..  short

for everybody.. from the get go – no train (why leap).. everyday..

this new ie will hardly be set by the practice of violence.. although i am inclined to think thatmuch of the presentglorification of violenceiscaused by severe frustration of the faculty of action in the modern world. it is simplytrue that riots in the ghettos and rebellions on the campuses make ‘people feel they are acting together in a way that they rarely can’..



demo’d how quickly the majority of the young rebels could become dealienated, jumping at the first opp not to abolish the system but to make it work again

oy.. moten abolition law..  why outside

we can control the most complicated processes w a precision that makes trips to the moon less dangerous than ordinary weekend excursions; but the allegedly ‘greatest power on earth’ is helpless to end a war, clearly disastrous for all concerned, in one of the earth’s smallest countries..  it is as though we have fallen under a fairyland spell which permits us to d the ‘impossible’ on the condition that we lose the capacity of doing the possible, to achieve fantastically extraordinary feats on the notion of no longer being able to attend properly tour everyday needs..

if power has anything to do w the we will and we can, as distinguished from the mere we can.. then we have to admit that our power has become impotent..

the progresses made by science have nothing to do w the i will; they follow their own inexorable lass, compelling us to do what we can, regardless of consequences..  have th ei will and i can parted company..

again.. we do not know where these developments will lead us, but we know, or should know,t hat every decrease in power is an open invitation to violence.. if only because those who hold power and feel it slipping from their hands, be they the govt or be they the governed, have alway found it difficult to resist he temptation to substitute violence for  it..



structural violence

from david‘s revolution in reverse:

Violence may well be the only way in which it is possible for one human being to have relatively predictable effects on the actions of another without understanding anything about them.


too much (B & b ness)

graeber increase b law

graeber f&b same law

from david‘s utopia of rules:

The bureaucratization of daily life means the imposition of impersonal rules and regulations; impersonal rules and regulations, in turn, can only operate if they are backed up by the threat of force.

siddiqi border law: every border implies the violence of its maintenance – Ayesha A Siddiqi

cure violence.. the center of the disease


structural violence

on violence

spiritual violence

et al