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Arendt Studies

Volume 5, 2021

Kyu-hyun Jo
Pages 161-183

Violence as an Expression of Power
A Habermasian Reconfiguration of the Arendtian Relationship Between Violence and Power

Hannah Arendt’s conception of violence in On Violence ignores cases in which violence becomes an expression of power. Through my discussion of a government’s use of violence to control criminal violence and the Algerian Revolution, I argue that an Arendtian communicative relationship between power and violence is unrealistic; a decision to use violence can arise within a government bureaucracy or between an anti-colonial group and their supporters, but not between a colonial oppressor and the oppressed. The decision to use violence is a product of power and cannot actually expect a literal public support. Since the decision arises from the power an entity has over others and the need to maintain power, it is unrealistic for power to rule absolutely or for violence to disappear because there is absolute power. Arendt’s central claim is insufficient because it does not consider how using violence is a decision arising from power.