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On Violence (Harvest Book) Paperback – 30 Mar 1970


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Product details

  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Publishers,U.S. (30 Mar. 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156695006
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156695008
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 0.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
THESE REFLECTIONS were provoked by the events and debates of the last few years as seen against the background of the twentieth century, which has become indeed, as Lenin predicted, a century of wars and revolutions, hence a century of that violence which is currently believed to be their common denominator. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By demola on 27 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
Is violence inevitable? Is it rational or beastly? Does it justify its ends and is there an end to it? I thought this book a very informative and useful essay in tackling these questions and in examining violence as a tool in the domination of man by man. Arendt takes time to distinguish between "power" and "violence" and then to explain how the slippage of power by those "in power" prompts them to use violence as one means of hanging on to power. I'd never looked at it that way before and it then seemed self-evident when I considered say the politics of the 70s for example in Africa or Latin America or even in the West in the 21st century where violence against Iraqis was a means for a certain President and Prime Minister to keep and increase their power bases.

Arendt drives home her point with extensive references to 60s/70s America and the French student revolutions as well as the Marxian struggle between labour and capital. One of the earlier reviews cast Arendt as a New Left basher. I thought she bashed all apologists while also recognising that violence may be a last resort for getting one's voice heard when other avenues are shut or ineffective. No doubt there's a lot of other material out there on this and perhaps reading some might help provide perspective for newbies, like me, to the topic. Nevertheless I think Arendt's book is worth reading.
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45 of 58 people found the following review helpful By ldxar1 on 3 Sept. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This short pamphlet consists of a polemic against the New Left followed by a laying-out of Arendt's own views on the relationship between violence and power. The first part consists of an attack on student radicals with intermittent swipes at Fanon and Sartre. The latter draws distinctions between power, violence and authority, before presenting an argument that the state is based on power rather than violence and that it depends on consent. It also presents arguments for a civic "political" commitment against both bureaucracy and new social movements. The argument is dependent on Arendt's "The Human Condition" at several points, and reads as rather speculative and assertive rather than demonstrative.

There are several reasons I'm not particularly impressed with this pamphlet. The first is that the author basically makes a straw-man of her opponents. The views attributed to the amorphously defined "New Left" - such as that violence founds society, that it is a means to achieve immortality, that violence is natural, that a primordial will to dominate is fundamental - are not properly sourced and basically do not occur in the literature Arendt is implicitly referring to (Marcuse, Sartre, Fanon, Negri, Situationism, etc). She rarely references her opponents at all, ignoring their theories - the only exception being Fanon, who is quoted selectively and without any reference to his ontological and structural theories. She thus offers an argument for a view (that violence is instrumental, not constitutive) that her opponents would probably not dispute.

The impression left is that Arendt does not understand the kind of structural critique of liberalism/capitalism which New Left authors pursue.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ms. Emma Mcclelland on 16 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a brilliant book for students or academics researching political violence. Arendt looks at violence as a phenomenon in its own right and differentiates it from terms like "power", "force" and "strength".
This is the best possible book to buy if you want to know how and why violence occurs in human affairs.
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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Roy Collins VINE VOICE on 12 Nov. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This short and very readable work was first published about the time I graduated and was very widely read, and with intense interest. I have recently come back to it.

Arendt coined the phrase "the banality of evil" in the context of Adolf Eichmann who had a key role in the holocaust. As a Jew who had fled Germany she was (it seems to me) clearly moved by the reality of violence; by the need to have as little of it as possible; and by a desire not to commend those who like Fanon and Qtub advocated the kind of terrorist violence we are defending ourselves against today. But she also says that no-one's yet come up with an alternative to violence for settling our incompatible conflicts; the trouble with peace is you need armies to enforce it. This whole argument sounds rather like the Orwellian "war is peace" to me.

I think it is a worthwhile, stimulating, very well written book - but of course of its time.

I thought some other reviews expected more of the work that was realistic - I don't myself expect a relatively short work to cover everything or to fully reference everything; if one wants that aspect of Arendt's work one can go to her longer publications.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen Conner on 29 Nov. 2013
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Very good book indeed. Very useful for my study course. Very insightful and illuminating. Would recommend it to read definitely.
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