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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Violence: L'elan Vital, Non?
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...
Published on 27 Oct 2010 by demola

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40 of 53 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ill-informed polemic and problematic analysis
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...
Published on 3 Sep 2007 by ldxar1


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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Violence: L'elan Vital, Non?, 27 Oct 2010
This review is from: On Violence (Harvest Book) (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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hannah Arendt, 29 Nov 2013
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Kathleen Conner (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On Violence (Harvest Book) (Paperback)
Very good book indeed. Very useful for my study course. Very insightful and illuminating. Would recommend it to read definitely.
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40 of 53 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ill-informed polemic and problematic analysis, 3 Sep 2007
This review is from: On Violence (Harvest Book) (Paperback)
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. She takes a lot for granted in her account, naturalising and glorifying existing institutions, and often seems unable to think outside their boundaries even to the degree necessary to make sense of opposing viewpoints. The real quarrel with the New Left is not so much about violence as about the structural critique of the status quo as systematically oppressive, and the relation of radical antagonism which results from this critique, but Arendt mis-perceives it as a dispute about violence, reconstructing her opponents' views by cross-reading their conclusions with her own assumptions and then arguing against what she assumes their view must be.

The crucial distinction between violence and power is very similar to the distinctions made by authors such as Kropotkin, Ward, Buber, Clastres, Guattari, Negri, Holloway and Agamben between the social principle, or creative power, and the political/command/negative principle. The main difference is that Arendt arbitrarily and clumsily tries to annex the liberal-democratic status quo to the former category (despite admitting at various points the importance of problems such as bureaucratisation and police brutality). This requires, of course, that the violence of liberal states be mystified, and Arendt's concepts of authority and power (especially the latter's elision of the distinction between power-over and power-with or -to) serves precisely this purpose. Arendt seeks a revitalised political community based on Ancient Rome (though with this system's slavery, misogyny, expansionist warfare and gladiatorial fixation apparently ignored). The result is an asymmetrical treatment of the violence of the system and its opponents, posing as an argument about violence in general - a "global-local" in Shiva's terms, the particularity of the western state dressed up as universality. The essay is also blatantly Eurocentric and structurally racist, both in its indirect imputation of "human" absolutes from specifically American/European perceptions and epistemologies, and in its explicit attacks on radical black movements.

I'd advise that Clastres' "Archaeology of Violence" offers a more empirically-informed account of the social functions of violence, that readers interested in the New Left should not trust Arendt's account and should instead or also read texts such as Marcuse's "Essay on Liberation" to gain a sense of this movement, and that readers looking for works on non-violence might be better served by Tolstoy, Havel or Starhawk.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arendt 'On Violence', 16 Mar 2010
This review is from: On Violence (Harvest Book) (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading, 12 Nov 2007
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This review is from: On Violence (Harvest Book) (Paperback)
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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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Needed this book for University Course, 21 Oct 2013
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This review is from: On Violence (Harvest Book) (Paperback)
This book came rather quickly, perfect condition paper back copy. Inexpensive book and fit for purpose.
The book was much smaller then I imagined but who cares.... I just need it for reference material from my uni course and then I'll probably sell the book myself to someone else.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars tiny brilliance, 18 May 2013
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This review is from: On Violence (Harvest Book) (Paperback)
I used this book for my exam in criminology, violence in society.
I like the book it is tiny and easy to carry.
however I have found that it is easy to lose as well.
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On Violence (Harvest Book)
On Violence (Harvest Book) by Hannah Arendt (Paperback - 30 Mar 1970)
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