On violence

Hannah Arendt. Sobre la violència. Barcelona: ICIP - Angle Editorial, 2011.

Hannah Arendt was undoubtedly one of the most cogent and influential minds of twentieth century political thought, as well as one of the most prolific authors. May 1968 and the Cold War provided the political backdrop for an essay from a historical perspective. The text is imbued with the legacy of the wars and revolutions of the first half of the twentieth century. In this book, Arendt considers violence in a particularly turbulent situation, taking the non-violent social movements for civil rights that existed at the time she was writing the essay as her main reference for analysis.

The author reviews key concepts of political theory that were not sufficiently clear in the political thought of the 1970s: "It is, I think, a rather sad reflection on the present state of political science that our terminology does not distinguish among such keywords as power, strength, force, authority and finally violence". All these words suggest a means for men to dominate each other. The subtlety of Arendt's thought clarifies the differences between these concepts, and concludes that what makes violence distinctive is its instrumental nature. She also deals with political action, which she sees in terms of a manifestation that is inherent in the human condition. The network of human relationships requires a plural context in order to transcend and acquire theoretical substantiation.

Hannah Arendt sympathized with the nonviolent movement, and acknowledges rationality and emotional content when violence is exploited in order to achieve objectives that are often sympathetic to moderation and justice. Nevertheless, the author rejects the idea that violence in itself has the ability to create power and to establish political freedom.