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Violence And Political Transformation

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 5345 words Published: 27th Apr 2017

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Political violence is one of the most disturbing problems we are facing today. History of the world stands testimony to it. The twentieth century has in particular witnessed more violence than hitherto known to humankind. It is found in almost all parts of the world, be it industrialized-capitalist societies, or the socialist societies, or, still again, the developing countries of Asia and Africa. It is generally held that political violence manifests itself more in societies where political institutions are not sufficiently capable of dealing with socioeconomic disparities and other grievances. Conversely, it is also held that in relatively egalitarian societies with stable, well-developed political institutions, political space in the power structure of decision making. Therefore, political stability helps in accommodating the demands of various groups of in being, at least, and sensitive to their needs, and thereby in containing political violence. (Saskia, 1998)

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Some form of political violence is prevalent world over. However, the nature and causes of violence may differ from place to place and culture to culture. It depends, among others, on the nature of political institutions and the level of economic development. When social tensions and group interests find violent expression directed against the state power, they acquire a political colour. Such violence is called political violence. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) indulges in bomb blasts to press for freedom of Northern Ireland from Great Britain. In South Africa the blacks protested for decades against the apartheid policies of the white. Minority government; when their peaceful, non-violent protests often met with violent repression by the State, the blacks were compelled to resort to violent means to achieve their objectives. In some African countries tribal conflicts have resulted in mass violence, civil war and genocide. Rwanda and Somalia are prominent examples of full blown tribal conflicts. In the Middle East hijacking is its contribution to the arsenal of violence. In Latin America (Argentina, Cuba, Bolivia, Peru etc) there are many insurgency groups that indulge in guerrilla warfare, hostage taking and other types of political violence. Ernesto ‘Che Guevara’, the Argentina-born guerrilla Marxist revolutionary who participated in Cuban revolution, believed in violence as a means to attaining every political goal. He was shot dead in Bolivia on October 9, 1967 after being captured by the Bolivian army while leading a guerrilla revolt against oppressive military rule there. He was a keen follower of Mao Tse Tung of China who declared that ‘power flows from the barrel of a gun’. Since 1980s, terrorism has become a major form of political violence confronting every region of the world. Such widespread forms of violence have become a global phenomenon. It is, however, appalling to note that incidences and new forms of political violence are growing at an alarming rate. Therefore, it is important to understand the phenomenon of political violence, its causes and to find possible measures to deal with it. (Bill et al, 1998)

Radical political transformation and violence

Is violence a necessary part of any radical political transformation? To answer this question several scholars have theoretically analysed the concept of political violence. Some of the major are: (1) Frustration-aggression complex; (2) Relative deprivation theory; (3) Modernisation process; and (4) Conflict as an inherent process of social change.

It is argued that frustrations breed aggression. Urbanisation, mass media etc help an individual to learn about higher standards of living experienced by the people living in the developed, industrialized societies. People living in underdeveloped countries feel frustrated when their expectations/aspirations are not fulfilled due to lack of technology and scarcity of resources. Violence resulting out of such frustration is known as frustration – aggression complex. (Charles, 1999)

If an influential section/group appropriates for itself a greater share of resources and opportunities in a society, then the rest of the people in such a society feel relatively deprived. Such imbalance usually occurs during the periods of relative prosperity or development. When the gap between perceived expectations and real entitlements widens, it leads to violence.

Political violence is directly related to transformation process. Most developing countries are going through this transitional phase from tradition to transformative. During the transitional period disequilibrium between political, social and economic institutions provides way to violence. Political transformation implies accommodating political participation of the new social groups. Thus, political violence in the transitional societies is rooted in their failure to develop institutions responsive to the need for participation by the new groups. (David, 1992)

Some authors like Frantz Fanon and George Sorel maintain that violence is the only tool available to the oppressed people for their struggle against oppression and exploitation. Fanon said in his famous book ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ that the colonised people resort to violence to free themselves from the shackles of colonial rule. Sorel, the French radical, spoke about the regenerative role of violence. He held that through violence a class will discover its identity and resurrect itself.

Lewis Coser and Ralf Dahrendorf in their conflict theory emphasize on the use of conflict to resolve social tensions and maintain interpersonal relations. They follow Karl Marx and George Simmel here. For them, Violence is a natural manifestation of social change because in this process some groups benefit more than the rest. Resolution of tensions through conflict is particularly marked in pluralistic open societies.

Violence means the exercise of physical force so as to inflict injury or damage to persons or property. In the social context violence can be of two types. It involves the use of physical or psychological force by the people against the state power or government to achieve group ends. This is violence by the people at large. On the other hand, there is also force used by the agencies of state power such as police, army etc to maintain law and order. It is a legitimate use of force as is sanctioned by law. However, when force used by the agencies of the state exceeds its limits, it is known as state sponsored violence or official violence. Such incidences may lead to mass violence against the state repression itself. When violence takes place within a political community involving competing political groups against the political regime, its leaders or its policies, it can be called as political violence. In other words, political violence seeks to directly or indirectly influence decision making and power relationships in a political system. It is particularly manifested when political institutions fail to perform their roles or when political elites lose their authority and legitimacy. It can be motivated by a desire to maintain or change the existing social, political order. (Benedict, 1991)

Machiavelli, Hobbes along with Weber as well as others look at politics, there or thereabouts, as of the standpoint of the political dominator, the state organization. A theoretical and political response of this situation glances at politics as of the point of view of the subjugated, the demoralized. From this standpoint, many intellectuals emphasizes on innovatory violence – the violence that have got to be used in struggle to and conquer of oppression. In the Marxist revolutionary belief, the violence of the political economic supremacy as well as utilization of the lower-class by the entrepreneur state have to and will be resisted and in due course overthrown through determined, and violent, act by the revolutionary lower-class (Marx, 1978). Sorel differentiates among the violence of the state, government, recognized political parties, as well as concerned trades unions, and the violence of the waged people (Sorel, 1999, 39, 62, 78, 200, 280). This difference between progressive violence for liberty along with suppressive violence for power is discovered and developed by Merleau-Ponty, Beauvoir, Fanon, along with Sartre (de Beauvoir, 1948, 98-99; Fanon, 1961, 28; Sartre, 1961, 15-21; Merleau-Ponty, 1969, xviii, 107). From side to side this tradition runs the matter, as well, of the existential meaning of violence, together for oppressors and oppressed. Human life is described by freedom, the need to decide, an unavoidable project of transcendence of the ties – bodily, social, political – that frustrate freedom. Violence in support of freedom, after that, goes further than the clear-cut means to a separately visualized ends. Relatively, while we shall see, it is consideration rather as the expression of individual freedom, a self activity, in Sartre’s writing (Sartre, 1961, 18).

It has to by no way be incidental that for these thinkers, either the statists otherwise the anti-statists as we might describe them, that violence is un-challengingly linked with politics. Quite the opposite, their rational or existentialist squaring up to tackle violence is constant with a range of terms of uneasiness, and a mixture of methods of trying to cope with this problem. In viewpoint of Weber, for example, the link between politics along with violence indicates that ‘the politician’ is a dreadful form, brave enough to undertake the violence of politics, as well as brave enough, in addition, to make out that he might well be ruined by its consequences (Weber, 1994, 265, 367). The difference between (terrible) violence intended for domination and (superior) violence intended for freedom does not completely agreeably determine the disturbing characteristic of violence for the existentialists either – they as well raise up the Weberian theme of disaster (Merleau-Ponty, 1969, xxxix). The improbability of reason and consequence, and therefore the weakness of influential justifications of violence, are an essential offset in Beauvoir’s ethics of uncertainty (de Beauvoir, 1948, 7).

In an additional custom of political consideration, however, this derogatory, polluting, disturbing nature of violence results in efforts to wipe out it from the dominion of politics. In the extensive tradition of tolerant, contractual political premise, the issue of the situation in which rulers may reasonably be conquered is directly and complexly associated with the question of the lawful establishment of political authority. In Locke’s point of view, political authority is ‘the power of life and death’ (Locke, 1960, 308). Twentieth-century moderate indenture theories, for example those of Rawls along with Nozick, start out how individuals could sensibly be in agreement to the constitution and establishment of laws (Nozick, 1974, 5; Rawls, 1999, 10, 514). Theories of deliberative democratic system embark how public cause and reflection could take people to a point where they could be in agreement to laws or other method (Habermas, 1996, 170-172; Habermas, 1990, 94; Rawls, 1993, 226; Guttman and Thompson, 1996, 14-16). Therefore, the constitution of country, the search of public rule by legislation, executive action, and administration, and by expansion the opposition for the power to rule this accordingly constituted polity, can, theoretically, as a minimum be agreed to merely reasonably. Therefore they are reasonable on the grounds that rational persons would, in the correct conditions, be in agreement to the laws and other course that restrain them. So citizens can be encouraged to obey accordingly settled, lawful measures, legal and administrative.

Additionally, a presumption of politics devoid of violence, that is the theory, at least. Critics claim that all this presumption does is denying the violence that is inextricably vault up through politics. There is violence not least in the institutions of penalty that even this idyllically constituted state reserves to itself to pact with transgressors (cf. Locke, 1960, 428; Honig, 1993, 141-146). The polity has to take care of as challenger those who do not subscribe to the basic values that outline the constitution (Mouffe, 1993, 4, 57, 70).

The matter here is somewhat conceptual. Politics is described as a procedure – policy building, pacification, law making, managerial action and supervision – which is founded, in this presumption, on discussion and cause, mutually of which are described as non-coercive. The violence of penalty, and for protection, is, on this observation, another subject, not itself fraction of the political course. Certainly, in a different way of looking at it is that violence is, as it were, politics’ constitutive outside. It sets the boundaries of politics, to be certain, but a legitimate rational question arises whether the boundary is, or is not, element of the very thing it confines. This is not just a conceptual issue, on the other hand. It has substantive propositions when we add up to think the question of the utilization of violence in politics and for political intentions.

Up to now, subsequently, approaches has been met to politics as well as violence, which agree to violence as a essential aspect of politics, whether that is consideration of chiefly as power of people and region, or as struggle to and efforts to finish such control. To various degrees, these theorists recognize the terrible nature of violence, and embark to give explanation for it. This logic of revulsion at violence strengthens the substitute liberal and socialist projects of constructing society along with government where violence is trivialized, at most held in diffidence for the purposes of penalty and defence. The entire of these projects rely, to a degree, on differentiating between justified and unjustified, lawful and unlawful, good and bad types and uses of violence. Certainly, to these we have to put in peacekeeper theories that sincerely disagree that uses of violence are certainly not justified (Tolstoy, 1987, 162-164, 172; Ruddick, 1995, 137-139). In this perception violence is destined, not in support of what it is used for but as a type of action in itself. To the degree that politics is recognized with violence – the violence of the state, of social order, of law along with punishment, the violence of a various type of confrontation – then peacekeeping involves a refusal of politics. To the degree that if ‘politics’ can be idealized in a dissimilar way, then peacekeeping requires a radical transformation of society and polity.

In what follows it will be outlined how these diverse accounts of the association between politics and violence are taken on and criticized by Fanon as well as Sorel. Fanon hits the pragmatist explanation, which links politics with violent authority, and argues for the explanation of violent resistance. He also hits the moderate law-making shape of party politics that claims to avoid violence however, as said by him, cannot. Fanon visualizes a new liberationist shape of politics that is without violence, except this new time for humankind can just be realized, as said by him, by violence. This violence is, to start with, immanent in political formations of power; subsequently, it is personified and libidinal – as well as in both senses it is essential as a way to an improved world. Sorel’s disapproval of Fanon presents considerable insights into the trouble with instrumentalist explanations of violence, and among the recognition of violence with organic, libidinal force. Him observation builds on a model of politics which is, certainly, completely without violence. He attempts, however, to stay away from the liberal way out of marginalizing and efficiently denying violence; and he as well avoids any type of pacifism.

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Sorel along with Fanon proposes divergent arguments regarding the association between politics and violence. It looks one has to choose among considering violence as a ‘necessary’ part of politics, and considering violence as negative of politics. It is debatable, on the other hand, that this either/or building of the two thinkers’ situations is confusing. On assessment, the allegations of both Fanon’s and Sorel’s analyses unsettle whichever straightforward difference among them. Fanon provides us grounds for doubting violence as a way to independence, and Sorel’s politics stays troubled by the violence it allegedly rejects. It is Fanon’s effort that gives the top clues with regard to why neither his nor Sorel’s descriptions of politics and violence adequately settles the question of the association linking them. Since, no matter what his explicit asserts, Fanon’s effort shows frequently that violence is not a separate mechanism to be used for person or combined good. It is personified and entrenched in the lives of persons and communities

Fanon comprehends and explains violence in two major ways. First, it is a way essentially to political action – that is to say, his explanation is influential. Second, it is an organic power or force that pursues its own logic. Fanon can be interpreted by the way as a structuralized, as it has been recommended. However his account of how formation works makes suggestion to physiological processes. This can be comprehended as a type of explanation from openness. Sorel attacks both of these lines of argument. In relation to the former, he agrees with an instrumentalist analysis of violence. He is pretty obvious that violence is basically the development of natural power through the use of tools. Though, violence is not and cannot be politically influential for two reasons. Firstly, since the instrumental way of thinking that underlies the use of violence in politics is adversative to politics, since it identifies politics wrongly with the accomplishment of pre-described ends. Secondly, at any rate, since those who mystify violence with authority misunderstands the intrinsically impulsive outcomes of violence. Mainly in the enduring way, the way of violence has a propensity to overpower the ends for which it is used. His argument next to the recognition of violence as a type of power or force is more clear-cut. The class of violence floats, somewhere, between the categories of work and action in Sorel’s explanation. In either matter it is vault up with reasons and meanings that are not in any logic predestined by the workings of natural drives or comatose libidinal liveliness Violence is a creation of characteristically human feelings and reasons. It is not thoughtless but deliberate, not organic in the conservative realizing of what that means, but ethical.

These two arguments opposing Fanon are certainly influential. Sorel’s arguments next to claims as to the political instrumentality of violence draw concentration to the errors in the type of means end reckoning on which such claims rely. He is fairly true to be firm on the illogicality of arguments that lie on the thought that we can rely on the subordination of means to ends and on the confidence of consequences of human action, whether in politics or in whichever other subject. Point of view from ‘nature’, whether that is a libidinal account similar to Fanon’s or the afterwards zoological socio-biology that Sorel as well addresses (pp. 59-61) assist to turn into violence in the political subject incontestable by reducing it to a essential feature of the human state.

Though, there are in addition problems with Sorel’s argument. The theoretical association between politics and violence is such that the obvious theoretical difference among them is problematical. Additionally, while he rejects instrumental justifications of violence in politics, he examines violence itself solely in instrumental conditions. In contradiction of Fanon’s study of violence, and his linking of this to embodied subjectivity, Sorel’s description, regardless of him emphasize on institutions, encounter, and natality, is conceptual and incorporeal by contrast.

Sorel’s technique is to start by drawing conceptual differences, which are a precondition for normative arguments regarding political life. Wise to Violence, he makes comprehensible at the start that the clear-cut differences he draws are perfect types, forever assorted jointly in practice. Furthermore, it is enormously uncommon to discover authority or violence in clean shape; they are more or less at all times tangled together (p. 52). On the other hand, this mixing in practice is accompanied in Sorel’s wording by theoretical imbrications of the two ideas. Violence is emphatically distinguished from power; though, authority is a circumstance for violence, and evenly violence may be a circumstance for power. Power circumstances violence in the sense, Sorel argues that it triggers all joint action (p. 51). Furthermore, with no power, without action in performance, there can be no way ends reasoning for example are essential to use violence in chase of combined ends. Violence can form power, in contrast, in a way that it can open the way for power, building politics likely in backgrounds from which it has been taken out (pp. 52-54).

However if we take this critically as a hypothesis of politics as well as violence, then it looks as although Sorel’s limits concerning what is and what is not correctly political are problematical. He insists that violence can certainly not breed power (p. 56). On the other hand, if it can clear the way for authority, then it has to be describable as having political consequences. Sorel surely wants to say that it is not political, firmly grammatically telling. But there looks to be no specific cause, on just this explanation, why political actors should refuse non-political (exactingly speaking) activities if they bring regarding wanted political effects. For example the one that he has in sight – building the public world in which political action is probable. Surely, for the most area Sorel argues that violence is politically unproductive. Though, the dispensation that violence may be the lone way considerably weakens this filament of his argument.

This second filament of his analysis sets out to demonstrate both why individuals might consider violence as a political tool, and why they are incorrect to think so. The issue, as said by him, is that they have puzzled violence with power. This uncertainty eventually derives from a mix-up of politics, which is incorrectly considered as to do with the issue of rule. Dissimilar to power, violence has to be considered as an instrument or tool. It is here that it becomes very vital that agents actually recognize the nature of violence and therefore its boundaries. The trouble with violence recline in the discrepancies among its planned and its real outcomes or effects. It is hard to differ with the disagreement that the destructiveness of violence is forever expected to overpower the purposes for which it is being used. Though, in identifying violence with an instrument or else tool, Sorel’s argument is, we would disagree, partial. It misses the link among violence as doing and violence as being, which is a great deal better captured by Fanon. And, since of this, Sorel’s wrapping ups are almost lenient as to the part of violence in politics.

Sorel’s argument is biased since violence is not in fact very much similar to a tool at all. Realizing violence in this method can propose that there is no necessary link among violence and either the individuals who employ it or the individuals it is used in opposition to. It as well proposes that violence can be taken up and placed down in the similar way as we may pick up or place down a screwdriver or a hammer. However, there are noticeable issues with this method of thinking when we take into consideration that our bodies themselves are major instruments of violence. An additional sufficient account of violence, as Fanon might have recommended had he lived to answer to Sorel’s analysis, would identify that it plays a structuring job in the ways person and collective actors are shaped and reshaped in both private and public areas of power.

As soon as Sorel criticizes the conflation of violence with politics, he identifies this as an error on the fraction of political actors. He addresses the causes why this error may have taken place. It could be for the reason that the effectiveness of violence in the short-range is flawed for its effectiveness on the whole. Or the error could be positioned in an unlawful simplification of a reasonable emotional response to unfairness and insincerity. However this account individualizes accountability for violence and disregards the ways in which individuals are invested in the ranges of violence before any decisions being taken regarding the exercise of violence in this or that example. The ranges of violence are at exertion in the meaning of adulthood, womanhood and nationality, and they are at work in the economic, societal as well as political institutions of all recognized societies. If one is to untie the thought that violence works, then one has to unknot the unexpected and complex ideational and substance infrastructure needed to maintain a world in which the actuality that violence works is obvious. Sorel’s reluctance to tackle this infrastructure, which follows from his confrontation to any account of humankind that seems to demoralize the sui generis nature of action, leaves him study much nearer to the traditions of real politic and just war premise than one would imagine, given him stress on the conceptual aloofness of violence from political power proper.

It is in his explanation of the surroundings of violence in the creation of both individual and collective political players that Fanon’s disagreement comes nearer than Sorel’s to clutching the connection among violence and politics. No matter what are the shortcomings of his instrumental explanations and psychoanalytic justifications for political violence, Fanon is a great deal more adjusted than Sorel to violence as a form of being in the world. This includes a realizing of how violence is personified. This is both in the instant physical experiences of imposing and anguish violence, and in progress physical way of life and orientation. Significantly, as we have looked, personified individuals dwell in structured institutions, regimes, and living. In Black Skin White Masks Fanon sets out the dialogues, shown up in texts, which influence body and encouragement, which make-up and enculturation agents, and create and reproduce the discussions (Fanon, 1952, 20, 25, 34, 55ff). In the last chapter of The Wretched of the Earth, he registers the assumptions and effects of violence, psychological, emotional, societal, as well as physical for performers and sufferers (Fanon, 2001, 200-250). He demonstrates how the exercise of violence as a political method is secured just through the production of specific kinds and inter-relations of subjects. The torturer is incapable to prevent hearing the screams. An adolescent is powerless to clutch that the murder of a friend on grounds of opponent individuality might be incorrect. These instances give circuitous proof of the sum of work necessary to deliver torturing and murder comprehensible as political techniques. Political authority works here through the body not only cruelly and instrumentally but as well, in a Foucauldian sense, effectively.

In this last section, the force of Fanon’s previous arguments, that violence will toil to conquer colonial power or that it can be canalized for positive purposes, is destabilized. Inconsistently, the argument that begins as the festivity of revolutionary violence finishes by drawing awareness to the corrupting and debilitating outcomes of violence, whether reactionary or revolutionary, on both perpetrators and sufferers. By difference, Sorel, who seems at the onset to be extra systematic resistant to any arguments for the requirement, predictability or effectiveness of violence, accepts that violence may sometimes be the only way to attain justice.


Fanon and Sorel start by offering us substitute theorizations of the association between politics and violence. In the matter of Fanon, violence is an instrument for the attainment of political ends, and it is as well a libidinal drive usual to all human beings and competent of being channelled for good or unwell In the matter of Sorel, violence in itself is by description anti-political. This is since violence, in which compliance is secured through compulsion, is the reverse of power, which is based on free permission. It is recommended in this argument of these two theorists’ work that the insights they offer are in some logic balancing. Sorel’s argument gives us a helpful counteractive to Fanon’s instrumental as well as psychoanalytic argues. Fanon, in contrast, gives us an evenly useful corrective to the theoretical and incorporeal way in which Sorel thinks regarding violence as a tool.

One can wrap up by suggesting that the matters to which Fanon draws awareness in the final chapter of The Wretched of the Earth point to a set of issues regarding the relation among politics and violence that are not openly addressed by either Sorel or Fanon, nor by any of the thinkers whose ways to politics and violence enclose Sorel’s and Fanon’s crucial involvements. Whereas Fanon recognizes that the entrenchment of violence in individual as well as collective life makes innovatory violence probable, he fails to describe how the cruel circle among the doing and ‘being’ of violence can be broken during the doing of additional violence. In the meantime, Sorel sends away violence from politics theoretically, but fails to take on with the issue how violence might both be, on event, constitutive for politics, and not pollute it. Both Fanon as well as Sorel are dedicated to a model of politics with no violence, whether in the shape of the post-colonial, post-European internationalism or of an older method of republicanism. However, at long last, both argue that violence is at times the only way in which justice can be done. They are capable to do so, since, in spite of all proof to the opposing, they argue that it either is, or could be, probable to separate violent doing from violent being, whether at the individual or the combined level. This is a deeply questionable supposition, one that radically underestimates the levels of ideological and substance speculation needed to maintain violence as a range for political act. In the same way, it is one that as well overestimates the capability of political actors to go beyond the range of violence that plays such a main fraction in constructing and defining the parameters of politics as well as action in the first place. Fanon employs the symbol of ‘mortgaged’ to explain the future of his patients. If we take on this symbol, then to exercise violence as a way forward for politics is comparable to incurring money owing to pay arrears. Fanon along with Sorel go some way between them to emphasize the illogicality of this process. At the same time, on the other hand, neither of them takes critically adequate the question of how the associate between violence and politics could be taken to pieces, and the debt in the end settled.


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