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Vittorio Bufacchia a Department of Philosophy, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
To cite this Article Bufacchi, Vittorio(2009) 'Rethinking violence', Global Crime, 10: 4, 293 — 297 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/17440570903248056 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17440570903248056
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the US Supreme Court handed down a decision involving whether the state of Ohio could ban the showing of the French film Les Amants. in which he accepted that his prior view was problematic. In fact. it is imperative to establish a precise meaning of the concept of violence. But I know it when I see it. To do justice to Justice Stewart. University College Cork. James Gilligan. not defining the concept of violence is not an option. 4. just as it is for pornography. 1999). 15 (1973). First. 413 U. Violence: Reflections on Our Deadliest Epidemic (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. and it is hard to care about something one cannot see.bufacchi@ucc. 4. 184 (1964). there is a lot more to violence than what we can ‘see’. There is a significant effort by certain scholars within the social science. November 2009. ISSN 1744-0572 print/ISSN 1744-0580 online © 2009 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10. to debunk any efforts to delineate a definition of this concept. insisting instead that violence is an essentially contested concept. 2. the most pervasive and insidious violence is that which cannot be seen: Where violence is defined as criminal.S.1 A similar slogan has often been used in the context of violence: ‘I don’t know how to define violence. this is in fact what he said: ‘I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description. 378 U. Aug 2009: pp.2 Secondly. ‘you know pornography when you see it’. 3. For the sake of conceptual clarity and analytical rigour. Ohio. sociologists and political scientists working at the relativist end of the spectrum.Global Crime Vol. 0–0 INTRODUCTION Rethinking violence Vittorio Bufacchi* Department of Philosophy. California.3 this tendency. The most famous opinion from Jacobellis v.1080/17440570903248056 http://www. 195. quoted in Ivan Perry. but I know when I see it – and I definitely know when it involves me!’ This attitude towards violence is untenable. as James Gilligan reminds us. Ireland V. No. as well as for teasing out its normative and empirical implications. which the state had deemed obscene. ‘Violence as an Essentially Contested Concept’. No.informaworld. many do not see it. Justice Stewart later recanted this view in Miller v. Yale Law Journal 105 (1996): 1023–47. On the expression that became one of the most famous phrases in the entire history of the Supreme Court. When it is simply a by-product of our social and economic structure. 10. There are at least two problems with this attitude. see Paul Gewirtz. ‘Violence: A Public Health Perspective’. in Violence in Europe: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives.com . 293–297 Global Crime 1744-0580 1744-0572 FGLC Crime.S. Bufacchi Global Crime Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 12:30 21 February 2011 In Jacobellis v. many people see it and care about it. 2008). Sophie Body-Gendrot and Pieter Spierenburg (New York: Springer. albeit growing *Email: v. eds. and the motion picture involved in this case is not that’.ie 1. Cork. 10. notwithstanding the difficulty it involves. Vol. See Willem de Haan. and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. Ohio was Justice Potter Stewart’s claim that although he could not define it. especially amongst some anthropologists. ‘On “I Know It When I See It”’. in this volume.
After all. ubiquitous in human affairs. and has always been. McCormick suggests.294 V. In ‘Machiavelli and the Gracchi: Prudence.4 Instead. This volume invites the reader to engage in the critical process of rethinking the way they have until now approached the question of violence. Tiberius and Gaius Gracchi famously pursued a redistributive agenda that would benefit the plebeians but harm the interests of the nobility. But in reading about the contribution to our understanding of violence coming from other disciplines. of pursuing an agenda of fundamental reforms by way of violent means. . international relations. The first chapter. Those interested in this enterprise are advised to consult Vittorio Bufacchi. by bringing together scholars of violence working in a wide range of areas and methodologies. the aim of this volume is to suggest that a multidisciplinary approach is required before we can try to make sense of the many dimensions that make up the phenomenon of violence. If this volume succeeds in its aims. and perhaps even justify. Bufacchi in popularity. must be resisted. Violence: A Philosophical Anthology (Basingstoke: Palgrave. and so on. A detailed and comprehensive understanding of violence would benefit from the contributions of all these disciplines: their different methodologies. all of us will be forced to reassess the way we think about violence. violence is. therefore it is a vital issue not only for those studying criminology. The eight chapters in this volume can be seen as representative of eight different disciplines and methodologies. This is a Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 12:30 21 February 2011 4. McCormick suggests that Machiavelli intimates the possibility. On the appropriate reading of Machiavelli’s text regarding this famous event in the history of Ancient Rome. ed. sociologists tend to trust the writings of fellow sociologists. 2009). economics. McCormick. a fundamental rethinking of violence will be instigated. a great deal of work has already been done elsewhere on this score. The general aim of this volume is therefore to advance the merits of an interdisciplinary agenda. McCormick suggests a subtle but radical reinterpretation of the passage in Machiavelli’s Discourses where he comments on the violent death of the Brothers Gracchi at the hands of the Roman Senate in the second century BC. law. political theory. To acknowledge the complexity of violence is not to give up on the endeavor to seek clarity and coherence regarding the use and meaning of this concept. the key issue regards the extent to which social and economic inequality can explain. for their troubles the Brothers Gracchi not only met with a violent death. criminologists tend to rely on the work of fellow criminologists. sociology. this volume aspires to expose both the complexity of violence and the interface between the empirical and normative dimensions central to this question. contrary to the received reading of this passage. Furthermore. The papers in this volume are not primarily concerned with proposing and defending an all-encompassing definition of violence. the occurrence of violent revolt. Violence and Redistribution’. that Machiavelli actually endorses the redistributive agenda of the Brothers Gracchi. if not necessity. focuses on the views of violence by the often maligned and widely misunderstood figure of Machiavelli. All of us who are involved in the study of violence are guilty of working predominantly within the narrow perspective of our own discipline: philosophers tend to read fellow philosophers on violence. but also for political science. findings and insights. psychology and public health. by John P. thus suggesting ways in which a comprehensive understanding of this phenomenon must deal with both empirical and normative issues. but were also vilified for many generations to come for undermining and eventually causing the downfall of the Roman Republic. The distinctive aim is to explore the overlap between the empirical and the normative study of violence.
Baker concludes that socialists are faced with a ‘cruel dilemma’: to reject violence would see the prospects for sustained radical change all but doomed. To the extent that economic sanctions are a deliberate and foreseeable cause of suffering and death. If there is a paradigmatic example of collective violence. Krause highlights some of the limitations of existing data on the global burden of armed violence. By focussing on the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations Security Council. Michael L.Global Crime 295 theme which preoccupies John Baker in his paper ‘Violence for Equality: Lessons from Machiavelli’. Gross insists that within the context of asymmetric war. In this paper Krause deals specifically with the problems of measuring or quantifying the global incidence of violence. it is necessary to take another look at the key concepts of ‘intentionality’ and ‘combatants’. usually involving conventional army against armed insurgents. with immediate results. namely. it must be war. furthermore the prevalence of violence is often sustained by inept policy responses rooted in legal and moral frameworks. If the justification of violence for egalitarian ends is marred with complexities. but to embrace violence would contradict many key aspects of socialist ethical and political thinking. That sanctions can be as damaging as warfare to the population as a whole is an inconvenient truth that must be recognised. In our effort to both understand and prevent violence. Many who champion the cause of nonviolence. As Ivan Perry argues in his paper ‘Violence as a Public Health Issue’. Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 12:30 21 February 2011 . especially the tendency to neglect ‘indirect’ victims of war. And yet. Lethal violence is also the topic of Keith Krause’s paper. Gross revisits one of the key intuitions regarding just war theory. The most original aspect of Baker’s analysis is his suggestion that radical egalitarians have much to gain from reading Machiavelli on this issue. we must look beyond economic sanctions. It is this basic intuition that is being challenged by Joy Gordon in her paper ‘Economic Sanctions and Global Governance: The Case of Iraq’. Gordon challenges the wisdom of depicting sanctions as a nonviolent alternative to military intervention. it is even more so in the case of the appropriate use of violence during war. the protection of noncombatants during war. they ought to be considered as violence. that is to say conflict involving two belligerents with unequal overall military power. if we want a nonviolent alternative to military intervention. although Krause insists that attention to reducing violence in nonconflict settings is at least as important as all of the efforts to end wars and resolve internal conflicts. are also inclined to feel that economic sanctions are a more ethically acceptable way of punishing rogue states. Symmetrical Intentions: Killing Civilians in Modern Armed Conflict’. since many civilians take a direct or indirect role in the fighting. Baker grapples with the perpetual socialist dilemma of whether the use of political violence could be justified for the sake of enhancing equality. public health and epidemiology can make a unique and original contribution. Gross argues that it is necessary to distinguish civilians from noncombatants. it would be wrong to think that all acts of violence are intentional. ‘Beyond Definition: Violence in a Global Perspective’. perhaps because an economic sanction is not an act of violence. In his paper ‘Asymmetric War. direct. since his analysis of violence is much more subtle than a simplistic consequentialist argument. This means that asymmetric war expands the range of permissible civilian targets that each side may attack without incurring charges of terrorism or disproportionate harm. there is a clear correlation between high rates of violence and social contexts of poverty and social injustice. In an effort to bring the empirical evidence to bear on the conceptual debates. and who therefore are opposed to wars on ethical grounds. This is a perspective that is shared by many writers working in the field of public health.
On the basis of the eight papers in this volume. By taking a global perspective. we might want to say that if there is a core to the concept of violence.296 V. Bufacchi There is no doubt that injustice breeds violence and violence perpetuates injustice – although one must not make the mistake of assuming that these two concepts are synonymous. The violation of integrity is often done intentionally (Gross). comprehensive definition of the concept of violence. Furthermore the disintegration can occur at the physical level (Gross. Mizen suggests that violence is a psychological variant of aggression. Baker). we can perhaps start to draw some tentative conclusions regarding the best way to conceptualise violence. On this issue. Mizen argues that violence is not a behavioural phenomenon. Perry). There are many different ways of violating someone’s integrity. and while violence is prima facie wrong. Violence. although violence and injustice remain distinct concepts that should not be collapsed into one (Baker. its use may still be justified (McCormick. or indirectly (Gordon. Mizen). But of course there is. and Education’. Violence and Social Justice (Basingstoke: Palgrave. Perry. Perry). At the start of this introduction. and if used correctly can act as a positive force to address issues of violence across society. I recommended resisting the relativist claim that violence is an essentially contested concept. indirect. It is precisely the experience of violence as a private incident that is discussed by Richard Mizen in his paper ‘The So-Called Mindlessness of Violence: Violence as a Pathological Variant of Aggression’. physical and psychological. this is to be found in the idea of violence as disintegration. it has a wide-ranging and crippling effect on present and future generations. As the papers in this volume illustrate. an interdisciplinary approach is imperative – this volume is a contribution in that direction. where the term ‘disintegration’ means simply the breaking down of integrity or unity. 2007). directly (Gross. is a mechanism that aims at the evacuation of the experience of ‘violation’. Finally. Krause). but non-intentional harm can also amount to violence (Gordon. Using empirical evidence from clinical case materials. Thus. suggesting instead that there is virtue in seeking a clear. I also argued that this enterprise would benefit from a multi-disciplinary approach. in the hope that more research of a similar nature will follow. Salmi). as widely assumed. When violence is legitimised by and within institutions of learning. for education still retains its redeeming powers. something very personal about violence. Yet the situation is not beyond repair. Krause) or at the psychological level (Salmi. In order to make progress. Salmi. More specifically. political and economic phenomenon. hence the need to learn from the contributions comes from different disciplines. there is a close relationship between violence and injustice. Jamil Salmi explores the relationship between violence and education. which arises in the context of a failure to mentally represent emotional feelings. the purpose of the evacuation is the transformation of what is anticipated as being an unbearable affective experience into action. First of all. Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 12:30 21 February 2011 5. All the papers we have considered so far have analysed violence as a social. he reminds us that within school systems we still find many different forms of violence – direct. first and foremost perhaps.5 One issue that speaks to both injustice and violence is education. Integrity. the challenges for researchers on violence are many and varied. Perry). Krause. In his paper ‘Violence. Salmi. . violence can succinctly be defined as the violation of integrity (Baker. within schools but especially outside. but a psychological one. Krause. see Vittorio Bufacchi.
He is presently working on a book on human rights and truth. Ireland. Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 12:30 21 February 2011 . Notes on contributor Vittorio Bufacchi is Lecturer in Philosophy at University College Cork. He is the author of Violence and Social Justice (2007) and the editor of Violence: A Philosophical Anthology (2009).Global Crime Acknowledgements 297 A very special thanks and my sincerest gratitude goes to Liz David-Barrett for her extraordinary support and encouragement throughout the editorial process.
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