Analysing the Common Conception that Power Requires Violence and Viceversa

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It is widely believed that power and violence form an interconnecting relationship in which one comes hand in hand with the other, for instance, to gain power, one needs to exercise violence, just as one needs violence in order to subdue it. As Mao once stated “power comes out of the barrel of a gun” (Arendt 1972, 113). This essay aims to question this common conception and its discourses. By firstly defining violence and power through the works of Marx, Weber and questioning their belief that violence and power are two of the same thing, and secondly by undergoing an analysis of their relationship through the works of Arendt, with the aim to show that violence and power are as Arendt believes, two very distinct concepts, and ones that lie at micro level, in the hands of the individual. The usefulness of this distinction and what it means to the study of the two concepts will also be discussed.

For the purpose of this essay it must be stated that in relation to the discussions of violence that reference is made not to individual or interpersonal act of violence such as domestic violence. But rather violence which is structured into society, in a way in which to organise, make change and influence society through either legitimate or illegitimate force, such as state violence, military violence, riot and protest. In the time that Arendt was writing On Violence (1970) evidence of all these forms of violence were heavily taking place, in the forms of the fallout from the Vietnam war, Anti-Colonial struggles of the then third world, immensely violent student revolts within Europe and the United States, the invasion of Cambodia at the hands of the United States and most notably the Cold war which involved the nuclear stand-off betw...

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