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How do anarchists define violence?

+7 votes
What is it?
asked 4 years ago by rocinante (790 points)

2 Answers

+3 votes
Best answer
violence is physical (sometimes emotional) pain inflicted on a living being (or beings).
property destruction is usually not considered violence.
some people see a grey area when property destruction is committed against people who are poor (more poor than usual?), as this could be considered bad for people's health (poverty is the biggest health risk, as we all know).

this definition (violence is only against living beings) is ok as far as it goes, but to me it seems to have humanist roots, which i disagree with. but perhaps that is the beginning of another question.
answered 4 years ago by dot (45,700 points)
yeah, humanism... alas people are usually too immersed in it to recognize its problems. i actually like the more buddhist outlook, extending compassion to all sentient beings, extending the refusal of violence beyond the human realm.
4 years ago by lawrence (19,000 points)
0 votes
My litmus test has for years been this:
Violence is the attempt to control another being's actions, feelings or beliefs through the use of the installation of fear.

Sometimes the use of violence is appropriate behavior and sometimes it is not. This would lead to another question.
answered 4 years ago by matt.the.prick (700 points)
definitions that rely on determining someone's intention seem suspect to me. how can you know what someone else's intention is? even in the case of apparently obvious systemic intentions (the police, for example), is the ruling class's (tm) intention to use police to frighten people the part that is violent?

ps: also, what is this "use of the installation of fear"? what does that mean?
4 years ago by dot (45,700 points)
yeah, intention is too tricky.

in order for a threat to be credible, the periodic (and often arbitrary) use of force leading to physical or emotional harm is necessary. the intention (to frighten) is beside the point -- it is the exercise of controlling power that is the key to understanding what "violence" is.

a better question for anarchists might be "what do anarchists understand as legitimate violence?" plenty of anarchists throughout the last 180 years have discussed the a priori legitimacy of self-defense, the use of physical force to prevent someone from harming you. then there's the question that dot raises, which is the inherent violence present within systems; anarchists have argued that capitalism, with its reliance on the state to enforce particular property relations, is inherently violent (threats of jail and starvation being high on the list of objectionable and violent acts for non-compliance), as are the day to day mechanisms of government. the extension of this argument into the realm of anarchist action is that any attack against capital and/or the state is legitimate self-defense.
4 years ago by lawrence (19,000 points)
Exploring intention is imperative when I am asking myself about my own behavior and an examination of self is of much more importance and validity than that of others'. Anarchism must begin with self governance. It is important to me, when reflecting upon and thinking critically of my behaviors, to make the distinction between controlling and defensive intentions.

The word violence is very often used far too flippantly to describe anything that looks or feels badly to another. It is used by many leftists to sensationalize one's argument and to try to place it above reproach. A specific delineated definition of such a charged term is imperative for clear analysis.
4 years ago by matt.the.prick (700 points)
what do anarchists understand as legitimate violence?
asked 4 years ago by matt.the.prick (700 points) edited 4 months ago by dot
"A specific delineated definition of such a charged term is imperative for clear analysis."
Then how about you give one? Or did you think that your "litmus test" answer was that?
4 years ago by dot (45,700 points)
yes. Not my definition, but my paraphrasing. A tiny but respectable program trying to end domestic violence, Rape And Violence End Now includes this definition in their batterers intervention training program. Not that it makes it semantic law, but it's been a good, simple and consistent framework for me to look at violence with.
4 years ago by matt.the.prick (700 points)
ah, that makes more sense then. the focus on one's self and one's own capacity for interpersonal violence is obviously completely different from violence that most people seem to be talking about in the context of anarchy (social change on the broad scale vs on the micro level).

it seems odd that you disparage "flippant use to describe anything that looks/feels bad to another", when your definition seems prone to that same kind of mis-use (as does anything that relies on intentionality, no?).
how easy is it to say, "but i didn't mean to", and to even be sincere in the moment...
4 years ago by dot (45,700 points)

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