Violence and power: A critique of Hannah Arendt on the `political'

Philosophy and Social Criticism 33 (3):343-372 (2007)
Abstract
In contrast to political realism's equation of the `political' with domination, Hannah Arendt understood the `political' as a relation of friendship utterly opposed to the use of violence. This article offers a critique of that understanding. It becomes clear that Arendt's challenge to realism, as exemplified by Max Weber, succeeds on account of a dubious redefinition of the `political' that is the reverse image of the one-sided vision of politics she had hoped to contest. Questioning this paradoxical turn leads to a critique of Arendt's separation of violence and power and, consequently, her attempt to insulate a politics of friendship from one of hostility and coercion. However, political realism is not thereby affirmed. What is required, instead, is a view of the `political' that accepts the interwoven-ness of violence and power but also emphasizes the normative ideals of moderation and care. Key Words: Hannah Arendt • enmity • friendship • moderation • the `political' • power • realism • violence • Max Weber.
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