Liberalism and fear of violence

Liberal political thought is underwritten by an enduring fear of civil and state violence. It is assumed within liberal thought that self?interest characterises relations between individuals in civil society, resulting in violence. In absolutist doctrines, such as Hobbes?, the pacification of private persons depended on the Sovereign's command of a monopoly of violence. Liberals, by contrast, sought to claim that the state itself must be pacified, its capacity for cruelty (e.g., torture) removed, its capacity for violence (e.g., war) reduced and controlled. A core tension within liberal thought thus arises between containing civil violence by empowering the state and containing state violence by constraining the state. One result of this tension is the highly selective conception of ?pacification? within liberalism, which, historically, has accommodated indifference to endemic violence, both within civil society, and beyond civil society ? as in (past) arguments licensing imperialism and in (present) arguments for disciplining ?rogue? states
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Robert L. Holmes (2001). A Western Perspective on the Problem of Violence. The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 11:193-205.

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