Another kind of Gewalt: Beyond Law Re-Reading Walter Benjamin

in Historical Materialism
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Abstract

This article is the first in a series of discussions of the essay 'Violence' by Balibar from the Historical-Critical Dictionary of Marxism, published in this issue of Historical Materialism. The article revisits Walter Benjamin's reflection on the concept of violence, attempting to rethink its semantics in the tension between right and justice. After examining the continuum of juridical violence in relation to the logic of the modern state, it attempts to delineate the possibility of another type of violence: a violence that is not a means in order to attain an end, but which finds in itself the criterion of its own justice. Research into this kind of violence has been a particularly urgent and complex problem in modern politics which, together with the foreclosure of justice, has rendered unthinkable qualitatively different types of Gewalt, types that lie beyond the sterile opposition between violence and non-violence. Rethinking the question of justice means that, in a conflict, however violent it might be, a non-teleological criterion is possible, starting with the extent to which some part of the struggle can be defined as just.

Another kind of Gewalt: Beyond Law Re-Reading Walter Benjamin

in Historical Materialism

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