Violence has long been noted to be a fundamental aspect of the human condition. Traditionally, however, philosophical discussions have tended to approach it through the lens of warfare and/or limit it to physical forms. This changed in the twentieth century as the nature and meaning of ‘violence’ itself became a conceptual problem. Guided by the contention that Walter Benjamin’s famous 1921 ‘Critique of Violence’ essay inaugurated this turn to an explicit questioning of violence, this collection brings together an international array of scholars to engage with how subsequent thinkers—Agamben, Arendt, Benjamin, Butler, Castoriadis, Derrida, Fanon, Gramsci, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, and Schmitt—grappled with the meaning and place of violence. The aim is not to reduce these multiple responses to a singular one, but to highlight the heterogeneous ways in which the concept has been inquired into and the manifold meanings of it that have resulted. To this end, each chapter focuses on a different approach or thinker within twentieth and twenty-first century European philosophy, with many of them tackling the issue through the mediation of other topics and disciplines, including biopolitics, epistemology, ethics, culture, law, politics, and psychoanalysis. As such, the volume will be an invaluable resource for those interested in Critical Theory, Cultural Studies, History of Ideas, Philosophy, Politics, Political Theory, Psychology, and Sociology.

chapter |9 pages


The Meanings of Violence

part I|74 pages

Political Myth and Social Transformation

chapter 1|18 pages

Walter Benjamin and the General Strike

Non-Violence and the Archeon

chapter 2|17 pages

Violence, Divine or Otherwise

Myth and Violence in the Benjamin-Schmitt Constellation

chapter 3|17 pages

Violence and Civilization

Gramsci, Machiavelli, and Sorel

chapter 4|20 pages

The Violence of Oblivion

Hannah Arendt and the Tragic Loss of Revolutionary Politics

part II|83 pages

Sociality and Meaning

chapter 5|16 pages

The World and the Embodied Subject

Humanism, Terror, and Violence

chapter 6|26 pages

Dialectics Got the Upper Hand

Fanon, Violence, and the Quest[ion] of Liberation

chapter 7|19 pages

Sartre’s Later Work

Toward a Notion of Institutional Violence

chapter 8|20 pages

The Original Polemos

Phenomenology and Violence in Jacques Derrida

part III|60 pages

From Subjectivity to Biopolitics

chapter 9|20 pages

Taming the Little Screaming Monster

Castoriadis, Violence, and the Creation of the Individual

chapter 10|18 pages

Judith Butler

From a Normative Violence to an Ethics of Non-Violence

chapter 11|20 pages

Biopolitics and Resistance

The Meaning of Violence in the Work of Giorgio Agamben