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On Violence by Hannah Arendt Essay

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Updated: May 27th, 2019

The book On Violence by Hannah Arendt is an investigation on the nature, reasons, and significance of violence from the 1950s to date. The author also gives an analysis of the association that exists between war, politics, violence, and power. The book is incisive, thought provoking and well written, and this makes it to give the best representation of the violence that takes place in the modern period.

In the book, Hannah put forth a number of arguments in analyzing the issue of violence in the second part of the twentieth century. Her writings were addressing two audiences: the authorities who were searching for remedial actions to restore calm in campuses in America and the students who were creating turbulence all over the country.

She argued that the authorities had the ability to resist violence if they used the power vested in them appropriately. The consequence of her arguments was to illustrate the unreasonableness of the New Left’s grip of violence as an end in itself or even as a way of realizing transformation in the power structure.

Hannah condemned the failure of the New Left activism to comprehend Marxism and demonstrated further that they are basing their ideas on turbulence on unsupportable reasons.

Hannah’s main argument was that the theories that were equating violence with power were wrong. The book explains that the ancient perception of violence, reinforced by the Judeo-Christian custom of an angry God, was illogical as violence mainly enforces compliance through physical coercion.

Hannah supported her position by positing that violence is most of the time vital for the service of power and as such, it can never be the foundation of governance. On the contrary, she argued that power is the capacity of a social entity to act in concert and it enables individuals to work together; thus, it is the essence and end of all governance.

On Violence is concerned about the current historical context in which acts of violence occur on a daily basis. In writing the book, Hannah wanted to examine the acts of student violence that were causing havoc in various institutions of learning in the U.S. and around the world in the late 1960s.

Though the book was written during that time, it is a true representation of the acts of violence that are still common in our contemporary society. On the social setting, the author argues that those who lack adequate power most of the time try to control or exert influence over others using violence.

Thus, violence assists individuals to manage or temporary exert their will on others. On the economic setting, the author is concerned about the use of violence to reinstate economic power. A state may want to increase the sphere of its economic influence using violent means if it feels that its strength is slipping away.

The book is very relevant to contemporary issues. The current society is full of violence, as many people have falsely believed that it is the most appropriate way of solving problems. However, it has proved to be useless, as it has continued to create havoc all over the world.

More so, in our current society, “every decrease in power is an open invitation to violence–if only because those who hold power and feel it slipping from their hands…have always found it difficult to resist the temptation to substitute violence for it” (Arendt, 87). Thus, violence is usually used in our contemporary society as a means of sustaining power.

The current youthful society has turned to violence in order to address their grievances with the society. The public has been astonished by the rebellion that is being manifested by the youths in an outrageous way. Violence seems to be the order of the order; thus, Hannah’s wit and piercing logic is still a force to be reckoned with in understanding violence in our current society.

The book is relevant to peace and conflict resolution. It gives an understanding of the idea of violence; thus, eases the process of conflict resolution in case violence takes place. The text provides an examination of violent behaviors with the intention of understanding the mechanisms that can result in the betterment of the human condition.

In the book, she says, “Violence can always destroy power; out of the barrel of a gun grows the most effective command, resulting in the most instant and perfect obedience. What never can grow out of it is power” (Arendt, 53). Therefore, in the process of peace and conflict resolution, understanding the difference between power and violence is of importance in averting further conflicts.

Further, the book advocates for conflict resolution through peaceful means as it will ensure the satisfaction of all the contending parties, and this is an essential element in peace studies. In addition, it is important to note that the book is not trying to refrain individuals from taking action, but it gives a warning that the use of violence to resolve conflicts is not beneficial in the end.

Works Cited

Arendt, Hannah. On Violence. New York: Harcourt, Brace &World, 1970. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "On Violence by Hannah Arendt." May 27, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/on-violence-by-hannah-arendt-essay/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'On Violence by Hannah Arendt'. 27 May.

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