Todd May reviews Balibar’s Violence and Civility

At NDPR here. Having not read this yet, this looks like a great text to work through the next time I teach a course on violence. Here, May goes through Balibar’s “civility” approach as a counter to violence and non-violence:

If violence, or at least its threat, cannot be eliminated, what can be done to address it? Balibar briefly considers and rejects two options before embracing a third. The two he rejects are nonviolence and counterviolence. Nonviolence is to Balibar an “abstraction” (22) from violence. It fails to recognize that violence is always a threat, opting instead to occupy a position that seeks to be beyond the threat of violence. Counterviolence, by contrast, seeks to invoke violence against violence, hoping to end violence by violent means. This strategy, however, is simply an “inversion” (22) of violence, one whose consequence is often to repeat the cruelties that it set out to oppose. Instead of these two strategies, which share a false commitment to the idea that the threat of violence and in particular of the extreme violence of cruelty can be terminated, Balibar believes we must embrace a strategy of anti-violence or civility. He insists that “unless a politics of civility is introduced into the heart of the politics of transformation, indications are that the latter will not by itself create the conditions for emancipation (but only those of another form of servitude).” (104)

via Violence and Civility: On the Limits of Political Philosophy // Reviews // Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // University of Notre Dame.

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