The Value of Violence
by Benjamin Ginsberg
This provocative thesis calls violence the driving force not just of war, but of politics and even social stability.
Though violence is commonly deplored, political scientist Ginsberg argues that in many ways it is indispensable, unavoidable, and valuable. Ginsberg sees violence manifested in society in many ways. “Law-preserving violence” (using Walter Benjamin’s phrase) is the chief means by which society preserves social order. Behind the security of a stable society are the blunt instruments of the police, prisons, and the power of the bureaucratic state to coerce and manipulate. Ginsberg also discusses violence as a tool of social change, whether used in outright revolution or as a means of reform in public protests or the threat of insurrection. He notes that even groups committed to nonviolent tactics rely on the violent reactions of their opponents to achieve their ends. And to avoid the threat of unrest, modern states resort to social welfare systems (a prudent use of the carrot instead of the stick). Emphasizing the unavoidability of violence to create major change, Ginsberg points out that few today would trade our current situation for the alternative had our forefathers not resorted to the violence of the American Revolution and the Civil War.
Hardcover | 250 pages | 2013 | Prometheus Books
Benjamin Ginsberg is the David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Hopkins Center for Advanced Governmental Studies in Washington, D.C. He is notable for his criticism of American politics, in which he says that citizens have become “marginalized as political actors” and political parties weakened while state power has grown. He is the author, co-author, or editor of 24 books and is currently working on a survey-based study entitled, “What the Government Thinks of the People.”