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20131103 Value of Violence

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It is somewhat strange to read a book that includes a lot of things that I’ve been thinking about for a while. One of these things that always come to my mind when I hear or read an incredibly counterfactual statement “Violence is not an answer” has become a chapter in this book named “Violence often is an answer”. This answer is what defines any political system – the form of organized violence. Political system or the state is more effective in its violence because it is bureaucracy and therefore is capable to overcome natural limits on violence normally present in humans. Ginsberg is also bringing in welfare state as another side of state violence, this time as a carrot. Finally he absolutely correctly defines violence as necessary, if unfortunate condition for a change. Even democracy could and should be evaluated as mechanism to prevent violent change, by providing for peaceful, if slow moving, mechanism of change. It is not that often that I encounter book so much in sync with my own thinking.

The chapters of this book provide nice and detailed analysis of use of violence as driving force of political life allowing groups of individuals to establish dominance within society or over other society. Very interesting and quite non-trivial analysis provided for non-violent movement. I pretty much had to agree that such movements do not really exist. It all comes down to ability of leaders of “non-violent” movement to provoke intervention of some external power in possession of tools of violence exceeding such tools of their adversary. A very good example is “non-violent” civil rights movement in USA with its leaders working tirelessly trying to generate support of northern white population and federal government, which was representing it. At the final analysis “non-violent” movement succeeded when troops of 101 airborne interfered on its behalf.

Another issue wonderfully analyzed in this book is connection between bureaucracy and violence. Historical examples provided illustrate this connection in very interesting way. One of such interesting facts that were new to me came from analysis of Rwandan genocide. Contrary to common view it was not completely spontaneous process, but rather an operation that was prepared well in advance and implemented using all necessary trappings of bureaucratic hierarchy. Obviously violence is much more effective if it is conducted using all logistical and organizational achievement of contemporary bureaucracy.

By extension violence based on bureaucratic support find its most effective form in state apparatus. It relates not only to logistics and other material processes, but also to software of government – rule of law, legitimation of the ruling elite, propaganda, and all kind of brainwashing applied to members of society, starting before kindergarten and never really ending, except that with age and experience it always become less and less effective. The counter force to this decrease in susceptibility to propaganda that bureaucracy always uses is violence as tool of keeping individuals in line.

The book also provides a very good review of America and its system of combination of hard and soft power which allows American elites to succeed where elites of old empires failed miserably. Being democracy with mainly market economy, which necessarily provides a non-trivial amount of freedom for regular Americans, resulting in much more resilient society capable to a great change without big violent interruptions.

The final chapter dedicated to analysis of relationship between violence and change. This analysis includes review of law-preserving violence versus change promoting violence. There is continuing tension and counteraction between these two forces with forces of law-preserving violence normally overwhelmingly more powerful and continuously winning tremendous number of small skirmishes, until at one point existing system is not capable to meat requirements of significant enough number of active members of society who want to change it and revolutionary change occurs sometimes in really wild paroxysm of violence as it happened during French revolution of 1789 and Russian revolution of 1917. Thankfully lately the great change happens with minimal amount of applied violence as it happened with dissolution of Soviet Union in 1991.


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