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ON VIOLENCE: Paradoxes and Antinomies / Vol. 48, No. 1 (Spring 1981)

Franco Ferrarotti, Guest Editor
Arien Mack, Journal Editor

Essentially, to be human means to speak, communicate, join a conversations. Violence involves something terrible, inhuman. It interrupts the discourse. Violence thus threatens culture as a human fact in its double normative and anthropological meaning, as the final term of a long process of self-development and individual refinement, and as a way of life, a totality of shared and lived experiences and ideas, as group reality. However, there is also a culture which stimulates, justifies, and “aestheticizes” violence, which makes it photogenic, if not quite acceptable. In view of this, social analysis encounters definite limits and extraordinary difficulties. The temptation to enclose it in the framework of a formal, monocausal definition is strong and understandable, but must be resisted and overcome.

Discusses the forms of political and economic intervention through the state advocated in Italy by the Communist Party and political scientist Antonio Negri's call to violence against the state.

Through an analysis of the thought of Italian philosopher Julius Evola and neofascist philosopher Alain de Benoist, seeks to understand the mythic appeal of terrorism to right-wing groups in Europe.

Discusses how the concept of terrorism is related to the question of legitimate political activity and the role of the media in reporting on terrorism, with special reference to reporting in Great Britain, and emphasizes the need for an analysis of the causes of political violence.

Reviews the history of the conflict in Northern Ireland, provides a definition of "terrorism," and shows that so-called "terrorist" activities have much in common with officially sanctioned actions such as "legal force," and "security measures."

Discusses the various ways that criminologists, especially in the 1970s, have viewed violence.

Today we are witness to three highly interrelated tendencies: a substantial and rapidly accelerating shift to the right in the political life of the US; an intensification of violence—both overt and covert—here and abroad; and an ever-worsening global economy whose outlook for recovery is grim. It is the thesis of this paper that the violence of right-wing reactionary and counterrevolutionary forces is best understood in relation to the material conditions of economic crisis which have historically generated such activity. I will argue that the violence of political repression and terrorism, as well as more subtle forms of violence, is a response of certain sectors of the corporate and financial class to protect their material privilege and political domination at the expense of the human rights of working people when economic conditions deteriorate and a clear choice must be made.

Unmotivated violence is the most definite index of the crisis of the city, the obvious mark of its deep contradictions. The interpretive formulas of current urban sociology are shattered. The city is seen as the "human community" par excellence. But here is how that community breaks up, is seen to be an illusion, is shown to be riven and wounded by sharply opposed social groupings. Not only that; between these groupings, laid out in the urban setting in deeply asymmetrical positions, there runs a dialectical relation by which the luxury and well-being of some is paid for by the poverty of the rest.

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