• The Force of Nonviolence

  • An Ethico-Political Bind
  • By: Judith Butler
  • Narrated by: Coleen Marlo
  • Length: 5 hrs and 51 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (28 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Judith Butler's new book shows how an ethic of nonviolence must be connected to a broader political struggle for social equality. Further, it argues that nonviolence is often misunderstood as a passive practice, or as an individualist ethical relation to existing forms of power. But, in fact, nonviolence is an ethical position found in the midst of the political field. An aggressive form of nonviolence accepts that hostility is part of our psychic constitution, but values ambivalence as a way of checking the conversion of aggression into violence. One contemporary challenge to a politics of nonviolence points out that there is a difference of opinion on what counts as violence and nonviolence. The distinction between them can be mobilized in the service of ratifying the state's monopoly on violence.  

Considering nonviolence as an ethical problem within a political philosophy requires a critique of individualism as well as an understanding of the psychosocial dimensions of violence. Butler draws upon Foucault, Fanon, Freud, and Benjamin to consider how the interdiction against violence fails to include lives regarded as ungrievable. By considering how "racial phantasms" inform justifications of state and administrative violence, Butler tracks how violence is often attributed to those who are most severely exposed to its lethal effects.

©2020 Judith Butler (P)2020 Tantor

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Butler and Brilliance

Judith Butler demands a readership by the mere quality of their work. Butler reminds us that "violence" and "nonviolence" can only debated through moral frameworks that present us pre-packaged definitions of these terms. They then propose a definition of their own, rooted in an egalitarian imaginary--one that argues for an equal distribution of grievability. When grievability is distributed equally, legalistic and individualistic notions of self-defense become incoherent as they presuppose a dependent "I." Selves are only ever interdependent, and must include the self to be defended as well as the self to be defended against. This work contains powerful arguments for militant pacifism as a political force. What "we" must do now is put such pacifism into practice.