Violence and Democracy [Excerpt]

John Keane (Cambridge University Press, 2004)

July 28, 2006

Violence and Democracy

Tanni Mukhopadhyay (reviewer)

John Keane’s book is an important intervention in the debate on the persistent proliferation of violence and its role in political life, especially in democracies. Keane urges the reader to think cautiously about conceptualizing violence: to pause before accepting the traditional bifurcation of the topic along the Hobbesian view of the pre-political ‘‘state of nature” on the one hand and the view of society as consisting of ‘‘symbiotic, equitable relations among diverse partners held together by cooperation, friendliness and love’’ on the other. He argues for conceptualizing violence more ‘‘soberly, with less normative flourish’’—and with that, there can be little ethical argument.


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