Hannah Arendt’s On Violence (1970) is a seminal work in the study of political violence. It famously draws a distinction between power and violence and argues that the latter must be excluded from the political sphere. Although this may make Arendt’s text an appealing resource for critiques of rising political violence today, I argue that we should resist this temptation. In this article, I identify how the divisions and exclusions within her theory enable her to explicitly disavow violence on one level, while implicitly relying on a constitutive and racialized form of violence on another. In particular, Arendt leaves legal and state violence presumed, but untheorized, focusing her critique instead on dissident action, especially that of the Black Power movement. Any analysis that incorporates Arendt’s conceptual distinctions is therefore susceptible to reproducing a political theory that neglects state violence in the service of White rule, yet charges those who resist it with breaching the peace.
"Political Violence and Race: A Critique of Hannah Arendt."
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