Note that the site is in archived, read-only mode. You can browse and read, but posting is disabled.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

Note that the site is in archived, read-only mode. You can browse and read, but posting is disabled.


+2 votes
Generally things aren't equal but if they were... Doesn't violence by one person against an equal imply power-over them and thus a basic kind of hierarchical relationship is established through the violence? Assuming the answer is 'yes' and taking this a bit further: if you are using violence in the struggle against a more powerful adversary and you win, didn't you just become the more powerful one and aren't you now at the top of a hierarchy exerting violence downward against the less powerful?  (This may still have been totally worth it on balance, or maybe you stop being violent once successful, I'm just asking...)  If the answer is 'no' violence against an equal (or less powerful-in-the-end) adversary isn't hierarchical then why is hierarchy bad?  In other words does this imply that the reason to dislike hierarchy is something other than that it is harmful or damaging?  If so what is this something?  For my questions I'm assuming that violence implies action that is purposely and substantially harmful/damaging and is directed against another or others.
this question sort of raises the issue of what (if any) kind of influence is okay to have over other people. is it violence if you convince someone because you're more persuasive than they are, because you've learned how to argue better than they have, even if your argument is wrong (or at least wrong for them)?
what are the kinds of relationships and influence that are ok for us to have with each other?
and what are the different definitions of violence between different groups of people? (for some people yelling and being angry is violent. for others, passive aggressiveness is...)

2 Answers

+7 votes
Best answer
Violence is a pretty loaded word. The violence of me punching you in the nose is a pretty different creature than the violence of dropping a bomb on a village or starving a category of humans. The family of ideas and activities the term implies makes it pretty unusable during most conversations that anarchists would want to have about a better world, about anarchist ideas, or about how to get there.

To the extent that a conversation about anarchy is an introduction to a body of ideas then obviously the first ones aren't necessarily going to be about conflict resolution, but eventually they will be. The instinct that people have to want to punch each other in the nose is a pretty strong one. Perhaps even a fundamental one. If (or since) that is the case then violence is part of being a person. The desire for violence, the belief that "something" is solved with interpersonal violence, is probably part of the human project. If violence is human AND the desire to live without coercion and "power over" is human then the only thing that is antithetical is humans to humans.

Which is probably a fair assessment of our current condition.

One last note. Bolo'bolo has a nice section about conflict in a different world that may be worth quoting (short version).

"yaka: Every ibu (individual) can challenge any other ibu or a larger community to a duel, according to those rules."

It may be possible to agree to terms by which conflict is human scale and, perhaps, includes consensual violence.
by (2.3k points)
Yes, and also as mammals, violence is related to territoriality, alpha-mammals and so on... I hope, following deleuze and guattari, we can mutate ourselves some day: deterritorialize...

 But at the same time, violence may be absolutely always necessary to do away with inequality... violence of at least some sort (even legal violence, like the civil rights movement, conducted with the national guard) a "stopping" of the fascistic hand...

two cents worth...
hi jones. some thoughts on your thoughts_
i'm not looking to deterritorialize. i like the idea of belonging to a piece (or pieces) of land.
and you don't seem to be addressing the difference of local, small-scale violence, and state-induced violence, which seemed to be the main point of aragorn!'s response... do you see a difference in the two?
+1 vote
While institutionalized power-over is antithetical to anarchy, I don’t agree that any power-over is. Some of the conflict here comes from the understanding power-over as a negative or threatening thing. In my life there are many forms of power over me that I want. I have friends who are smart and socially connected and their acceptance is important to me. I have lovers who I feel a draw towards and desire to be taken over by. I have working relationships that expect of me commitment if I am to stay involved. I have physical limitations that I have to find ways to work around. All of these things exert manipulative, and some physical, power over me, but I enjoy them, and I improve and expand myself because of them. My personal history also includes a number of violent intimate relationships. There are times I have been hit that were far less damaging than some of the things people said to me, or the way/context in which they said them. I think this ties into the issue dot brought up; what kinds of influences over us are we ok with? not ok with? why?

I agree with what aragorn said, that the desire for violence is a human one, and a part of the human project. In anarchy, violence might be added to the list of types of power-over that could be enjoyable/productive/inspirational. When violence did not evoke the power-overs of bureaucracy, policing, gender, race, access to food, water, shelter, medical care, etc, then it would be different. Physical violence might end up in the long and confusing list of influences like chemistry, charisma, obsession, and so on that give force and direction to our individual experience.
by (1.5k points)
edited by
"...the desire for violence is a human one."  a couple thoughts on that.

1. an *acceptance* of violence as a valid tool in human interactions is very different from a *desire* for violence.

2. violence (at whatever level) may well be "desirable" by some humans, and  perhaps *acceptable* to even more. but i seriously doubt that is the case for all humans. not sure i would consider it part of "the human project," whatever that is. sounds dangerously close to the "human nature" issue, which will never be determinable (to my satisfaction anyways).

and just to clarify, i agree 1000% that violence, like everything, is contextual and subjective.