May 5, 2011

As part of a larger society that is constantly confronted with different types of violence and issues relating to the justification of law and law-making, we are still unable (till today) to ascertain as to a way in which we can justify violence, or define a violence that is “right” in the eyes of the law and society. We are still confronted with the very question, “is any non violent resolution of conflict possible?” (Benjamin 1978).

Walter Benjamin defines violence as a type of means to achieve a predetermined just ends. He discusses violence as part of a process that is necessary and instrumental to achieve this ends. There is no defined “type” of violence that Benjamin discusses. Rather, he looks at the types of “laws” or “ends” that we as society aim to achieve as a way in which to create a discourse as to the validity of the initiated violence.

He speaks natural law as a natural element in which violence is the outcome. Violence is a product of nature, as if it were a raw material, the use of which is in no way problematical, unless force if misused for unjust ends (Benjamin 1978). Violence that is a natural product of this type of law therefore can be seen as an appropriate means in which violence can be exercised. However, there is the question of this view as not being fully encompassing in its application. Benjamin (1978) proposes that the issue of it is that there is a lack in a standpoint to determine if natural law actually defines the legitimacy of its uses rather that just its evaluation as just.

Another type of violence that Walter Benjamin states is the police. He views them as an arm of the law in which violence is made known. However, in the embodiment of the police, he proposes that in this very light, violence loses its objectivity in the light of achieving a just ends. Benjamin (1978) compares the structure of the police in the light of an absolute monarchy in where the executive and legislative supreme authority are united becoming a form of degenerative violence. It therefore becomes a violence that, at times, becomes driven by its very own makers in order to attain their own personal satisfaction or notion of justice.

Walter Benjamin finally discusses on the notion of divine law. In the Ten Commandments, we are given a list of ideals that precede the deed. The injunction becomes inapplicable, incommensurable once the deed is accomplished (Benjamin 1978). In understanding the way that the commandments work in terms of the law, it acts as a preventive measure in the light of avoiding the deed to be carried out. It (commandments) exists not as a criterion of judgment, but as a guideline for the actions of person or communities who have to wrestle with it in solitude and in exceptional cases, to take on themselves the responsibility of ignoring it (Benjamin 1978). Could this therefore be the defining law that balances the notion of violence in a just manner? Walter Benjamin questions if this divine violence could essentially be called sovereign violence as long as it is never the means of sacred execution.

The question still yet remains – is any nonviolent resolution of conflict possible?

Joel Lee

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