Disowned Violence

by Caleb Roberts

As a result of this shared refusal to take responsibility for what Weber called the ‘legitimate violences’ of modern politics, libertarianism and communitarianism require other agencies to act on their behalf.  Libertarian extensions of the right of ‘individuals’, the right to purchase chase and consume goods and services, presuppose and widen the already unequal distribution of opportunities and resources within a capitalist society.  Extension of individual rights amounts to an extension not an attenuation of coercion: it calls for a reinforcement of the police function to contain the consequences of inequality.  Communitarian empowerment of ‘ethnic’ and gender pluralities presupposes and fixes a given distribution of ‘identities’ in a radically dynamic society.  ‘Empowerment’ legitimises the potential tyranny of the local or particular community in its relations with its members and at the boundary with competing interests.  It is the abused who become the abusers; no one and no community is exempt from the paradoxes of ’empowerment’.

In their abstract and general opposition to the state, power, rationality and truth, libertarianism and communitarianism directly and indirectly aid and abet authoritarian power of control.  They do so directly, by disowning the coercive immediacy of the type of action legitimated, and indirectly, in the way the stance at stake disowns the political implications of legitimated violence and so re-imposes that burden on agents and agencies of the state.  These reversals in the planned reconfiguration of power arise from the attempt to develop normative political alternatives to the modern state without any preliminary analysis of the actualities and possibilities for freedom and justice.  Any account of ‘freedom’ and ‘justice’ is deemed to depend on the ‘metaphysics’ of truth.  When ‘metaphysics’ is separated from ethics in this way, the result will be unanticipated political paradoxes. (4-5)

Gillian Rose | Mourning Becomes the Law: Philosophy and Representation

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