Diminishing violence through a new theory and practice of power

…Politically speaking, it is insufficient to say that power and violence are not the same. Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power’s disappearance. This implies that it is not correct to think of the opposite of violence as non-violence; to speak of non-violent power is actually redundant. Violence can destroy power; it is utterly incapable of creating it. (Arendt 1969: 56)

Gender and the transmission and reproduction of violence in time and space

The literature on violence tends to divide violence into various ‘forms’. People differ as to the exact categories, but Philippe Bourgois’ categories outlined above are sound examples of the broad consensus: Political, Structural, Symbolic and Everyday. Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois also argue for a ‘continuum’ between these violences (2004: 1), and the WHO study on violence as a public health issue also points to evidence of:

links between different types of violence. Research has shown that exposure to violence in the home is associated with being a victim or perpetrator of violence in adolescence and adulthood. The experience of being rejected, neglected or suffering indifference at the hands of parents leaves children at greater risk for aggressive and antisocial behaviour, including abusive behaviour as adults. Associations have been found between suicidal behaviour and several types of violence, including child maltreatment, intimate partner violence, sexual assault and abuse of the elderly. In Sri Lanka, suicide rates were shown to decrease during wartime, only to increase again after the violent conflict ended. In many countries that have suffered violent conflict, the rates of interpersonal violence remain high even after the cessation of hostilities – among other reasons because of the way violence has become more socially acceptable and the availability of weapons. (WHO 2002: 15)

Like Bourgois, work in my own country played a strong role in opening up new questions about violence. The riots that took place over 12 hours in Bradford on 7 July 2001 involved hundreds of young Pakistani males. These males come out of rural Asian and mostly Muslim socialisation cultures (although the vast majority were second-generation immigrants), in which male honour is one of the most dominant socialisation norms. These traditional cultural norms have been fertilized with Western cultural portrayals of masculinity so that the rioters described their violence in language from film and television; it was, they said:

like a mission…James Bond.’…a ‘fight to the finish…a battle…A game…I’m in the middle of a war zone’…’My head went…I don’t take shit off nobody…I am angry…I’ll take him out before he takes me out’…’It does mek yer feel strong, cos yer done it with a load guys and lads. (Bujra and Pearce 2005: 11)

Shame, honour and pride: socialisation, men and violence

…male sociodocy owes its specific efficacy to the fact that it legitimates a relation of domination by inscribing it in a biological which is itself a biologized social construction. The double work of inculcation, at once sexually differentiated and sexually differentiating, imposes upon men and women different sets of dispositions with regard to the social games that are held to be crucial to society, such as the games of honor and war (fit for the display of masculinity, virility) or , in advanced societies, all the most valued games such as politics, business, science, etc. The masculinization of male bodies and feminization of female bodies effects a somatization of the cultural arbitrary which is the durable construction of the unconscious. Having shown this, I shift from one extreme of cultural space to the other to explore this originary relation of exclusion from the standpoint of the dominated as expressed in Virginia Woolf’s 1927 novel To the Lighthouse. We find in this novel an extraordinarily perceptive analysis of a paradoxical dimension of symbolic domination, and one almost always overlooked by feminist critique, namely the domination of the dominant by his domination: a feminine gaze upon the desperate and somewhat pathetic effort that any man must make, in his triumphant unconsciousness, to try to live up to the dominant idea of man. Furthermore, Virginia Woolf allows us to understand how, by ignoring the illusion that leads one to engage in the central games of society, women escape the libido dominandi that comes with this involvement, and are therefore socially inclined to gain a relatively lucid view of the male games in which they ordinarily partake only by proxy. (Bourdieu and Wacquant 2004: 273)

These gendered spatial constructions have become so normal that the question is rarely posed: how does violence (and power) get transmitted from private to public and back to private, and what role does gender play in that transmission? Could the differentiated socialisation process between men and women be a transmitting mechanism? As Doreen Massey (1994; 1999) and others have reminded us, space is a ‘product of interrelations. It is constituted through interactions, from the immensity of the global to the intimately tiny’ (Massey 1999: 28). Gender hierarchies are just one of the interrelationships within social spaces, but there is a remarkable consistency across culture, time and space in the power men have been able to exercise over women within a range of spaces. Women almost universally enjoy less participation and power in the public sphere, and the constructions of masculinity in the intimate or domestic private space are able to condition the character and use of power and violence outside of it and then ‘double back’ to reinforce the gendered relationship in the home. There is no longer a ‘starting point’ for explaining this as such, although the ‘home’ and the intimate is arguably the formative space for gender socialisation and the most dynamic force for replenishing the circulation and flow of power and violence over time and space.

Perhaps we should then reflect not only on terror and the ‘state of war’ but also on the ‘war of the state’ – namely, the nation state as a source of terror. With its scientific achievements applied to military industries, modernity led to total wars in which the distinction between violence and civility, soldiers and civilians, was increasingly obliterated. The ‘new wars’, including terror and the ‘war on terror’, are conducted by networks of state and non-state actors, and the main victims are civilians (Kaldor 1999). These new forms of violence developed as a way round massive concentrations of conventional military force. Because battles, that is, direct confrontations, even those between ‘asymmetric’ forces like the Israeli state and Hizbollah, or the US armed forces and Iraqi insurgent groups, have become so destructive, and the value placed on individual soldiers’ lives so high that they are rarely risked, warring parties fight either by directly attacking unarmed civilians or by attacking at long distance through terroristic air strikes, which inevitably cause civilian casualties.

The question that arises is how these concepts came to be distorted by militant Islamic groups in total contradiction to the long-established and authentic traditions of Islamic jurisprudence (Lumbard 2004). This is not just a matter of theology. The Islamic heritage includes not only the religious sciences, as some scholars have rightly observed, but a wealth of rational sciences that are not considered as opposites or mutually exclusive (Nasr 1999: 217–41; 2002: 235–84). Likewise, we also need to ask how the language of the ‘war on terror’ has instrumentalised both Christian and secular traditions of ethical thought about war and peace.

Habermas has drawn attention to the important role that language plays in masking political interests with apparently sophisticated concepts such as the ‘clash of civilisations’. Violence, he indicates, can be the result of distortion in communication and the misuse of concepts, such as war, to describe military acts against terrorism. He argues that the rhetorical use of such terms makes it difficult to retain any definite meaning. It also obscures structural forms of violence that are embedded in the modern condition and that are rarely addressed. These structural forms of violence make communication within the public sphere and across public spheres in inter-cultural relations extremely difficult, blocking any fruitful dialogue that might contribute to the construction of a common language. Indeed, Carl Schmitt’s (1932/1990) definition of politics as self-assertion against the Other has actually gained more currency, resulting only in more violence (see Box 1.2). Hence violence can be seen as a form (or a manifestation) of distorted communication. As a result, Habermas sees language, and communicative and practical legal and political arrangements that foster a notion of shared humanity, as essential to achieving peace (Habermas 2003: 35–43, 63–9).

Framing the debate: some methodological considerations

There are important methodological and philosophical issues at stake when thinking about the concepts of war and peace, violence and civility. These require extensive elaboration beyond what can be done in this chapter. However, we can at least outline some of the directions of thinking that might be fruitful to develop.

Those who make the case for justifying Israel’s response do so within a discourse of war, in which Hizbollah’s attacks are treated as foreign aggression. In fact, even within the discourse of war, the response can be criticised on grounds of disproportionality, although the Israelis can argue that this is a case of ‘military necessity’; indeed, international lawyers have asserted that the attacks violate the principle of proportionality in international humanitarian law (the ‘laws of war’). But no justification of Israel’s response is possible within the discourse of human rights; such attacks are completely unacceptable by the standards of human rights. And this exposes the shortcomings of the language of war in today’s world: the human rights regime (human rights law underpinned by global norms) is increasingly coming into conflict with the rules that govern what is called ‘war’. In a global era, when the lives of individual human beings are considered to have equal value whatever their nationality or religion, violent actions such as that carried out by Hizbollah should be dealt with through recourse to international law, which addresses individual responsibility for crimes, not by launching a war against a whole population.

If the legitimate monopoly on acts of violence asserted by a governing agency gives rise to a civil sphere of life, that monopoly has never extended to all violence, as Jenny Pearce shows in her account of the gendering of violence in private and public spaces in Chapter 2 of this volume. Legitimate violence has not been confined to modern state agencies. The right to bear arms and to use them in self-defence is fervently asserted in both strong and weak states, in the United States as much as in Afghanistan.

In the Global Civil Society yearbook series (Kaldor and Muro 2002; Glasius and Kaldor 2002; Kaldor, Anheier and Glasius 2003) and elsewhere, Mary Kaldor (1999) has pointed to the contrast between old wars and new wars, between wars of nation-states and violent conflicts conducted across boundaries or within failed states by non-state actors. Escalating violence in the new wars poses immense challenges to states and their established military. To none are these challenges greater than to the United States, which has responded to the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City and the attack on the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on 11 September 2001 by declaring the ‘war on terror’.

Indeed, in much of the world the word ‘terrorism’ is rejected because of the way it has been politicised and captured by the rhetoric of the Bush administration and its allies. The word seems to be used to emphasise threats to Western citizens and to downplay the kind of political, criminal or just senseless violence that is the daily experience of many Colombian or Congolese citizens, for instance.

As Figure 1.1 shows, deaths and injuries from terrorist incidents have greatly increased since 2000. But the way in which terrorism is perceived varies greatly in different regions. Indeed, perhaps more than any other risk, terrorism is subject to manipulation, instrumentalisation, and reinterpretation.  The figures in the chart, which comes from a US funded source, refer only to non-state terrorism. This reflects the dominant perception in the US, where terrorism is seen as a threat to the US, akin to a foreign enemy like the Soviet Union or Germany. This is partly to be explained by the shock of 9/11, when more people were killed than at Pearl Harbour in 1941, which marked the start of US involvement in the Second World War. But it can also be understood in terms of the way this perception of terrorism chimes with a narrative about the role of the US in promoting and defending freedom – a narrative that is deeply embedded in the structures of government and is narrative, moreover, widely purveyed by the American media.

Finally, the public sphere requires the actors in it (to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the theorist) to be willing to abide by particular rules of process, and display a certain measure of respect for each other. At the minimum this would involve a rejection of using violence against each other. The nation state was to some extent capable of enforcing such respect, and excluding those who would not follow the rules of the process. In global civil society there is no such enforcement, and contributions to our book clearly show that conceptualisations of actually existing global civil society as prepared to voluntarilyy observe such rules are naïve. The National Rifle Association, discussed by Clifford Bob in chapter 10, may be willing to abide by rules of non-violent debate, even if its ultimate aim is to arm everyone, but for the producers and publishers of Jihad videos, described in the same chapter, violence itself is the means of communication.