Thursday, April 06, 2006

On violence and violence

I want to put this here as a reminder to myself for when someone next equates the acts of this week's Islamic martyr and those of George Bush or Tony Blair.

Institutionalized violence is a necessary part of every organized state since without its availability any state would disintegrate. But those who make most use of the term tend to ignore the fact that the institutionalization of violence within a democratic system is the most responsible way available to us for containing violence. Democratic institutions can be altered by non-violent means; the use of violence by the democratic state is subject to scrutiny and criticism, and abuses can be punished and corrected. None of this works perfectly, but it works to some extent, and no such restrictions at all apply to other uses of violence, whether by non-democratic states or by terrorist organizations.
Conor Cruise O'Brien in Herod: Reflections on Political Violence, 1978, pp. 77-8

Quoted by Oliver Kamm

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