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DOI 10.12887/27-2014-2-106-10

Robert P. WOLFF – On Violence (trans. D. Chabrajska)

I set forth and defend three propositions about violence: (1) The concept of violence is inherently confused, as is the correlative concept of non-violence; these and related concepts depend for their meaning in political discussions on the fundamental notion of legitimate authority, which is also inherently incoherent. (2) It follows that a number of familiar questions are also confusions to which no coherent answers could ever be given, such as: when it is permissible to resort to violence in politics; whether the black movement and the student movement should be nonviolent; and whether anything good in politics is ever accomplished by violence. (3) The dispute over violence and nonviolence in contemporary American politics is ideological rhetoric designed either to halt change and justify the existing distribution of power and privilege or to slow change and justify some features of the existing distribution of power and privilege or else to hasten change and justify a total redistribution of power and privilege.

Keywords: violence, power, political power, force, authority, ‘de jure’ authority, ‘de facto’ authority, legitimacy, law enforcement, autonomy, political philosophy, anarchism

Afro-American Studies Department, University of Massachusetts,
01003 Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
E-mail: rwolff@afroam.umass.edu

© The Journal of Philosophy. Originally published as Robert Paul Wolff, “On Violence,” The Journal of Philosophy 66, no 19 (1969): 601-616. © The Journal of Philosophy. With kind permission from The Journal of Philosophy.

  1. ISSN 0860-8024
  2. The Republic of Poland Ministry of Science and Higher Education Value: 20.00
  3. Quarterly “Ethos” is indexed by the following databases: EBSCO, CEEOL, Index Copernicus (ICV 2017: 55.26), Philosopher’s Index, ERIH Plus.
  4. DOI Prefix 10.12887