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56232Re: Zizek on divine violence

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  • Josie
    Sep 27, 2011
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      Jim,

      Thank you for your perserverance with Zizek. I don't always agree with him, but he provides a philosophical base for discussion. I contend it's critical the Left begins to strongly challenge the Right's notion of divine violence. Philosophical thought, rather than common thinking, isn't as easily manipulated by the powerful. Simply utilizing common rationales for violence keeps us locked in cycles of retribution; employing reason at least promises a way forward. If there is solid ground for violence in a given situation, it should be to protect community and promote justice. But what community; whose justice? Have we evolved enough to figure this out? A more participatory democracy can lead the way forward, but this requires the will of more people to get involved in their communities and local governments. Until citizens apprehend the complexities and challenges in preventing opportunitistic politicians from seizing power, they'll remain uninformed, cynical, and powerless. Divine right resides in the people. We have to work this out together or further descend into the night of might makes right.

      Mary

      --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
      >
      > Wil, Mary, et al,
      >
      > I have finally completed Zizek's "In Defense of Lost Causes", and I feel the book ended on a high with the last chapter "Ubehagen in der Natur" being the best. Also the epilogue "Afterword to the Second Edition: What Is Divine About Divine Violence" was extremely good.
      >
      > In the Afterword Zizek makes clear to me for the first time really his position towards violence, and what he wants to include under that heading. I now admit that some of my earlier contributions on this forum were a little naive and misguided, given I did not fully understand Zizek's position.
      >
      > His distinct between "divine violence" and "mythic violence" is crucial as is his distinction between "objective violence" (or "systemic violence") and "subjective violence".
      >
      > Divine violence is a good, whereas mythic violence is bad. He mentions Lenin and Guevara as activists who used divine violence. Stalin used mythic violence. He defines divine violence as follows:
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      > "The minimal definition of divine violence is ... : it is the counter-violence to the excess of violence that pertains to state power. But what is and what is not divine violence? When Benjamin writes that divine violence "may manifest itself in a true war," he thereby indicates that it may appear in many forms: from "non-violent" protests (strikes, civic disobedience) through individual killings to organized or spontaneous violent rebellions and war proper." (p. 483)
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      > A third example of divine violence relates to Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti. Here is what Zizek writes:
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      > "The single most controversial thing about Jean-Bertrant Aristide, which earned him comparisons with Sendero Luminoso or Pol Pot, was his occasional condoning of "Pere Lebrun" ("necklacing": killing a police assassin or an informer with a burning tire; ...). In a speech on August 4, 1991, Aristide advised an enthusiastic crowd to remember "when to use it, and where to use it." Liberals immediately drew a parallel between chimeres, the Lavalas popular self-defence units, and Tonton Macoutes, the notorious murderous gangs of the Duvalier dictatorship. Such is the preferred liberal strategy of always equating Leftist and Rightist "fundamentalists," so that, as with Simon Critchley for example, al-Qaeda becomes a new reincarnation of the Leninist party, etc. Asked about chimeres, Aristide said:
      >
      > "the very word says it all. Chimeres are people who are impoverished, who live in a state of profound insecurity and chronic unemployment. They are the victims of structural violence, of systematic social violence ... It's not surprising that they should confront those who have always benefited from this same violence."
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      > These desperate acts of violent popular self-defense are again examples of divine violence: they are to be located "beyond good and evil," in a kind of politico-religious suspension of the ethical. Although we are dealing with what, to an ordinary moral consciousness, cannot but appear "immoral" acts of killing, one has no right to condemn them, since they are the reply to years, centuries even, of systematic state violence and economic exploitation. One should recall here Adorno's apercu apropos how to punish concentration camp guards: the only appropriate thing would have been for the liberated prisoners simply to lynch them immediately, bypassing all legal niceties!" (pp. 478-9)
      >
      > I think I (and indeed Simon Critchley) may agree with Zizek that the examples he gives of divine violence are examples of "justified" violence, or, certainly acts of violence which are understandable, given the circumstances, and not to be condemned from the comfort of peacetime prosperity.
      >
      > Where I part with Zizek, and agree with Critchley, is over the best way to evaluate these cases of divine violence. I agree with Critchley that such violent acts may be justified as a means to a good end. So, in themselves, the violent acts may well be the best thing to do at the time, but only because they contribute to the better future where justice and peace can be restored.
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      > Zizek opposes this description of divine violence. For him, the acts of divine violence are good in themselves, good ends in themselves, and are not to be viewed as merely instrumental means to a good end. They are acts of retributive justice which should be celebrated as good-in-themselves.
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      > For me – and, I believe, Critchley - they may well be acts of restorative justice, but they should be viewed as "necessary evils", necessary, as the only available way to bring about the better society, and the good times of peace, freedom and justice.
      >
      > Jim
      >
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