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Division: The New School for Social Research
Course Number: GSOC 5051
Course Format: Seminar
Permission Required: Yes
Far from receding with the rise of liberal democracies worldwide, violence appears to be enjoying a spectacular rebound, from the wave of revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East to dramatic acts of individual terror in Norway. In this course we explore classical theoretical propositions concerning the role of violence in bringing about social and political change , from Marx, through Weber, Lenin, Gramsci, Arendt, and Benjamin, to more recent thinkers like Foucault, Derrida, Zizek, and Michnik. We will look at different types of political violence and their specific instances, and revisit Arendt’s well-known distinction between the justifiability and the legitimacy of violence. Conscious of the traditional forms of political violence -’ wars, revolutions, and armed struggle movements, we will pay attention to the forms and consequences of structural violence, but also examine the forms of cultural and symbolic violence, such as language that routinely serves to legitimize violence. Mindful of Foucault’s work on the body as the key subject of power we will explore the continuities between social regulation of bodies and intimate relationships, and expressions of violence in the public sphere. We will look at the body as the quintessential marker of boundaries, from those of nation-states and communities, to the range of violent political acts that escape the public gaze. While our approach will be primarily historical and comparative, we will also use phenomenological perspectives to explore ideas and practices generated in different parts of the world.
Course Open to: Majors Only
Not open to Undergraduate students.