Eric Miller on Fri, 16 Nov 2001 21:53:27 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> structural violence

I agree that this definition of "structural violence" is confusing and
inflexible.  On a more fundamental level, by defining "violence" so
broadly, doesn't it devalue the power of the word?

I think that most individuals have a very concrete concept of what
"violence"'s the act of physically inflicting pain, and connotes
malicious intent.  Neither one of these conditions are met when we discuss
the unfortunate consequences of inaction.

But to me, this definition is deliberately cast wider in order to assign
responsibility to institutions, rather than acknowledging the sad truth
that bad things happen in the world.  Doesn't this definition serve to
anthropomorphize the source of a "violent" act, and gain legitimacy by
attributing personal intent to what would otherwise be a coincidence or an
unrelated event?

By no means would I absolve governments/corporations/societies of their
responsibilities or the consequences of their actions.  But at the same
time, I don't see the value in assigning responsibility based on
institutional status rather than culpability.

>What does the concept of "structural violence" have to do with terrorism?
>First, the nutshell definition, complete with critical proviso (or way
>"Popularized by the Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung, the idea of
>structural violence involves a wide construal of violence aimed at showing
>that its menace is present in institutional ways even where no literal or
>'narrow' violence occurs. Structural violence does not involve agents
>inflicting damage by force, but is equivalent to social injustice. Apart
>from its potentiality for confusion, a key problem with the concept is its
>dubious suggestion that a variety of apparently quite different social
>problems are all essentially the same and will therefore yield to the one
>Oxford companion to philosophy, from:

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