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Book: Advancing Nonviolence and Social Transformation

Chapter: Chapter 6. Violence and Power: A Reading of Hannah Arendt's Distinction between Violence and Power

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.30207


This essay analyzes what seems like a curious paradox: that violence is powerless, in order to present the functional limits of violent action in the political sphere. Following Hannah Arendt, especially her distinction between power and violence, Cloutier argues that violence is regarded as a substitute for power by the excluded and that violence is not a valid political category per se. Violence may have an impact on liberation from oppression, but it must be surpassed. The exchange of role between the oppressed and the oppressors is not sufficient to become free; to be free does not mean to be a persecutor but to live among equals. And violence should play no role in the political relations among equals.

Chapter Contributors

  • Sophie Cloutier ( - scloutier) 'Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Canada'