Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Beyond blood and coercion: A study of violence in Machiavelli and Marx
by Winter, Yves, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2009, 328; 3411171
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation investigates and criticizes two common assumptions about violence in contemporary political theory and philosophy: that violence is mute and that it is instrumental. Through close readings of the works of Niccolò Machiavelli, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels, I argue that political violence has a semiotic character, that it involves the production of signs and meanings. These signs and meanings are not peripheral but central to the operations of political violence, because the political effectiveness of violence is partially determined by its representation. Practices of representation regulate how political violence is received and understood by an audience, which is why political violence cannot be explained by reference to institutions alone. Rather, it must be interpreted in the context of these practices of representation. It calls, therefore, for a critical hermeneutic attentive to how meanings and signs circulate beyond violence's narrowly functional and instrumental dimensions and beyond the control of violence's wielders. My readings offer a model for such an interpretive approach, for a critical hermeneutic that accounts for the semiotic aspects inherent in practices of violence. My textual analyses ask how modes of representation and visibility organize particular formations of violence and produce political effects. By tracing the disseminations and dispersals of violence in Machiavelli's and Marx's texts, I challenge the conventional classification that separates political from non-political violence, and I raise the question of what makes violence recognizable as political.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Brown, Wendy, Butler, Judith
School: University of California, Berkeley
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 71/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy, Political science, Rhetoric
Keywords: Critical theory, Engels, Friedrich, Machiavelli, Niccolo, Marx, Karl, Political theory, Violence
Publication Number: 3411171
ISBN: 9781124037295
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