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Violence in Law, Violence beyond Law

Jung-A Hwang 1

1한림대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

From colonialism through totalitarianism to terrorism, violence has been a ‘constant’ in modern history and, far from revealing signs of decline in today’s post-ideological world, it becomes increasingly more visible and ubiquitous. Considering that it also prevails in cultural images everywhere,violence deserves to be one of the most urgent theoretical topics. Recently,the focus of the critique of violence is being placed on constitutive interrelations between power and violence or mutual implications between law and violence. This paper proposes to examine some notable arguments which foreground the problematic relation of power/law and violence,mapping their discursive configuration. In the critique of violence, Walter Benjamin’s argument has served as an important point of reference, since it distinctively articulated the intrinsic connection between violence and law. Based on his insights,Giorgio Agamben analyses the inherently violent structure of sovereign power, while Slavoj Žižek develops Benjamin’s critique in a more concrete socio-historical direction and argues the priority of ‘systemic violence’ over ‘subjective violence.’ Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener” and Mingue Park’s “Rudy” provide two exemplary representations of the complicated mechanisms involved in systemic violence. Another reason for the persistent influence of Benjamin’s argument is that it also suggested the concept of ‘divine violence’ which could supposedly manifest itself beyond the closed circuit of power/law and violence. Along the same lines, Agamben and Žižek interpret the possibility of getting out of this circuit in a positive way. Êtienne Balibar,however, notes that violence beyond law might lead not so much to a self-sublation of violence as to a self-destructive excess of violence, which he names ‘cruelty.’ Regarding cruelty as also constitutively related with violence, Balibar poses yet another challenging task to the critique of violence.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.