The Politics and Philosophy of Disorder: Critical Theories of (Student) Violence

The Politics and Philosophy of Disorder: Critical Theories of (Student) Violence

“Compared with this normal daily violence which goes largely unpunished and unnoticed, the student protest is nonviolent.” (Herbert Marcuse, 1969)

The past decade has seen a resurgence in philosophical questioning of violence, with the renewed exegesis of now ‘classic’ texts (Benjamin’s ‘Critique of Violence’, Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, Arendt’s On Violence). In the domain of Marxian theory, we have seen the recent publication of Étienne Balibar’s excavation of the history of Gewalt within Marxist thought, as well as Georges Labica’s Théorie de la Violence, Domenico Losurdo’s critical history of non-violence, Slavoj Zizek’s Violence and numerous other interventions. In this talk I want to revisit how critical and revolutionary theorists, in the period around ’68, reflected on the question of violence and unrest in parliamentary democracies, especially as concerned the tactics and ethics of the student movement. I will consider texts by Hannah Arendt (‘On Civil Disobedience’ and ‘Thoughts on Politics and Revolution’, from Crises of the Republic), André Glucksmann (‘Strategy and Revolution in France 1968’), and Herbert Marcuse (‘The Problem of Violence and the Radical Opposition’, the correspondence with Adorno about the student movement). Does the present moment require a different thinking of violence and disorder than the one which came to the fore in the late sixties and early seventies? What is the relationship between these 40-year old debates, and the more recent theorisations of violence, especially their focus on the heterogenesis and excess of violence over political instrumentality?


Continental Philosophy Research Group

Tuesday 25 January
RHB 343
All welcome

Please contact Aecio Amaral for further information ( a.amaral (at) )

This entry was posted on Friday, January 21st, 2011 at 3:09 pm
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