Though we can all agree that violence is a devastating plague upon human existence and that  peace would lead to more prosperous relations around the world, violence still continues to be deployed by a wide range of groups for numerous political and social ends. And though we all fear violence, what actually constitutes violence, who perpetuates it, and why, are questions of great debate, which have drawn the attention of the world’s foremost thinkers for centuries. Offering an accessible introduction to post-war critical thought on the topic, Histories of Violence examines how many prominent theorists from Hannah Arendt to Frantz Fanon, Michel Foucault, and Slavoj Žižek have grappled with these questions.

From Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” to Joseph Conrad’s “fascination of the abomination,” humankind has struggled to make sense of human-upon-human violence. Violence in War and Peace: An Anthology offers a single volume exploration of social, literary, and philosophical theories of violence. Bringing together a sweeping collection of readings, drawn from a remarkable range of sources, that look at various conceptions and modes of violence, it juxtaposes the routine violence of everyday life against the sudden outcropping of extraordinary violence such as the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the state violence of Argentina’s Dirty War, and organized criminal violence.

This anthology brings together classic perspectives on violence, putting into productive conversation the thought of well-known theorists and activists, including Hannah Arendt, Karl Marx, G. W. F. Hegel, Osama bin Laden, Sigmund Freud, Frantz Fanon, Thomas Hobbes, and Pierre Bourdieu. The volume proceeds from the editors’ contention that violence is always historically contingent. They argue that violence is a process rather than a discrete product. It is intrinsic to the human condition, an inescapable fact of life that can be channeled and reckoned with but never completely suppressed. Above all, they seek to illuminate the relationship between action and knowledge about violence, and to examine how one might speak about violence without replicating or perpetuating it.

Anthologies