The task of the present commentary on “Critique of Violence” is to bring to light a progression in Walter Benjamin's essay that has important implications for the assessment of the essay's content. One should not take violence as a generic term and view the essay as enumerating different species of it. Rather, Benjamin establishes a hierarchy of forces with inner dependence whose logic, to put it initially as simply as possible, is one of arrogation. Just as in enforcement the police takes into its hands a force that belongs to the law, so is the violence of law an arrogation, through lawmaking, of an unlimited force that has its proper source in fate, or the rule of myth. The latter violence can be related back in the recognition of origin (as Benjamin understands this term) to divine violence.
Eli Friedlander; Assuming Violence: A Commentary on Walter Benjamin's “Critique of Violence”. boundary 2 1 November 2015; 42 (4): 159–185. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-3154152
Download citation file: