The essay offers a series of reflections on the place of violence in politics and, at the same time, on the ways in which the relation between what might be understood as mutually exclusive categories (violence ceases where politics begins and vice versa) has been theorized, especially in the twentieth century. The condition of such an inquiry is not a set of abstract concepts, but a phenomenology of extreme violence that exceeds any rational political objective. Such violence is often theorized through such negative categories as evil or extermination and thus continues in some measure to resist efforts to comprehend it. To begin to acknowledge the historical and material forms of the existence of violence is to confront the “tragic” dimension of the practice of politics. Just as this practice can never abandon itself to violence, so it can never altogether abandon violence, especially in the forms of resistance and insurrection.

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