The essays in this issue, “Killing States: Lethal Decisions/Final Judgments,” reflect on the exercise of state violence and the decisions taken to employ its lethal force. In so doing, these essays raise questions about our “state” in the broadest sense of the word, for they inquire about our condition or way of being at this moment. The subject areas of the essays vary widely. Several essays focus on the legitimacy of the state's violence; others ask how legitimacy as a concept may be applied to acts of violence at all. The demands of witnessing this violence are also examined, and we are invited to consider the impact of the state's violence on parties who are not usually understood or appreciated to be the targets of this violence. While the subject areas vary, taken together the essays in this issue suggest that to condemn the state's decision to use lethal force is not simply a matter of abolishing the death penalty or—to take another notable example of the killing state—demanding that the state engage only in just wars (publicly declared and justified). Altering the state's use of violence does nothing to change the essential relationship of the killing state to violence. To change that relationship we must attend to the killing state of mind, one that is not just a social or psychological condition but also a moral commitment and/or a philosophical position.
Research Article|July 01 2008
Jennifer L. Culbert, Austin Sarat; Introduction. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 July 2008; 107 (3): 447–458. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-2008-001
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