Saturday, December 3, 2011

Enlightenment Values, Violence, and the Status-Quo

Critics of the prison-industrial complex, especially those versed in mass media and popular culture scholarship, must often reckon with the gross disparity between the violent world portrayed on television and movies, and the relative decline in violent crime over the past several decades. This review, appearing in The Hindu, of Steven Pinker's book The Better Angels of our Nature makes a valuable, brilliant argument about how we define violence and how that shapes even the most cosmopolitan notions about the world we live in. Here's an excerpt:
As Judith Butler puts it in Precarious Life, “To the extent that we commit violence, we are acting on another, putting the other at risk, causing the other damage, threatening to expunge the other.” Obviously, in societies where capital is what empowers, and states are committed to creating “wealth” by aiding capital, it is often not necessary or even desirable to opt for physical violence. Your boss needs to fire you, not to beat you up. The state needs to move those “tribals” out, so that their ancestral lands can be “developed.” Actually, it is you who — on being fired or “relocated” — might want to beat someone up, and would be rightly restrained by the police from doing so. 
Pinker's book will be popular; it can be used to overlook or justify the violence of the status quo.


Unknown said...

can you gloss the enlightenment values piece, please? thanks!

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