The Force of Nonviolence: An Ethico-political Bind

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Sunday 3 December 2023

Butler, Judith. London: Verso, 2021.

Summary In this book, Butler explores nonviolence as a central, and necessary, tool in the struggle for social equality. Butler emphasises nonviolence as a ethical – and political – position of strength, rather than a weak or passive personal practice. Butler’s nonviolence is neither religious nor spiritual, but performative and non-individualistic. Understanding nonviolence as political leads to various analytical strengths: Butler assigns “grievability” as the societal measure of a life’s worth and stresses the importance of interdependence for avoiding violent conflict. Realising the interdependence inherent in human life emphasises collaboration and cooperation, as opposed to domination and inequality. This analysis leads to other profound insights, such as the misleading attribution of violence to those who are often the main victims of violence, and the need to move towards an equality of grievability. An equality of grievability is required to truly value all life equally: an essential part of valuing the other lies in wanting them to be, which in turn requires grief at their absence.

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