John Keane | About the Book
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About the Book

Violence and Democracy

Hardcover: 226 pages
Publisher: Cambridge University Press (2004)
Languages: English
ISBN-10: 0521836999
ISBN-13: 978-0521836999

In this provocative book, John Keane calls for a fresh understanding of the vexed relationship between democracy and violence.Taking issue with the common sense view that ‘human nature’ is violent, Keane shows why mature democracies do not wage war upon each other, and why they are unusually sensitive to violence. He argues that we need to think more discriminatingly about the origins of violence, its consequences, its uses and remedies. He probes the disputed meanings of the term violence, and asks why violence is the greatest enemy of democracy, and why today’s global ‘triangle of violence’ is tempting politicians to invoke undemocratic emergency powers.

Throughout, Keane gives prominence to ethical questions, such as the circumstances in which violence can be justified, and argues that violent behaviour and means of violence can and should be ‘democratised’ – made publicly accountable to others, so encouraging efforts to erase surplus violence from the world.

On Violence and Democracy

‘Keane’s is a learned, at times almost magisterial, book. He writes easily and with grace about a variety of relevant topics from liberal political theory to contemporary apocalyptic terrorism, from Sorel to Muslim fundamentalism. At every turn the reader is taken on a gambit into a relevant literature and comes away braced by the journey. It is descriptively ambitious yet energized by a normative argument. It is as current as today’s politics yet in touch with classic traditions in political theory and sociology. As a result, Violence and Democracy is impressive indeed.’ Austin D. Sarat, Amherst College, Massachusetts.

German Review:
Thorsten Bonacker
Rezension zu: Keane, John: Violence and Democracy. Cambridge 2004.

In: H-Soz-u-Kult, 16.09.2005.

Demokratien haben mit Gewalt ein Problem. Sie versuchen Gewalt zu vermeiden und sie aus dem Alltag zu verbannen. Sie setzen auf Überzeugung statt auf Erzwingung, auf Kooperation und auf Wettbewerb. Demokratien fürchten Gewalt – so sehr, dass man manchmal das Gefühl hat, Gewalt würde zu einer fixen Idee. Zugleich sind sie von der Gewalt fasziniert.

Gewalt ist in Demokratien ständig präsent, ob in Filmen oder als Gegenstand hitziger Debatten. Vielleicht ist es mit der Gewalt in Demokratien so wie mit dem Sex im viktorianischen Zeitalter: Sie fasziniert, gerade weil sie verboten ist.

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