The Force of Nonviolence: The Ethical in the Political

Judith Butler. Verso, $26.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-78873-276-5
UC Berkeley philosopher and gender theorist Butler (Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly) explores the meaning and ethics of nonviolence and its relationship to systemic racism and other repressive social structures in this scholarly yet boldly articulated essay collection. In contrast to prevailing associations of nonviolence with calmness and passivity, Butler redefines it as an “aggressive” and “sustained” form of resistance to social inequality. She reveals how racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and misogyny render certain lives “grievable” while others are deemed unworthy of grief, and applies that theoretical framework to discussions of the Black Lives Matter movement, various refugee crises, and violence against cisgender and trans women in Latin America. A piece on Freud’s development of the concept of the “death drive” (Thanatos) in the aftermath of WWI veers somewhat from Butler’s core theses, but intriguingly describes how “aggression and hatred” might be channeled to oppose nationalism and “war-mongering authority.” Butler’s academic prose and close readings of Foucault, Frantz Fanon, and other theorists may be difficult for general readers to follow, but her avowal of “global interdependency” as a positive force for equality resonates, as does her discussion of the ways in which state powers twist the definition of “violence” to stifle protest. Political activists with a background in philosophy will appreciate Butler’s insights. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 12/06/2019
Release date: 02/04/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 978-1-78873-279-6
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