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Why don't we talk about ‘violence’ in International Relations?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 October 2010

Abstract

In this article I pose two questions to traditional International Relations (IR) theory: why does it not use the concept of violence more often, and why does it not discuss the meaning of violence? I aim to highlight the way in which violence is hidden in the way we talk about IR, and that the way IR talks about violence without naming it functions to legitimise state violence. I do this by analysing the way the concept of violence is used in traditional IR literature, and then looking at how violence has been defined. I argue that a narrow definition is most useful for the study of IR, and that it should not be used merely to refer to anything we do not like. But this must not preclude challenging the normative uses of violence that suggest that it is only state violence that is legitimate, and that hides personal violence from the scope of IR.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © British International Studies Association 2010

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References

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5 There is not enough scope to discuss this in the article. An example of where the concept of violence is used but could be interpreted in a variety of ways is Campbell, D. and Dillon, M. (eds), The Political Subject of Violence (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993)Google Scholar .

6 I am referring to violence as a concept as I am discussing not only the narrow meaning of the term, but also the ideas associated with the term. Thus, a concept refers to a number of different instances that are incorporated under the general concept of violence.

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