Sunday, September 25, 2022

Politics: Officially Sanctioned Systematized Violence


Politics: Officially Sanctioned Systematized Violence

Peter Schultz


            An interesting definition of politics is “the officially sanctioned systematized violence,” a definition I have copied from Caroline Elkins book, Legacy of Violence, her history of the British empire.


            And modern politics are filtered through government, through bureaucracy or administration. To quote Alexander Pope: “For forms of government let fools contest. That which is best administered is best.” A quote, by the way, that Hamilton uses in the Federalist.


            So, government is a filtering process for politics but not one that changes the “systematized violence” at the root of politics. Rather, the filter “officially sanctions” that violence, by trying to guarantee, e.g., what’s called “due process.” But its essential to understand that that due process disguises but doesn’t change the violence at the root of government. However, “due” the process might be, depriving people of “life, liberty, or property” is still violence. It’s merely disguised violence. As the 13th amendment admits, incarceration, no matter how “due,” is still “involuntary servitude” and involuntary servitude cannot exist without violence, which is then disguised as “rehabilitation.”


            Every so often (at least), the disguises fail and the violence becomes visible. As Elkins writes of “Operation Progress,” used by the British in Kenya to deal violently with Kenyans who were rebelling against Britain’s rule, its “coercion [was] impossible not to see.” It couldn’t be hidden, not even after the British destroyed millions of documents after the Kenyans had achieved their independence.


            This is why secrecy and government go together so well because secrecy is essential for disguising the systematized violence that is the core of government. In other words, government privileges the violent over the non-violent, privileges “dispatch” over deliberation, privileges war over peace, privileges a “commander in chief” over a “caretaker in chief.”

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