The Value of Violence

Benjamin Ginsberg, Author
Benjamin Ginsberg. Prometheus Books, $24.95 (250p) ISBN 978-1-61614-831-7
Reviewed on: 07/29/2013
Release date: 09/01/2013
Hardcover - 144 pages - 978-1-61614-832-4
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-306-92730-7
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State violence is often seen as “the continuation of politics by other means”—to apply Clausewitz’s famous observation on war. In his latest book, Johns Hopkins political scientist Ginsberg (The Fall of the Faculty) takes the contrary view, suggesting that violence is “the driving force of politics.” In six essays, Ginsberg analyzes such topics as “bureaucracy and violence” and how Cold War–era America became a nation marked more by warfare than welfare. He illustrates how the use of force can legitimate the state and examines the mechanization and depersonalization of warfare, noting that the Air Force now trains more drone operators than pilots. However, despite the book’s original and exciting premise, it contains a number of stylistic and methodological flaws: for example, Ginsberg’s use of the term “violence,” which he never defines, is so elastic that it includes wrongful prosecutions by overzealous federal bureaucrats. Ginsberg’s penultimate chapter on “Morality and Violence” is marked by an antigovernment bias, and it includes the questionable claim that “even democratic governments generally have few moral qualms about shedding the blood of disobedient citizens.” Agent: Claire Gerus, Claire Gerus Literary Agency. (Sept.)
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