Politics and Violence

Political leaders appointed and elected by citizens have been perpetrators of violence since time immemorial, dating back to the Holocaust (Arendt, 5). Political leaders claim to be upholding law and order while encouraging violations of citizens' rights. According to Arendt, the accused, Adolf Eichmann, a former Nazi soldier and active participant in the Holocaust, claimed that he was carrying out German government orders to kill and persecute Jews (13). Despite having participated in the mass slaughter of innocent Jews during the Nazi government and the "Second World War," the accused pleads not guilty. Hence had committed crimes against humanity and was to be sentenced to the death penalty (Arendt, 5). He remains oblivious of the fact that he committed inhumane crimes and insists that he is guilty only in God’s eyes and not the Jews’. He argues that the crimes were committed by the state and not by him. This paper uses other instances to expound on the violent nature of politics and whether this violence is legitimate and if it should be constrained or not, the thesis statement being, political violence should not be legitimized it is used to exclusively increase citizens’ welfare otherwise; it will promote infringement of human rights.

Nature of Political Violence

According to Azoulay, when different forms of government develop different perceptions of concepts such as human rights and citizenship to fit their needs, the concepts in question cease to be differential sovereignty concepts and become sovereign discourse concepts (8). Implying that, for sovereign discourse human rights to exist, the existing political parties torture and if possible do away with human rights activists. This has led to the development of organizations’ which protect citizens from being imposed by political leaders’ actions that limit the former’s exercising of his/her rights (Azoulay, 9). The writer argues that infringement of rights which are not contested for lead to legalization and naturalization of the same and instances to seek justice are viewed as disruptions of law and order hence the human rights activists end up being ‘eliminated’. Their activities are interpreted as protests and they are treated as such. Political actors who raped women after the Second World War were covered up by the government banning documentation of the atrocities they committed against Indians so that there would be no proof, victims who sought justice were silenced and tagged with accusatory names such as rioters and terrorists (Azoulay, 19).

According to Pateman, “political right originates from the sex right” (3). The terms of a contract determine the relationship between the contract holders. The social contract was determined by the conditions defining it implying that the replacement of the patriarchal control with the paternal right in sex and labor relations signified male dominance. Men’s satisfaction is fulfilled in the capitalist market while women’s satisfaction in the private market (Pateman, 4). This symbolizes the political arena today; political leaders dominate their subjects and they get satisfaction from making public policies which may impose on the subjects while the subjects seek satisfaction from their personal endeavors such as business activities and their social life.

According to Mills, there exists white supremacy in politics; political violence is directed at individuals of color (1). White people use their color to seek influential positions in the society so that they can make people of color their subjects. This is mostly due to the prevalence of terms such as master and slave in the society. “When white people say ‘justice’ they mean ‘just us’. This is a common Black American quote which was simultaneously quoted by the author. It implies that white people get privileges while people of color are denied their rights and exploited. Most perpetrators do this intentionally. There still exist cases of racism-exacerbated actions which are suppressed by the claims of racial equality. This serves the purpose of appeasing people of color and giving them false hope of equality in the political arena. The fact that not all whites have signed the racial contract signifies that only a proportion of white people embrace racism (3). It is therefore, possible to end racism if perpetrators change their perception of people with color and let the racial contract be examined for any flaws rather than hinder its exposure. With the former president of the United States, Barrack Obama, being an African American, it can be said that the racism barrier to success has been overcome, but this is not the case; the existence of ‘mericas’, who support white politicians regardless of their weaknesses and the high capabilities of other opposing politicians of color proves this.

Legitimate Forms of Violence

Political violence simultaneously divides and unifies. It divides by identifying enemies and indicating legitimate targets. Governments can cause harm to another country so as to preserve the life of its citizens. Such political violence is legitimate since the welfare of citizens in these governments’ countries is being maximized. Legitimate violence does not have to be political in the eyes of everyone. It does not have to be supported by everyone but has to be done solely for the purpose of maximizing citizens’ welfare. Legitimate political violence include actions such as governments protecting themselves from acts of terrorism by bombing the perpetrator’s fire arms and nuclear weapons and defending one’s country in times of war. Governments should prove that the countries in question pose significant threat to their citizens before devising methods to punish the culprits. It should however, be noted that the act of violence is political to the extent that it is legitimate. This implies that criminal acts such as rape and abduction should not occur.

Constraining the State’s Violence

According to Arendt, political violence is legalized if it is for the purpose of protecting a country’s citizens from attack say during war and terrorisms attacks (11). Adolf Eichmann’s constructive political violence was only during the Second World War. It was however minimized when he committed inhumane crimes. Acts of political violence should not exceed certain points; the major objective should be to increase the welfare of one’s citizens, crimes should not be committed in an individual level. His need to define himself by joining groups and being obedient to legislators, in this case Hitler, showed how political leaders follow the set standards blindly without considering their personal views. Eichmann was determined to follow Hitler’s orders and ended up committing crimes against humanity hence liable to the death penalty (Arendt, 19). His defense in court included his obedience to the state hence taking the wrong lesson from the officials, he says that he later on ceased abiding by the state’s rules since it dawned on him that he had made unwise decisions, the damage had been done. In court, Eichmann knew he was guilty but he still bragged about having committed atrocities against mankind indicating that political leaders with similar needs as the accused commit crimes so that they cannot be viewed as ‘nobodies’ in the society (21). Leaders may join organizations for all the wrong reasons just to be influential hence state’s violence should be constrained. This will prevent an average person, the likes of Eichmann, from relying on platitude defense mechanisms and enable them to think for themselves hence save human lives.

Political actors that show reluctance in committing crimes against humanity were referred to as traitors and made fun of by their colleagues (Azoulay, 19). This was regardless of the rights being infringed on being commonly known or not. One of the founders of Zochrot, a non-profit organization meant to create awareness of the Palestinian exodus was banished for claiming his right not to perpetrate violence. No one should be forced to commit a crime and tarnish his/her reputation on grounds of the states’ order unless the violence in question is legitimized. Political violence should be regulated to prevent individuals from developing feelings of guilt as a result of harming others. All workers should realize job satisfaction so that they can perform their duties well.

Constraining state violence will enable individuals to know their rights and seek justice with less if no attempts to silence them by perpetrators. According to Azoulay, most rights were infringed due to the victims’ lack of knowledge (17). These rights were not well known therefore some victims remained quiet rather than reporting the culprits. Regulating state violence will create awareness to both the culprits and possible victims of when legitimized political violence ceases to be legal and the legal actions taken against perpetrators. Victims will not be forced to have sexual relations with political actors and will report such individuals to ensure that they face justice.

Political violence should not be based on racial backgrounds. Political leaders who view themselves as members of a superior race may impose on citizens of different races. All individuals should be treated equally regardless of their race. Political violence should be regulated to prevent people of color from facing unnecessary torture from elected officials and other political actors who think they are superior to others due to their race. These regulations will also assist in reducing the levels of racism in the political arena.


Political violence is legitimized only if its sole purpose is to maximize citizens’ welfare. The state can grant another actor the right to use violence without losing its monopoly power provided it remains the only body that can delegate power to other bodies, for instance, military organizations. Individuals granted this power by the state are expected to know the extent to which they can exercise it. Overutilization of their short-lived rights will constitute trials as a result of committing crimes against humanity. State’s violence should be constrained to prevent misuse of office. Failure to do so will result in increased violation of human rights by political leaders through racism, suppression of victims’ efforts to seek justice and forcing individuals to participate in inhumane acts.


Arendt, H. (1963). Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York: The Viking Press.

Azoulay, A. (2015). What are Human Rights? Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 35(1), 8-21.

Mills, C. ,W. (1997). The Racial Contract. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Pateman, C. (2014). Sexual Contract. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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