Philosophy of Sociology – Paper 2: Political Violence; 4-6 pages; submit in class, Thurs 12th Mar
Paper 2: Political Violence; 4-6 pages; submit in class, Thurs 12th Mar
Either Task A: Deep Interpretation
Choose one of the following questions on a specific theorist, and make an in-depth analysis of the way they
uncover the violence at the core of the modern state and apparatuses of power. You may use Hobbes, Weber
and Arendt to help clarify the points you make about these individual writers.
1. Was Schmitt a democrat?
How does Schmitt distinguish liberalism and democracy? Which does Schmitt see as more genuinely pluralist liberalism or democracy? What flaws does he find in liberalism? Why is he sceptical of a legalistic, rights-oriented approach to the state? How does Schmitts definition of democracy differ from our everyday one? How might an authoritarian leader be democratic?
2. How do apparatuses of power normalise their violence, for Foucault?
What is normalisation? How does surveillance change the basic power dynamic of society? How has punishment changed over the
past few centuries? How has its ideology changed? How does this reduce the capacity for resistance? How have we come to
discipline ourselves in consequence?
3. Why, for Schmitt and Sorel, do we need Enemies?
How do enemies bring the people together? What would happen to a state or a group that could not distinguish its enemies? How
has modern liberal-capitalist society render our lives meaningless? How do these writers draw on Nietzsche in their explanations?
What is the value of the life-and-death struggle of the Enemy?
Or Task B: Compare and Contrast
Choose one of the following questions, and compare two of the theorists or schools we have studied to
answer it. Explain the differences in their analysis of the same underlying phenomenon and the way these
differences produce alternative perspectives on the right response to it:
4. Whats wrong with rationalizing the state?
What does it mean to be rational? Can we talk about rational state institutions? What are rational democratic individuals?
What happens if theres too much rationality? What does Sorel think of bourgeois states and ethics? Why does Schmitt think the
rational system of law and order cant ground itself? Are enemies rational? How does Foucault describe the rationalism of
modern disciplinary apparatuses? What are their effects on us?
5. Does the People need a Leader?
What is the role of the leader for Schmitt or Weber? What sort of problems could a leader combat? Do Sorels theory of the myth
and his faith in the proletariat fulfill the same sort of function? What dangers are there in reliance on a leader? What role does the
leader have relative to law? Should a leader be above the law? Can the law exist without a leader?
6. Does peace presuppose violence?
Why do states use violence? Do we need violence in order to get things done politically? Why does Schmitt think the legal order
rests on the threat of violence? How does Sorel view violence in politics? How might Arendts definition of power undercut the idea
of violence in preserving peace? How does Foucault view the delinquent, and the way disciplinary apparatuses treat such people?
How much does Foucault value this peace in itself?
7. Whats wrong with liberalism?
Who benefits from liberalism? What are its characteristics? How far is it dependent on the law? Is the law as impartial as
liberals would like to claim? What sort of ways of behaving does it presuppose? How does Foucault interpret liberal approaches to
punishment are they really better than older forms? What weaknesses does liberalism have for Schmitt?