Essay: Hannah Arendt Communicative Power

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Hannah Arendt on Violence, Speech, And Power

In her essay, "Communicative Power," Hannah Arendt explores the relationship between power and other institutions, namely violence, from a humanistic and collectivist standpoint, painting a portrait of power in the public realm. By discussing the relationship between power and violence, as well as the importance of words in creating power, Arendt provides a unique explanation for the existence of violence and power in the public realm.

Although Arendt cites several scholars, theorists and philosophers who propose the view that "violence is nothing more than the most flagrant manifestation of power" (59), she suggests this is only the case if one views the government as "an instrument of oppression in the hands of the ruling class" (59). If one does not view governments, or states, as a simple body of rules meant to cage an unwieldy people, than the definitions that yolk violence and power are quite incorrect, Arendt argues. She suggests that power "is an instrument of rule, " arguing that if power were merely a manifestation of violence, the government would be no different than a gun-wilding thief (60). Furthermore, Arendt argues that power "corresponds not just to act but to act in concert," while violence is similar to Arendt's definition of strength -- "an individual entity," which is inherent in a person or an object (64). Violence, Arendt suggests, is individual in nature while power is collective in nature. A person can only be "in power" if it is a group of people who have put him or her there (65). Thus, when a revolutionary coup is attempted, the coup uses power, as a group, but does no use violence, which is an individual characteristic, though this is not to say that a certain individual may not use violence in concert with the group's use of power. Although a tyrant is sometimes in power, Arendt claims in her book, the Human Condition, that the tyrant could… [END OF PREVIEW]

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