Walter Benjamin 's Critique Of Violence

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Walter Benjamin 's "Critique of Violence" (Zur Kritik der Gewalt), of 1921, represents of all that is most difficult about his work. However, this paper wagers that it is possible to extract politically relevant concepts from Benjamin 's notoriously abstruse text. This text hopes to demonstrate that Benjamin 's essay engages lucidly with a set of difficult questions … something about the other texts/concepts … about the status of law in modern society…. "Benjamin argues that the Law is founded on the basis of violence and justice inevitably requires violence to legitimize it." Benjamin begins the "Critique of Violence" with an analysis of two opposing arguments, axiomatically consistent in themselves; however, Benjamin demonstrates, by examining theses dominant positions in parallel, that both have irreconcilable aporia, each of which is revealed by the other. The "natural law" tradition, which is predicated upon the claim that there is a transhistorical "good" toward which human action can and should comport itself, finds the justification for the use of violence in whether it is deployed for the sake of these "just ends." The natural law argument is based upon the assumption that just means are simply those that correspond to just ends. On the other hand, "positive law" is predicated on the claim that the "good" is relative and is, therefore, unable to legitimize violence based on the justness of its ends. Positive law instead looks to the means themselves for the
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