From Self-Defense to Violent Protest

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Abstract
It is an orthodoxy of modern political thought that violence is morally incompatible with politics, with the important exception of the permissible violence carried out by the state. The “commonsense argument” for permissible political violence denies this by extending the principles of defensive ethics to the context of state-subject interaction. This article has two aims: First, I critically investigate the commonsense argument and its limits. I argue that the scope of permissions it licenses is significantly more limited than its proponents allow. Second, I develop an alternative (and supplementary) framework for thinking about permissible political violence. I argue that under certain circumstances, subjects may violently protest their treatment, where protest is understood as an expression of rejection of those circumstances. On my view, protest, including violent protest, is permissible when it is the fitting response to those circumstances. This alternative framework accounts for an important class of cases of intuitively permissible political violence, including cases in which such violence does not serve strategic political ends or is even counterproductive towards those ends.
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Archival date: 2020-12-22
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2020-12-22

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