Violence Legitimate Force and Illegitimate Violence the Essay

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  • Subject: Sociology
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #29276434

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Legitimate Force and Illegitimate Violence

The people today are living in a new-fangled, unmatched and exceptional age of terrorism. The pioneer of modern sociology, Max Weber, defined state as "a human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory" (as qtd. In Whitehead 2007). He puts emphasis on the point that a state can only exist in a meaningful manner if it has the power to use violence as a sole source of the right. He considers that "the right to use physical force is ascribed to other institutions or to individuals only to the extent to which the state permits it" (as qtd. In Whitehead 2007). However, sociologists before Marx have linked the monopoly of violence with the indispensable task of the state in the wake of its daily manifestations that are several in numbers (Whitehead 2007).

Throughout their work, Marx and Engels have regarded force as a critical function of the state. However, they also emphasize that it is an ideological function of the state to use force and violence as an active part. It is not to be monopolized by the ruling elites in power who have the command over the state apparatus. They also consider violence or a threat of it as the tool of the state to handle and maintain the influence and organization of the things under the power of the state. This threat, if historically seen, was also evident in the olden times when it was used as "an instrument of class rule regardless of the apparent mode of government within the state machine" (Whitehead 2007).

The phenomenon of globalization in today's era has also transformed the role of the states in modifying the use of force. Although the existence and power of the states is necessary, the genuineness of their argument regarding the regulation of the use of force is progressing both trans-nationally and internationally. In addition to this, the number of private actors has extended tremendously. This increase in their presence and authority to control the use of force has conked out the trend of the states' claim of monopoly (Leander 2004).

1. Legitimate Force and Illegitimate Violence

There are two keystones of state legitimacy that are widespread in a contemporary state; the power over violence and antagonistic behaviors and the provision of defensive measures and public order. These cornerstones are founded on the basis of the definition of state given by Weber. He concludes that the state is "an organization that has the legal monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force" (as qtd. In Jensen). On the path of the building of Europe as a modern state, it became the key function of a state to exercise legitimate violence. However, there has been a quick and considerable deterioration of the state's monopoly on legitimate force. The main reasons of this weakening not only include the violence privatization but also its internationalization (Jensen).

There is a strong connection between a state and its use of force. In order to maintain a secured environment, it is exceedingly important to have power over the use of force and the means of violence. The international system that is based on state power has legitimized the state's cartel in this area as a conventional way. Nonetheless, it is the need of the time to reshape and restructure the concept of the state's monopoly of force. There is a need to change it in two ways; first, in terms of the character of the state's authenticity and second, the active actors in this issue. It is remain an issue to find out about the legitimacy of a state as an inherent quality (Jensen).

The legitimate state is composed of a number of different organizations who have a direct involvement in the armed conflict. They not only involve themselves in "fighting over the control of the monopoly of legitimate violence but also over the control over legitimate discourse" (Vardalos, Haig, Karzai, Letts & Teixeira 2011). There are two sides who consider each other to be responsible of the violence in the respective society. Therefore, every party thinks and views of its actions and projects as legitimate and at the same time question the actions of the opposition. In simple words, both the official State and terrorist organizations regard each other as the party which is unlawful, brutal and apolitical. Each of them claims that the opposite side is harmful and dishonest for the community and is a threat for the well being of people (Vardalos, Haig, Karzai, Letts & Teixeira 2011).

Therefore, it is required by the State to present an intangible justification about its own acts of violence which it considers as legitimate. It must also present the difference between its own actions and the actions of the opposition or terrorist organizations which it considers as being unlawful and dishonest. The states use terms of 'force' and 'violence' for its own actions and the actions of the opponents respectively. Force is referred as the legitimate acts of violence that could be used by the State or related people/organizations whereas violence is referred to those acts of brutality and aggression that are illegitimate and who are not in power or related with those in power. This clearance of difference about the same acts portrays the State as the side who has the authority to carry out such acts following certain rules and regulations. On the other hand, opposition is labeled as the side involved in troublemaking, vicious, unlawful and illicit acts. In short, force is lamentable and undesirable as well as essential whereas violence is needless, redundant and immoral (Vardalos, Haig, Karzai, Letts & Teixeira 2011).

The State has kept the authorization of not only monopolizing legitimate violence but also of defining it. In short, the state possesses the right to define violence and also categorizes violent and forceful acts. It must be kept in mind that the State backs up the mentioned definitions and categorization of violence and force by using the law as a tool. The main reason behind this distinctiveness is to portray politics as being disconnected from sadism and hostile behavior. Therefore, it points out that the State characterizes itself as being politically active, passive, democratic and peaceful. It seems that the State hides its own violent acts by packaging them as forceful behavior. It represents others who use violence as apolitical, undemocratic and unconstitutional. The state rhetoric clearly signifies the incompatibility and inappropriateness between politics and violence. Those who use means of violence unnecessarily are referred to as illegitimate actors in the field of politics are also considered as criminals. Thus, the State and terrorist organizations try to prove that the opposite side is illegitimate and presents itself as the side that uses "necessary force to fight off the violence of the other who is actually responsible of the first aggression that gave place to the initiation of the conflict" (Vardalos, Haig, Karzai, Letts & Teixeira 2011).

It has been reported that many people decide to join an organization that is involved in an armed struggle due to several bigoted and unfair policies of the State. Such people face troubles that not only include loyalists' sectarian attacks but also experience physical and verbal abuse from law enforcement agencies (Vardalos, Haig, Karzai, Letts & Teixeira 2011).

Both the State and rebellious organization claim that they use justified means of force by stating that they act according to "an ethics of responsibility over an ethics of the final goal" (Vardalos, Haig, Karzai, Letts & Teixeira 2011). The ethics of responsibility means that the State is ready to face the consequences of using ethically doubtful and hesitant means. It also makes it clear that it is willing to pay the price if evil outcomes occur. Conversely, the ethics of the goal means that the State is willing to safeguard a superior theory such as goodness, decency, honesty, integrity, rule of law, rights of citizens "even if in near future negative consequences are imminent. Thus, in this case, it is more necessary for the State to protect and safeguard the higher goals rather than protecting immediacy (Vardalos, Haig, Karzai, Letts & Teixeira 2011).

On the other hand, insurgent and rebellious organizations have another goal. In order to obtain their political goal and protect the community they are a representative of, these mutinous agencies opt to use military strategies. However, it is exceedingly important for these organizations to give their conclusion regarding their usage of violence as a last alternative. They should make it crystal clear that they only use violence when the opposition does something to harm the community they belong to (Vardalos, Haig, Karzai, Letts & Teixeira 2011).

Last but not the least, both the State and insurgent organization accuse each other as being responsible of the violence and illicit actions. They also present themselves as being the protectors of the community who can sacrifice their lives for its sake. Such citizens do not…

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