Trust and Violence
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Trust and Violence : An Essay on a Modern Relationship

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The limiting of violence through state powers is one of the central projects of the modern age. Why then have recent centuries been so bloody? In Trust and Violence, acclaimed German intellectual and public figure Jan Philipp Reemtsma demonstrates that the aim of decreasing and deterring violence has gone hand in hand with the misleading idea that violence is abnormal and beyond comprehension. We would be far better off, Reemtsma argues, if we acknowledged the disturbing fact that violence is normal. At the same time, Reemtsma contends that violence cannot be fully understood without delving into the concept of trust. Not in violence, but in trust, rests the foundation of true power. Reemtsma makes his case with a wide-ranging history of ideas about violence, from ancient philosophy through Shakespeare and Schiller to Michel Foucault, and by considering specific cases of extreme violence from medieval torture to the Holocaust and beyond. In the midst of this gloomy account of human tendencies, Reemtsma shrewdly observes that even dictators have to sleep at night and cannot rely on violence alone to ensure their safety.
These authoritarian leaders must trust others while, by means other than violence, they must convince others to trust them. The history of violence is therefore a history of the peculiar relationship between violence and trust, and a recognition of trust's crucial place in humanity. A broad and insightful book that touches on philosophy, sociology, and political theory, Trust and Violence sheds new, and at times disquieting, light on two integral aspects of our society.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 392 pages
  • 152 x 235 x 27.94mm | 652g
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • 0691142963
  • 9780691142968
  • 1,388,588

Back cover copy

"Trust and Violence is a richly textured and erudite meditation on the intimate proximity between civilization and barbarism. Drawing on authors as diverse as Shakespeare, Schopenhauer, and Primo Levi, Reemtsma's lucidly written and deftly argued book elevates our comprehension of inhumanity--and of the societal rationalizations underlying it--to new heights. This interpretive tour de force is destined to be debated and discussed for years to come."--Richard Wolin, author of The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution, and the Legacy of the 1960s

"This is the most exciting work of philosophy that I have read in years. It is brilliant, deep, and destined to be a classic. Bringing together fifteen years of work on violence, modernity, good, and evil, this book should change the way we think about all these concepts."--Susan Neiman, Einstein Forum
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Table of contents

Preface ix Introduction: The Mystery 1 Chapter 1: Trust and Modernity 9 Two Scenes from Thomas Mann's Confessions of Felix Krull 10 Trust 12 Practices of Social Trust 17 Trust and Seriousness-- The Gretchenfrage 21 Trust and the Construction of the We 27 We Can't Not Trust 33 Reorientation 35 The Bearers of Premodern Social Trust 39 The Problem of Trust within Modernity 44 Trust in Modernity 52 Chapter 2: Power and Violence 54 Kratos and Bia 54 A Phenomenology of Physical Violence 55 Locative Violence 57 Raptive Violence 60 Autotelic Violence 62 Reduction to Body 66 Psychological Violence/Autotelic Bias 69 Fragmentation: Th e Destruction of the I 71 Complementary Opposites 74 Power-- Without Violence 76 Coercive Power 79 The Temporality of Power 80 Reward Power, Coercive Power, and Violence 80 Richard III: A Flawed Power Calculus 83 Consent as a Function of Temporality 86 Participatory Power, Trust, Legal Regulation 89 Monopoly 92 Delegation 93 Th e Dynamics of Demonopolization 95 Participatory Power and Violence 97 Modernity and Violence 99 Chapter 3: Delegitimation/Relegitimation 101 Marsyas 101 Max Stays Seated 102 Permitted, Prohibited, Mandated 103 Civilization and Barbarism 106 Th e I and the Idea of Humanity 110 Disgust 116 Shakespeare and the Dawning Awareness of Violence as Wrong 127 Curtailing Violence and Preserving Trust 145 Relegitimation (1): Th e Rhetoric of Nation and Civilizing Mission 153 Bounding the Nation 167 Th e Guillotine and the Puppy 169 Relegitimation (2): Th e Rhetoric of Eschatological Purge 175 Relegitimation (3): Th e Rhetoric of Genocide 180 Modernity and Its Discontents 184 Chapter 4: Trust in Violence 187 Violence-- Trust-- Power: Th e Devil and the Little Bishop 187 Auschwitz-- Gulag-- Hiroshima 191 Escalating the Instruments of Violence 196 Modernization and the Gang 205 Demodernization and the Gang 219 The Logic of Terror 231 Macbeth 239 Why the Jews? 242 When the Impossible Becomes Possible 246 Trust in Violence and the Role of Personality 248 Trust in Violence and Self- Trust 250 Chapter 5: Violence and Communication 259 Cola Gentile Speaks 259 Sociology's Silence 261 The Disappearance of the Th ird Party 266 Coping (1): Delegitimation by Criminal Procedure and the Exclusion of the Third Party 274 Coping (2): Th e Authority of the Victim and the Replacement of the Third Party 278 Coping (3): Instrumental Interpretation and the Denial of Communication 280 Excursus: A Brief Th eory of the Desperado, or, Did William Tell Really Liberate Switzerland? 287 Displaying the Instruments of Torture-- Again? 302 Angst and Self- Assurance 305 Polonius, His Will and Testament 309 Notes 313 Bibliography 359
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Review quote

"This is the most exciting work of philosophy that I have read in years. It is brilliant, deep, and destined to be a classic. Bringing together fifteen years of work on violence, modernity, good, and evil, this book should change the way we think about all these concepts."-Susan Neiman, Einstein Forum "Trust and Violence is a richly textured and erudite meditation on the intimate proximity between civilization and barbarism. Drawing on authors as diverse as Shakespeare, Schopenhauer, and Primo Levi, Reemtsma's lucidly written and deftly argued book elevates our comprehension of inhumanity-and of the societal rationalizations underlying it-to new heights. This interpretive tour de force is destined to be debated and discussed for years to come."-Richard Wolin, author of The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution, and the Legacy of the 1960s
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About Jan Philipp Reemtsma

Jan Philipp Reemtsma is professor of modern German literature at the University of Hamburg and founder and director of the Hamburg Institute of Social Research. Of his many books on literature, history, politics, philosophy, and contemporary society, two have been published in English--More Than a Champion: The Style of Muhammad Ali (Vintage) and In the Cellar (Knopf).
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Rating details

11 ratings
4.27 out of 5 stars
5 45% (5)
4 45% (5)
3 0% (0)
2 9% (1)
1 0% (0)
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