Forthcoming Non/Violence Essay

Pleased to announce that an essay I have been working on for several years – “Philosophy Against and in Praise of Violence: Kant, Thoreau, and the Nonviolent Revolutionary Spectator” –  will be published in a forthcoming volume of Theory, Culture & Society. The essay considers several moments in history when committed nonviolent partisans – especially Immanuel Kant and Henry David Thoreau, but also William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Martin Luther King – found themselves confronting heroic violent acts  that were aligned with their broader cause (constitutionalism, abolitionism, civil rights). It argues that there is a remarkable similarity to their responses, in which they recommit themselves to nonviolence as an ongoing activity, while simultaneously bearing witness in their writing to the cause and underlying meaning of the violent act.  I call this the position of the “nonviolent revolutionary spectator.” These spectators are only truly revolutionary if they are committed to effectively ending the underlying causes of violence through their political activities. They bear witness to violence in order to create a community of nonviolent spectators who may someday move beyond it. The essay works to tease out some of the seeming contradictions of this position and argue for its coherence and cogency. It was borne out of our current political moment, and aims to develop a theoretical stance that enables nonviolent revolutionaries to condemn violence while still remaining comrades in a broader struggle. I will post a copy on the Publications page when it is published.