Sartre's views on violence have been subject to considerable scholarly discussion over the last decade. At the same time, there has been renewed interest in the issue of structural violence. This paper is an attempt to engage with the two debates. I argue that by highlighting structural violence it is possible to reframe our understanding of how Sartre viewed violence and to demonstrate that Sartre's work remains a useful compass with which to orientate ourselves in a world saturated in violence. I contend that Sartre maintained a broadly consistent line on violence that held in tension the world we live in and the possibility of humanity in the world that we may create. In addition to this temporal dimension, Sartre's thinking on violence oscillated between social scales: between the individual and the collective. Awareness of this methodological double-movement helps clarify and contextualise Sartre's views, and facilitates fruitful re-readings of current scholarship on violence.
This article considers Sartre's perspective on political violence with reference to his 1948 play Dirty Hands. Focusing on the concrete political questions that confronted Sartre in his context, it traces the development and result of conversations with Merleau-Ponty, Camus and the Marxist tradition that shaped his thinking on this subject. At the end of this dialectical process, Sartre arrived at a position that refused both bourgeois humanism, with its disavowal of political violence, and what is here termed Official Communism – the prevailing Manichean politics of his day and the institutionalized repression that went along with it. In other words, he affirmed the violence of the political without by that token affirming the politics of violence. It is argued here that these conversations and this conclusion are dramatically illustrated in Dirty Hands.
While public discussions about media and violence tend to be defined by the negative psychological effects attributed to exposure to mediated depictions of violence, this article argues that the mediated violence in Valeska Grisebach's 2006 film, Longing, (Sehnsucht) instead seeks to heighten viewers' sensitivity towards violent acts in moving images. Grisebach rejects the so-called MTV aesthetic and instead employs formal and narrative devices that may be read in political terms. To illuminate the connection between film aesthetics, violence, and mass (dis)engagement with politics, this article draws upon the argument rehearsed in Walter Benjamin's oft-cited essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility” (1936). Given that we are witnessing changes in the ways that we experience and re-present our reality now that are arguably as significant as the birth of the moving image itself, it is pertinent to look to early twentieth-century cultural theory in order to gain a better understanding of the significance of these transformations in a historical context. By reading the violent incidents in Longing through a Benjaminian lens, this article suggests that the film is a political act by Grisebach, as well as a key political work in the field of contemporary German-language cinema.
Stuart Marshall Bender
A clear definition of realism is understandably difficult for critics and theorists to agree upon when applied to texts such as the war film or combat shooter, which can have a very direct connection to events that have actually taken place. This article uses textual observation and analysis to advance the concept of “reported realism” as an alternate analytical tool to account for the impression of truth and authenticity produced by specific stylistic components of these representations of combat violence. Drawing on cognitivist theories of meaning and the imagination (Torben Grodal, Stephen Prince) and neoformalist film studies (Kristin Thompson) this article points toward some of the significant developments in the evolution of violence in war films as well as the adjacent genre of the first-person shooter video game. The article shows that the intensified audio-visual detail in contemporary screen representations of war enable film viewers and game players to construct more vividly imagined mental simulations, thus offering a greater affective realism.
There is no question that violent entertainments shape popular attitudes toward violence. But do they really make the culture as a whole more violent? Can they work to make it less violent? This article considers shortcomings of conventional scholarly approaches to these questions. It outlines an alternative “ecological“ approach and tests it by examining two movies that treat violence in strikingly different fashions: The Dark Knight (2008) and Saving Private Ryan (1998). It tests empirically whether and how Saving Private Ryan actually changes college students' attitudes toward violence, and summarizes the best current psychological models of the causal connection between violent thoughts and violent behavior. The article concludes that while violent movies do indeed prompt violent ideas and impulses, these are not necessarily antisocial and can, in fact, be prosocial. The critical factor is not what they show or how they show it; it is how they are used.
Michael J. Monahan
In his Critique of Dialectical Reason, Sartre argues that it is the milieu of scarcity that generates human conflict. His account of scarcity is rather ambiguous however, and at points he seems to claim that conflict is inevitable given the context of scarcity. In this article I provide a brief account of Sartre's position, and offer a critical evaluation of that position. Finally, I argue that Sartre's claims regarding the necessity of conflict are excessive, and that the resources provided in the Critique offer a means to re-evaluate our relationship to scarcity.
Few scholars today question the binary relationship between imperialism and violence, and French historians are no exception. In recent years, a multitude of studies have appeared concerning the violence inherent in the conquest of the nineteenth-century Gallic empire, the maintenance and defense of the colonial system, and the decolonization process—massacres and torture during the Algerian War, for example. Such works often reflect Etienne Balibar’s definition of “structural violence”: an essential component of a repressive system, maintaining unequal social relations while defending “the interests, power positions, and forms of social domination.”1 This hegemony took various guises at different times throughout the history of French imperialism, operating in tandem with assaults on the indigènes (the term adopted by the authorities for natives). It could involve surveillance and intelligence gathering, security forces, and judicial-penal institutions employed to harass and control the colonized. Yet it also resulted from the forced pacification of native peoples (Alice Conklin refers to this policy as an “act of state-sanctioned violence”) and the imposition of the indigénat—the loose collection of rules that granted extraordinary police and disciplinary powers to the colonial administration, along with the imposition of forced labor and taxation.2 The ultimate defense of this system, and indeed its brutal apogee, emerged during the wars of decolonization, in which tens of thousands of the colonized were killed in Algeria and Indochina, while countless others were subjected to torture and incarceration.
The Fox Movietone Scandal and the Portrayal of French Violence in Algeria, 1955-1956
During the Algerian War, films and published photographs documenting brutalities committed by French forces were exceedingly rare, due to censorship and strict controls on journalistic access to the military. However, a dramatic exception to this state of affairs came at an early moment in the war, after a Fox Movietone cameraman captured footage of a French gendarme as he summarily executed an Algerian with a bullet in the back. When the journal L'Express printed frames from the film in December 1955, a scandal ensued that implicated the sitting government in Paris and stoked French anti-Americanism. This article explores the reasons for the scandal, its anatomy, and its longer-term implications for French representations of the violence of the Algerian conflict. It argues that widespread French assumptions about the appropriateness of France's role in Algeria ultimately served to neutralize the story told by the images, even as they were recognized as incontrovertible evidence of atrocity.
Bioculturalist approach can be fruitfully employed to explain why fictional violence is such an integral part of both our art and entertainment. In any cultural context aggression related biological traits are controlled and shaped in order to ensure both the internal order and the security of a community. William Flesch has argued that his process is guided by the tendency to admire altruistic punishers, who without self-interest assume the task of punishing evildoers. Spectators of such actions tend to react to it emotionally, both spontaneously and via reflection, thus giving the experience both an emotional and a meta-emotional aspect. This plays an important role in relating to the ways in which resorting to violence is justified in mainstream films. This scenario has a strong emotional appeal, even if the spectator would deplore such means in real life contexts. This discrepancy emerges even more strongly in the revenge scenario, which in a fictional context can appear satisfying and empowering despite the moral qualms the spectator might have concerning the ethics of revenge. Because of the deeply ingrained cult of individuality and doubts about the efficacy of government in maintaining law and order, these narrative patterns have developed especially strongly within American popular culture. However, judging by the worldwide success of such films, their appeal is nonetheless quite universal.
Both the slasher movie and its more recent counterpart the “torture porn“ film centralize graphic depictions of violence. This article inspects the nature of these portrayals by examining a motif commonly found in the cinema of homicide, dubbed here the “pure moment of murder“: that is, the moment in which two characters' bodies adjoin onscreen in an instance of graphic violence. By exploring a number of these incidents (and their various modes of representation) in American horror films ranging from Psycho (1960) to Saw VI (2009), the article aims to expound how these images of slaughter demonstrate (albeit in an augmented, hyperbolic manner) a number of long-standing problems surrounding selfhood that continue to fuel philosophical discussion. The article argues that the visual adjoining of victim and killer onscreen echoes the conundrum that in order to attain identity, the individual requires and yet simultaneously repudiates the Other.