Authors: Bobbio, Matteucci, Pasquino
Summary: This entry defines the concept, focusing on its connections to power and its political uses. Violence is the physical intervention of an individual or a group against another individual or group. This intervention must be willed. Generally, violence is exercised against the will of its victim or victims. It may be direct or indirect. In the first case, it directly strikes the body of its victim; in the second, it acts through a transformation of the environment in which the victim lives. Descriptively, violence can be considered synonymous with "force," but it differs from the concept of "power." Violence compels obedience; the exercise of power leaves a degree of assent in the hands of its target.
In politics, violence has a fundamental role. It is a basic feature of political power and government. Political power is usually characterized as a monopoly on the legal means of violence. Violence's basic role in international relations is due to the fact that peaceful coexistence among states requires the threat of state violence. But violence is not the only foundation of the political power, which always depends, as well, on consensus.
The threat and use of violence are not the sole prerogative of those with the most political power, for many groups have recourse to violence in order to change or defend the status quo. The most direct aim of violence is to destroy political enemies and render them incapable of acting; such is the case with revolutions and civil wars. In many situations, violence may internally strengthen a group and more clearly define it.