Pipers Woerterbuch zur Politik

Authors: Nohlen
Summary: In approximately 1350 words the entry demonstrates that political violence is a term used in a multiplicity of ways, it then concentrates on personal, institutional, and structural violence to demonstrate the width of meanings, asks for causes of personal political violence, and ends with a discussions of forms of violence from above. Forms of violence that are inflicted by a person on somebody else's life and others which have neither a clearly defined subject or object are subsumed in the literature under political violence. The entry demonstrates the broadness of the term by referring to many dichotomies developed to categorize and describe political violence: physical vs. psychological, direct vs indirect, open vs hidden, spontaneous vs. Organized, legal vs illegal, legitimate vs illegitimate, rational vs irrational, revolutionary vs reactionary, functional vs dysfunctional. The entry then proceeds to discuss three forms in more detail, personal, institutional, and structural forms of violence. Personal violence refers to the physical interaction between people. Institutional violence also incorporates the power those in power exert over others - the prototype is the institutionalized power of state officials over its people. Structural violence, a term coined by Galtung, broadens the scope further by incorporating all forms of ill-being of people if solutions to their suffering would be at least theoretically possible. The entry highlights that most political science contributions focus on personal violence, and are mainly concerned with questions of what leads to revolutions, anti-colonial, and protest movements - all forms of political upheaval initiated from below against those in power or the political system as such. Ecksteins distinction between preconditions and precipitants is discussed, and the entry proceeds by distinguishing between structural and behavioral theories. The classic case for structural theories is the Marxian theory of revolution, while behavioralists base their arguments on Dollard and Berkowitz's frustration-aggression thesis. Both approaches are critically evaluated in the entry. A separate strand of political science research is concerned with violence from above in the from of totalitarianism and dictatorship but also power misuse by democratic states. The entry therefore returns to Galtung's notion of structural violence by demanding more systematic and empirical research.