Political violence is a common means used by people and governments around the world to achieve political goals. Many groups and individuals believe that their political systems will never respond to their political demands. As a result they believe that violence is not only justified but also necessary in order to achieve their political objectives. By the same token, many governments around the world believe they need to use violence in order to intimidate their populace into acquiescence. At other times, governments use force in order to defend their country from outside invasion or other threats of force. Political violence can take a number of forms including but not limited to those listed below. Non-action on the part of the government can also be characterized as a form of political violence. Some would argue that political violence and the modern nation-states are inseparable, as the drastic increase of political violence in the 20th century shows.
Violence is a common means used by people and governments around the world to achieve political goals. Many groups and individuals believe that their political systems will never respond to their political demands. As a result they believe that violence is not only justified but also necessary in order to achieve their political objectives. By the same token, many governments around the world believe they need to use violence in order to intimidate their populace into acquiescence. At other times, governments use force in order to defend their country from outside invasion or other threats of force.
Political violence is used by citizens, groups, or governments in different contexts:
Political violence is used by citizens, groups, or governments in different contexts:
- Animal Rights Violence and Domestic Terrorism - by the Americans for Medical Progress, who oppose the destructive actions of some animal rights activists
- Murrah Bldg. Bombing - Oklahoma City - a site dedicated to the right-wing attack on a U.S. federal government building that killed 168 people
- No Compromise Animal Liberation Front and More exhorts animal rights activists to use any means possible to achieve their political goals.
Another context of political violence occurs when the military or some other organized group seize control of the government in their country. Coups d'état happen frequently in some countries, and they may involve much bloodshed but sometimes occur without serious injuries or loss of life. For example, the military staged a coup in Pakistan in October 1999 without significant injuries occurring. Pakistanis have lived under military rule for about half of the 50 years since it gained independence.
Defining and Measuring Political ResourcesThe definition and measurement of political inequality, in some formulations of the concept, requires a definition of political resources. Let’s start with a definition of political inequality.
– In the study of political inequality, political resources are viewed as a dimension of social stratification, including the ability to influence both governance processes and public policy.
– Like economic goods and services, political resources are scarce, valued, and fought for.
What are political resources? Are they different from power resources? Let’s be a bit simple at first and say there are two perspectives (borowed from Piven and Cloward 2005):
(a) Distributional: Resources are anything that can be used to influence an outcome. Resources are used, but it is not power itself. Resources are distributed unequally. “Power resources” is used to describe any resources used in the exercise of power. Political resources are resources used in political decision-making, or for all areas of social-life that are make claims toward a legislative/decision-making body (from school-boards to national government). Political inequality refers to structured differences in the distribution and acquisition of political resources. Power is an attribute of people.The term “power resources” is misleading, as it suggests that power itself can be distributed. Most distributional theorists argue that power is relational. For example, one actor’s political resource is only a resource if it is perceived as a resource by the other actor.
(b) Interdependency: Resources are never strictly defined and can take the form of anything actors can do within an interaction. Resources are actions available to the participants in the interaction. These resources are valid because they are an integral part of the interdependent relationship. The nature of the interdependent relationship reveals the types of actions (resources) available to each participant. For example, in capitalist economies, ownership of land and wealth is a valid resource. Employers have power over their employees because the employees are dependent on the employer for their economic livelihood. Power is an attribute only of relationships, not people themselves.The interdependency approach is different from the distributional approach because it assumes that each actor in the interaction has equal power resources. Employers can only make employees work because employees agree to work. If employees decided not to work, such as a work-strike, then the employees could be said “to have power over” the employers. This approach does not adequately account for “force,” or physical coercion.Resources are political when they enable claims-making toward a legislative/decision-making body. For example, romantic relationships have elements of power, where each participant has a range of actions or range of resources at their disposal to get what they want despite the resistance of the other. But this behavior is not political.
Main article: Genocide
One form of political violence is genocide. Genocide is commonly defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars. Genocide is typically carried out with either the overt or covert support of the governments of those countries engaged in genocidal activities. The Holocaust is the most often cited historical example of genocide.
Human Rights Violations
Human rights violations occur when actions by state (or non-state) actors abuse, ignore, or deny basic human rights (including civil, political, cultural, social, and economic rights). Furthermore, violations of human rights can occur when any state or non-state actor breaches any part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights treaty or other international human rights or humanitarian law. In regard to human rights violations of United Nations laws, Article 39 of the United Nations Charter designates the UN Security Council (or an appointed authority) as the only tribunal that may determine UN human rights violations.Human rights abuses are monitored by United Nations committees, national institutions and governments and by many independent non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International, International Federation of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, World Organisation Against Torture, Freedom House, International Freedom of Expression Exchange and Anti-Slavery International. These organisations collect evidence and documentation of alleged human rights abuses and apply pressure to enforce human rights laws.Wars of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide, are breaches of International humanitarian law and represent the most serious of human rights violations. In efforts to eliminate violations of human rights, building awareness and protesting inhumane treatment has often led to calls for action and sometimes improved conditions. The UN Security Council has interceded with peace keeping forces, and other states and treaties (NATO) have intervened in situations to protect human rights.
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities, and therefore is defined as a form of political violence. Three of the ten most costly wars, in terms of loss of life, have been waged in the last century: the death toll of World War II, estimated at 60 million plus, surpasses all other war-death-tolls by a factor of two. It is additionally estimated that 378,000 people died due to war each year between 1985 and 1994.
Police Brutality is another form of political violence. It is most commonly described in juxtaposition with the term excessive force. Police brutality can be defined as "is a civil rights violation that occurs when a police officer acts with excessive force by using an amount of force with regards to a civilian that is more than necessary." Police brutality and the use of excessive force are present throughout the world and in the United States alone, 4,861 incidences of police misconduct were reported during 2010. Of these, there were 6,826 victims involved and 247 fatalities. Most recently, police actions taken when trying to remove protesters of the Occupy movements have come under fire for use of excessive force. Eleven passive protesters at UC Davis were pepper sprayed by campus police and an 84-year-old-woman was also pepper sprayed by police in a separate Occupy protest in Seattle.
Famine is a result of a set of conditions that occurs when a large number of people in a region cannot obtain sufficient food, resulting in widespread, acute malnutrition and death. Famine can be initiated by government's inefficient distribution of food and resources or policy making, whether it be intentional or not. Elements such as poverty, a suppressive political regime, and a weak, under-prepared government make a particular region more vulnerable to famine. In the 20th century alone, an estimated 70 million people died from famine across the world. Between 16.5 and 46 million people perished in the Famine of China in 1958-61, the largest famine in history and also one that resulted from government policies and a lack of response that perpetuated the problem. North Korea is another example of misappropriation of resources resulting in widespread famines, but there is not an accurate number of deaths because of the government's willingness to mask the issue.
Counter-insurgency, another form of political violence, describes a spectrum of actions taken by the recognized government of a nation to contain or quell an insurgency taken up against it. There are a many different doctrines, theories, and tactics espoused regarding counter-insurgency that aim to protect the authority of the government and to reduce or eliminate the supplanting authority of the insurgents. Because it may be difficult or impossible to distinguish between an insurgent, a supporter of an insurgency who is a non-combatant, and entirely uninvolved members of the population, counter-insurgency operations have often rested on a confused, relativistic, or otherwise situational distinction between insurgents and non-combatants. Counter-insurgency operations are common during war, occupation and armed rebellions.
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain (whether physical or psychological) as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Torture is prohibited under international law and the domestic laws of most countries in the 21st century. It is considered a human rights violation and is declared unacceptable by Article 5 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Signatories of the Third Geneva Convention and Fourth Geneva Convention have officially agreed not to torture prisoners in armed conflicts. National and international legal prohibitions on torture derive from a consensus that torture and similar ill-treatment are immoral, as we all impractical. Despite international conventions, torture cases continue to arise such as the 2004 Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal committed by military police personnel of the United States Army. Organizations such as Amnesty International and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims monitor abuses of human rights and reports widespread violations of human torture in by states in many regions of the world. Amnesty International estimates that at least 81 world governments currently practice torture, some of them openly.
Capital punishment is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offense. This does not include extrajudicial killing which is the killing of a person by governmental authorities without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process. The use of capital punishment by country varies, but according to Amnesty International 58 countries still actively use the death penalty, and in 2010, 23 countries carried out executions and 67 imposed death sentences. Methods of execution in 2010 included beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and shooting. In 2007 the United Nations General Assembly passed the UN moratorium on the death penalty which called for worldwide abolition of the death penalty.
If political inequality is the unequal distribution of political resources, then the measurement of political inequality is dependent on the measurement of political resources. But, how can we measure “anything?” Dahl (1996) defines political resources as “almost anything “– including money, reputation, legal status, social capital and knowledge, to name a few — that has value and can be used to achieve political ends. If we want to answer the question, “how much political inequality is there,” “anything” is too vague a measure of political resources and too context dependent.
Sorokin (1959 ) defines political stratification this way: “If the social ranks within a group are hierarchically superimposed with respect to their authority and prestige, their honors and titles; if there are rulers and the ruled, then whatever are their names (monarchs, executives, masters, bosses), these things mean that the group is politically stratified, regardless of what is written in its constitution or proclaimed in its declarations” (11). To Sorokin, authority, prestige, honors and titles are political resources. Authority position seems to be the main determinant of who has power and who does not.Some have measured political inequality in terms of political participation, specifically “voter turnout.” There is political inequality if there are divisions in who votes and who doesn’t. Some go broader and define political inequality in terms of the level of democratization. Measuring political inequality with level of democracy assumes that the introduction of political rights and civil liberties leads directly to reduction of inequalities. But, as Verba et al (1978) point out, for democracy to reduce inequality, rights and liberties are not enough; citizens must also be engaged in political participation (see also APSA 2004). Thus, it is not democracy alone that matters, but what citizens do with the rights and liberties allowed by democracy. Democracy cannot be a measure of political inequality or political resources.
What would be a measure of political resources? Is there a core set of “political resources” that can be used in every political situation? One plausible measure of political resources is experience in political affairs, which is obtained through political participation. Democracy as a measure of political inequality does not shed much light on the link between economic and political inequality, i.e. the degree to which nations are internally-stratified in terms of political resources. Democracy does have a relationship to economic outcomes, but it is not equivalent to political inequality.
As Verba et al (1978) point out, for democracy to reduce economic inequality, rights and liberties are not enough; citizens must also be engaged in political participation (see also APSA 2004). Thus, it is not democracy alone that matters, but what citizens do with the rights and liberties allowed by democracy. The relationship between participation and redistributive policies is further complicated by within-nation social stratification. Political participation is stratified, such that the advantaged tend to participate more than the disadvantaged. Economic distributive policy reflects the interests of the advantaged precisely because the advantaged are more politically active. Political non-participation of the disadvantaged leads to an increase in economic inequality, or maintains its status quo.
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