This chapter argues that violence is a scandal to those who suffer it and to those who suffer vicariously with them, but for everyone else, it depends on the culture. For us children of modernity, violence contains something shockingly archaic and our shock shapes the way we use the word. To call something “violent” is to denounce it, to call it into question by inquiring into its legitimacy. We must keep in mind, however, that our attitudes toward violence are symptoms of modernity and the result of a historical upheaval. Every animal species requires some form of aggression to survive; as such, the term belongs to the province of biology and behavioral studies. The issue is to what extent a form of civilization understands aggressive manifestations as violent and characterizes them as permitted, prohibited, or mandated.
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