Hannah Arendt on How Bureaucracy Fuels Violence

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt (image from Wikipedia)

States that have attempted to centralise power, whether from the ‘left’ or ‘right’ of the political spectrum (these distinctions become essentially meaningless in many cases once the totalitarian state is fully formed), have inevitably, and usually unwittingly, created an unaccountable bureaucratic minion class which unthinkingly carries out state violence either directly, or by remaining passive and unwilling to take responsibility.

Maria Popova from brainpickings.org highlights the work of the political theorist Hannah Arendt, particularly her seminal book ‘On Violence’:

In her indispensable 1970 book On Violence, the celebrated German-American political theorist Hannah Arendt (October 14, 1906–December 4, 1975) considers the evolving role of warfare in the context of the twentieth century. Writing a generation after the Atomic Age and at time when the threat of biological weapons was just beginning to penetrate our collective conscience, her meditation is all the more poignant and timely half a century later, in the age of drones and WMDs and all the political negotiations that surround them.

This quote particularly struck a chord and I am sure will resonate with anyone who has had to deal with state bureaucracy, however minor the encounter:

The greater the bureaucratization of public life, the greater will be the attraction of violence. In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one could argue, to whom one could present grievances, on whom the pressures of power could be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless we have a tyranny without a tyrant.

Read the rest of the article here.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.