Not in Our Name! Rejecting Coercive Claims of Representative Violence
Democracy is a system of peaceful conflict resolution. It places an absolute ban on the exercise, tolerance, and encouragement of political violence. Existing democracies, however, are not immune to violent action but suffer from multiple forms of political violence. Antidemocratic actors who openly justify and exercise violence are one part of the problem. Those who are suspicious of acting as their masterminds, accomplices, or sympathizers are the other part. Containing political violence requires identifying the former and bringing them to justice. It also requires the latter to credibly distance themselves from violence in word and deed.
The talk will offer a normative perspective on the collective “distancing capacity” (Nancy Bermeo) of one particular category of “suspicious actors”: the nominal constituencies of political violence. When unauthorized actors exercise violence in the name of an imagined community (such as an ethnic group, a religious community, or a nation), community members need to reject their claims of representative violence if they wish to remain trustworthy members of the democratic polity. They need to distance themselves from their self-proclaimed violent representatives and make a public stand: not in our name! Yet what exactly can the target group of violence legitimately demand from its nominal constituents? The talk will strive to elucidate some relevant parameters: their collective responsibility and ideological proximity, their available repertoire of individual and collective actions, and the expected costs and benefits of public dissidence. It will illustrate its proposed analytical framework with two contrasting examples of coercive claims of representative violence in contemporary Europe: mass terror against majority populations in the name of Islam and street terror against immigrant minorities in the name of the nation.
Andreas Schedler is Professor of Political Science at the Center for Economic Teaching and Research (CIDE) in Mexico City.
This event is part of the “Democracy Research Lecture Series”.