How Violence Has Been Legitimized in Society

Because of the strong temptation of power, individuals in government have long used ways to maintain control and power over their territories, often with the use of violent force. Like other forms of violence, it is often done directly and indirectly, and the psychological effect can occur with or without intent. Dictatorial regimes often punish rebellion and unlawfulness with threats of imprisonment that usually harbor inhumane conditions, and at the extreme, torture and execution.

The most brutal governments usually carry out particularly painful and graphic forms of execution and are often made public. So, while the use of these tactics is primarily inflicted on the individual being punished, it also has a strong psychological effect on the rest of the community, as a warning to not go against those in power. Arguably the most well-known example of these methods was the use of crucifixion by the ancient roman government. Victims of this brutal execution were subjected to hours or days of unbearable pain and humiliation, and the graphic imagery of their bodies left on the cross would serve as a way of keeping the masses in line.

Aside from that, the armies of the roman government also served as a method of maintaining a psychological hold on the people. When these governments start to feel like their power is being threatened from outside or inside, they may begin to take drastic measures against a mass group of innocent people. A common example is starting wars with other countries they deem to be a threat, or If they feel that rebellions are coming from their own people, they might inflict physical violence against them or deprive them of resources essential to their wellbeing. Of course, governments do not have to be dictatorial in order to be repressive.

Many governments maintain control without much use of physical violence and instead do it through much more subtle or secretive means. The mass amount of inequality created by conflicts like class warfare serve as more indirect ways governments use to hold onto power. Society itself can play a role in legitimizing violent behavior without help from the government. Chrissey Steenkamp talks about how violence has been legitimized in society by the constant exposure to it even during times of peace.

“This tolerance has become so embedded in society that it survives the peace accords… creating a culture of violence, which produces a socially permissive environment within which the use of violence continues, even though violent politics has official ended. (Steenkamp 2005) Ofer Parchev also talks about how society keeps certain people in line by setting up “objective” definitions of living people should abide by. “For as long as the pastoral strategy remains dominant, the individual will continue to operate within a web of power that limits his behavior and judgement to unified structures of knowledge, so that the state apparatus is not weakened and may even be strengthened.”