There is a lot of talk these days about 'symbolic violence.'
Not the violence of bombs and bullets, of knives and rocks and outstretched fists...
But the violence of arrogant sneers, of brutal denunciation, of privileged obliviousness and careless, lackadaisical blaseities
So language itself is violent?
No. Language is violence.
So then why bother trying to critique language at all, or hold people accountable for their words? Isn't this a lazy universal proposition that levels all conceivable distinctions?
On the contrary:
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If language is indeed instrinsically violent, in the sense that everything one says is potentially violent from a particular point of view, this should not lead to nihilism, but to serious inquiry.
If it is know that all language carries seeds of brutality and oppression within it, that ought to immediately motivated thinking people to think seriously about the appropriate trade-offs and negotiations.
If language is not merely symbolically violent, but on the contrary is symbolic violence....
If the violence of language is not a mere unfortunate material or empirical happenstance, but is a logical necessity for any language that in any way occurs or is expressed...
If there is no way out from the closed system of language as the never-to-be-fully-purified-away-from...
Then the responsible attitude is to make the best of a radically imperfect endeavor.
And to avoid arrogantly attempting to purge language and discourse of every last trace of aggression.
This requires humility...
And a keen sense of the distinction between sweeping criticism and destabilizing and problematizing critique.
Jonathan Ferguson is a socio-economic liberal with strong libertarian leanings in some key issues.
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