ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

Theoretical approaches to violence: René Girard and Thomas Hobbes

Vappu Helmisaari
University of Helsinki
Vappu Helmisaari
University of Helsinki
Open Panel

Abstract

The problem of violence in the society can be viewed from a Girardian perspective: violence is limited by an institution of sacrifice. The community places someone outside of itself. It seeks to redirect violence to something that is anodyne: a victim to be sacrificed. This outsider, or victim, may be seen as a scapegoat. Sacrificing can be either real or symbolic but in both cases it is collective action of the whole community. Also religion has its role in prevention of violence and of a circle of revenge in René Girard’s theory, notably in his book "Violence and the Sacred". The state theory of Thomas Hobbes is largely based on the fear of violence: a state is formed and the power given to the sovereign in order to escape from the state of nature where all men are enemies to each other. The fear of a violent death is one of the fundamental instincts of human beings. Violence is first archaic, pre-political violence, where emotional dynamic between people leads when there is no political power. However, politics does not disappear when state is constructed. A new dynamic of relations between people emerges when the state has the power of coercion. These approaches have in common that violence has an important role in the construction of a society or state and that the escape from violence comes through either a construction or through sacrifice. Both find a hidden motive at the origin of the state, an anterior crisis, a ”truth of the appropriation of power”.