Social Scientist. v 4, no. 47 (June 1976) p. 58.


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Politics and Violence

THROUGHOUT THE history of organized political life violence has played an enormous role in every society created by man.l A survey of Europe spanning twenty-four centuries shows an average of four years of peace interspersed with an year of violent disturbance.2 Twentieth century is not different. The two most atrocious wars were fought before the mid-century point was reached.Since the end of the Second World War.violcnt attempts to overthrow governments have been more common than national elections. Between 1961 and 1968 some form of violent civil strife reportedly occurred in 114 out of 121 countries8. The present century has witnessed numerous socio-economic and political convulsions., notably in Russia (1917), China (1949), Cuba (1960), Algeria (1962), Indonesia (1965), Nigeria (1967), Bangladesh (1971 and 1975), Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (1975). Military takeover has become almost an everyday affair in Latin America, Africa and Asia. The century has become, as Lenin predicted, a period of wars and revolutions, in truth, a century of violence.4 The importance of the issue of violence in politics can be judged from the three major commissions in the USA withinjthe past few years—National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, and the President's Commission on Campus Unrest—expressing the deepest concern over the way things are going in that country.

At first glance it is rather surprising that violence has been singled out so seldom for special consideration. In the latest edition of the Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences, violence does not even figure as an entry. There is, of course, plenty of literature on war and warfare dealing mainly with the implements of violence, but not violence as such. No social scientist, and political scientist in particular, can afford to neglect its role and manifestation in political life. Nevertheless very few have tried to consider violence in politics systematically and empirically. What Sorcl remarked seventy years ago, ^the problem of violence remains very obscure55,* remains as true today as it was then.

To analyze political violence, it is essential first of all to identify what is ^political5 in it. The concept ^political5 as a variable has been



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