Cancelled Violence, State and Revolution

Course content

Violence is both the most indelible and the most contested features of politics. Who has the right to use violence, when, and how, are questions of high stakes incurring intense debate. This course offers an introduction to the political theory and ethics of violence with historical examples in order to equip students with the ability to identify and analyse legitimate and illegitimate uses of violence in contemporary politics. The first part of the course will explore the relationship between violence and the state, examining canonical and contemporary writings of the just war (Grotius, Kant, Walzer) tradition as well as the problems raised for this tradition and our conceptions of war by technological transformations in warfare. The second part of the course examines violence by non-state actors looking at revolution and armed resistance, paying particular attention to the way that ideas of revolutionary violence have transformed throughout the twentieth century (Lenin, Luxemburg, Fanon, Arendt, Black Power). The course concludes by examining contemporary controversies in the ethics of violence and social movements (such as Black Lives Matter).


Bachelor: 7,5 ECTS

Kandidat: 7,5 ECTS


Students at MSc Security Risk Management have 1st priority.

Political Science students: Limited intake

The course is unfortunately not for exchange students.

Learning outcome

Knowledge: Students will obtain knowledge about normative and conceptual theories of violence in historical perspective. Students will be able to account for the transforming understanding of violence and warfare throughout the twentieth century through reference to historical examples.

Skills: With such knowledge, students will be able to appraise specific acts of violence (broadly understood), both contemporary and historic, as to their legitimacy and justification. Students will also be able to locate concepts within a broader sets of ideas such as justice and power.

Competencies: Students will be able to discuss the normative questions concerning practices such as warfare and armed resistance whilst detailing the broader configurations of power and material circumstances which background such questions.

Lectures and group work

Indicative reading list:

Arendt, H. (1963) On Revolution. (London: Penguin)

Arendt, H. (1969) On Violence. (New York: Harcourt)
Bufacchi, V. (2009) Violence: A Philosophical Anthology. (Palgrave)
Brunstetter, D. R. (2017) Just War Thinkers: From Cicero to the 21st Century. (London: Routledge)

Clark, I. (2015) Waging War: A New Philosophical Introduction

Davis, A. (1981) Women, Race and Class.

Fanon, F. (1961) The Wretched of the Earth. (London: Penguin)

Finlay, C. (2019) Is Just War Possible? (London: Polity Press)

Frazer, E. & Hutchings K. (2019) Can Political Violence Ever Be Justified?. (London: Polity Press)

Gonzalez, M. & Barekate, H. (2013) Arms of the People: Popular Movements and the Military from the Paris Commune to the Arab Spring. (London: Pluto Press).

Hathaway, A. & Shapiro, S. J. (2017) The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World. (London: Penguin)
Hobsbawm, E. (1994) The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century: 1914-1991. (London: Penguin)

Lenin, V. (1917) The State and Revolution.

Luxemburg, R. (1900) Reform or Revolution?

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1947) Humanism and Terror: An Essay on the Communist Problem.

Suri, J. (2003) Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente. (Harvard: Cambridge).
Walzer, M. (1977) Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations. (New York: Basic Books).

Walzer, M. (2003) Arguing About War. (Yale)

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free Written Assignement
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Criteria for exam assesment

  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28