Working Paper 80

The Trimurti of the State: state violence and the promises of order and destruction

Julia Eckert

Projektgruppe Rechtspluralismus

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 80

The paper traces the shifts in the moral economy of state violence that have occurred in recent years in connection with global reformulations of security and threat. There is a deep ambivalence towards state killing. It is perceived as promising order and is at once a sign of chaos. The paper traces the contradictory treatment of the so-called encounter killings in public debate, in conspiracy theories, in Bollywood films and in the self-depiction of the police. The violent state here is at once the vigilante, saving the nation from doom, and the outlaw who thrives on the destruction that threatens the nation. State killing is simultaneously perceived as the symptom of state crisis and it is longed for as rescue from that very decay. The paper puts forward the thesis that the deeply ambivalent perception of the state and its violence is today being overcome through new ideologies of national welfare that focus on unity and security. New notions of order converge with new notions of the ‘dangerous’ other. Security and self-defense become primary in the justifications of state killing and are central to the legitimacy of rule. This revival of Hobbes and the new concentration of political legitimacy on security link into global discourses of security.

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