Violence and “Counter-Violence”. On Correct Rejection. A Sketch of a Possible Russian Ethics of War Considered through the Understanding of Violence in Tolstoy and in Petar II Petrović Njegoš

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The article’s intention is to construct a possible minimal response to violence, that is, to describe what would be justified (necessary or legitimate) “ противонасилие ” (counter-violence). This argument is built on reviving several important philosophical texts in Russian of the first half of the twentieth century as well as on going beyond that historical moment. Starting with the reconstruction of Tolstoy’s criticism of any use of violence, it is then shown that, paradoxically, resistance to Tolstoy’s or ‘pseudo’-Tolstoy’s teachings ends up incorporating Tolstoy’s thematization of counter-violence into various theories, which sought to legitimate the use of force. In particular, Tolstoy’s discovery of a force, which, on the one hand, is not grounded in violence and, on the other hand, which is capable of countering violence, becomes fundamental in reasoning about the just use of force. The connection is made between Tolstoy and Petar II Petrović Njegoš, who also thematizes the use of force in Christian perspective. In his view, justice, “blessed by the Creator’s hand,” has the capacity to protect from violent force. Any living thing defends itself from what endangers it by means Creator bestowed it with. Living force and protective use of force are conceptually linked in Njegoš’s reasoning. Thus, only protective force can defeat aggressive force. This is shown to be Njegoš’s contribution to the Orthodox Christian discourse on violence. If a force can be counter-violent, the next step in our argument would be to search for a protocol that should have universal validity, that is, it has to be valid for all conflicting sides, The protocol of counter-violence requires that, firstly, it is a response to violence; secondly, it interrupts violence and forestalls any possible future violence (it is the ‘last’ violence); thirdly, it is subject to verification, it addresses those who are a priori against any response to violence (which usually refers to various forms of “Tolstoyism”). Finally, it is shown that state power does not create law, but it is being right that makes law or gives life to social order, and thereby can authorize the use of force. This is the innovation in the histories of justification of force, absent in the West. Aggressive violence can necessarily be opposed only in the way that implies the possibility of constituting law and order.

About the authors

Petar Bojanic

University of Belgrade; Ural Federal University

Author for correspondence.

PhD, Full professor, Principal Research Fellow

1, Studentski trg, Belgrade, 11000, Serbia; 19, Mira Str., Ekaterinburg, 620002, Russian Federation


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