June 14, 2014

WHEN JOURNALISTS THINK THE PHRASE “MONOPOLY OF VIOLENCE” IS SOME WEIRD IDEA, RATHER THAN A REFERENCE TO MAX WEBER, blaming the education system is an incomplete response. The truth is, most journalists don’t know much.

And, on a related note, let me quote Sandy Levinson on the notion:

Such analyses provide the basis for Edward Abbey’s revision of a common bumper sticker, “If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns.”[67] One of the things this slogan has helped me to understand is the political tilt contained within the Weberian definition of the state–i.e., the repository of a monopoly of the legitimate means of violence[68] –that is so commonly used by political scientists. It is a profoundly statist definition, the product of a specifically German tradition of the (strong) state rather than of a strikingly different American political tradition that is fundamentally mistrustful of state power and vigilant about maintaining ultimate power, including the power of arms, in the populace.

Any reasonably literate journalist — that is, one who stayed awake during an introductory political science class or two — should recognize both the Weberian approach and the American tradition.