Nonviolent statism is a contradiction in terms. Please ditch one or the other.I disagree with you.
Understand what I am saying: I am very familiar with your objections, of course. I understand where you are coming from. I am very aware that it is commonplace to define the state as that institution that has a monopoly on the "legitimate" use of force and that this is often taken to justify the identification of state with violence (even when it is quite obvious that enormous amounts of what happens through government has nothing at all to do with violence on any plausible description).
I am aware that my viewpoint is a minority viewpoint, in fact I will go so far as to say that I know of no political theorist who characterizes this issue in quite the way I do. (But Hannah Arendt, Claude Lefort, Chantal Mouffe, and a host of scholarship about and experience with radical nonviolent civil rights, queer, feminist, environmentalist activism has contributed to my perspective here.) Nonetheless, I do believe what I do and for reasons I think are good ones. Even if I cannot persuade you of my position, I propose it is one that deserves consideration among the more usual alternatives.
Violence precedes the emergence of the state and violence exceeds the existence of the state. I begin here because this recognition matters enough to be a point of departure for thinking the political. It is an axiom closely connected in my view to Hannah Arendt's starting point: "Plurality is the law of the earth."
I am far from denying the obvious fact that many (even most) states historically do indeed engage in systematic exploitation and offensive war-making. This is why the radical left critique of states that function as nothing but the institutional legitimation of violence for elite-incumbent classes -- or critique states to the extent that they are functioning this way -- is a powerful one with which I strongly agree as it applies to many historical (in a sense of the historical that includes the present) states or episodes or particular tendencies.
But I simply do not agree that states are exhaustively or even essentially characterized by violence or that their abolition would eliminate violence from human affairs. To smash the state is always (whatever else it may be) to smash the space of democratization, and spontaneist fantasies declaring contracts nonviolent by fiat whatever misinformation or duress articulates their terms, or dreaming of a consensus beyond the law arising out of an unrestrained angelic human nature, or promising to unleash a techno-transcendental superabundance that circumvents the impasse of stakeholder politics offer no living, abiding alternatives to the interminable democratizing struggles addressed through or addressed to governments toward sustainable equity-in-diversity.
I think these are profoundly mistaken views, widespread though they are. Of course, self-identified anarchists are comparatively rare, but the advocacy of "smaller government" without a supplementary characterization of good government amounts to anarchism in substance and this political viewpoint is far from rare, as is the cynical belief that there is a necessary tradeoff between order and violence that essentially accepts the premise of anarchism but regards anti-statist activism as unrealistic anyway.
I propose the contrary proposition that democratization is the historical struggle through which states are rendered ever less violent.
Democratization rendering states less violent happens when elections make possible peaceful transitions among leaders. Democratization rendering states less violent happens when civil rights and juries and court appointed defense attorneys provide ever wider more equitable recourse to courts for the nonviolent adjudication of disputes. Democratization rendering states less violent happens when taxation is yoked to representation making government directly accountable to the consent of the governed. Democratization rendering states less violent happens when checks and balances make branches and layers of government compete for positional advantage not through corruption but through the policing of corruption within governance. Democratization rendering states less violent happens when social democratic states provide the security of general welfare, basic income, healthcare, education, access to reliable information all to better ensure that everybody can engage in everyday commerce on legibly informed non-duressed consensual terms. Democratization rendering states less violent happens when public goods and common goods are accountably administered by democratic governance in the name of the common good to circumvent the violence of their exploitation or mismanagement for the parochial benefit of minorities. The examples can be multiplied, but I am illustrating what some fellow radical democrats would seem to regard as an initially or apparently counter-intuitive principle I am advocating.
Abraham Lincoln famously said that "The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves in their separate, and individual capacities." Although this formulation has had a vital life in the history of progressive struggles for equity-in-diversity, my own point is a different one. It is not only through instituted governments that people accomplish goods collectively of which they are incapable or in which they are frustrated individually. Hence it is necessary to make a more specific case for the collective work of good democratic government in particular. In my view, democratic government facilitates the nonviolent adjudication of disputes and enables people to have a say in the public decisions that affect them (including disputes over what constitutes violence, over what constitutes the public, over what constitutes such a say, and over the terms of the administration of government), through periodic election of accountable representatives, through equal recourse to laws, through the maintenance of individual rites/rights cultures and civil protections of the rights of minorities against majorities, through the maintenance of a legible scene of informed, nonduressed consent to the terms of everyday commerce through the provision of general welfare, and through the sustainable, equitable administration of public and common goods otherwise vulnerable to violation and exploitation by incumbent-elites.
As I say, violence both precedes and exceeds "the" state-form. The truth is that no state, even totalitarian ones, has sufficient means of violence to subdue entire populations in every aspect of their lives to the will of their rulers. Violence CANNOT be the essential characteristic of even the most tyrannical states, and countervailing strains of civitas, consensual accountable equitable participatory governance, are always discernible.
Again, my point is not to deny but to decry the violence of undemocratic states. But in my view the democratization of the state is indispensable to nonviolent revolution. Fantasies of smashing the state rely on a mistaken identification of the state form with violence, and always amount to the facilitation of violence on the part of merciless muscled moneyed minorities who will go ahead and legitimize their abuses as the cost of whatever measure of order they maintain. In democratic states order and consent are one and the same (and exceptions threaten the legitimacy of that order) and the permanent vulnerability of the state form to corruption, abuse, violence confronts the vigilence of an empowered population to which that state is beholden for its funding and maintenance at every layer.
I appreciate the politeness with which you to entreat me to renounce either my commitment to good democratic government or my commitment to nonviolent stakeholder politics and change, but I fear I must decline. I am indeed committed to both, I believe that the commitment to each bolsters the commitment to the other, and I believe that it is those who find these commitments incompatible who are wrongheaded and confused.