Robert Hoffman

Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellow in the Humanities

20132014 Forum on Violence

Robert Hoffman


A History of Violence: Distinguishing War and Punishment in Liberal States

Increasingly, the United States and other western liberal states have employed military tactics and technology to combat domestic crime. In the process, citizen-criminals come to be treated as enemy combatants. This conflation is most visible in the "War on Terror," but we can also see its effects in the response to the Occupy movement. This project argues that this phenomenon is conceptually rooted in the writings of our philosophical predecessors of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These political philosophers – the ideological originators of the liberal state – justified the institution of punishment as derivative of the state's broader right to make war. Only by confronting these philosophical texts and interrogating their validity can we craft the theoretical tools necessary to defend against the drive toward merging war and punishment.