Book Chapter

What is Violence?



Cawston A (2015) What is Violence?. In: Marway H & Widdows H (eds.) Women and Violence: The Agency of Victims and Perpetrators. Genders and Sexualities in the Social Sciences. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 216-231.

The aim of this chapter is to uncover a specifically political conception of violence which will capture our interest in violence as it relates to a fundamental problem for society. The chapter will first analyze (and reject) several existing definitions of violence in terms of whether they successfully describe a fundamental problem, then propose a new conception of violence that directs our attention towards problematic attitudes rather than types of actions. This new conception allows us to consider the relationship between women, violence and agency from a new perspective, drawing our attention to forms of violence that are generally overlooked on the standard, narrow conception, and redefining the ways in which women may be both subject to, and participants in, violence. Secondly, the chapter will explore how adopting this definition allows us to reconceive the relationship between women and violence, via two test cases. Specifically, it will demonstrate how the conception of violence as an attitude allows us to describe pornography as violence, followed by some exploratory remarks on the implications of this view for feminist philosophy more generally.


Title of seriesGenders and Sexualities in the Social Sciences
Publication date30/09/2015
PublisherPalgrave MacMillan
Publisher URL
Place of publicationBasingstoke