Gumbrecht on violence

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht: Production of presence
[on presence culture vs. meaning culture]

Now if space is the dominant dimension through which, in a presence culture, the relationship between humans, that is, between human bodies, is constituted, then this relationship /…/ can constantly turn (and indeed tends to turn) into violence – that is, into occupying and blocking spaces with bodies – against other bodies. For meaning cultures, in contrast, it is typical (and perhaps even obligatory) to infinitely defer the moment of actual violence and to thus transform violence into power, which we can define as the potential of occupying or blocking spaces with bodies. The more the self-image of a certain culture corresponds to the typology of a meaning culture, the more it will try to hide and even to exclude violence as the ultimate potential of power. This is how we can explain the fact that, in recent decades, historians and philosophers of our culture have confused power relations with relations defined by the distribution of knowledge. But the lines along which knowledge is distributed will only coincide with the lines of power relations as long as the stability of the lines of knowledge distribution is ultimately covered, even in a meaning culture, by the potential and the threat of physical violence


My question presupposes two presence-based definitions of “power” and of “violence” that I launched in the last part of the previous chapter. I had proposed to define “power” as the potential of occupying or of blocking spaces ith bodies, and “violence” as the actualization of power, that is, power as performance or as event. Referring back to our discussion of the epiphanic character of aesthetic experience, /…/ we may indeed postulate that there can be no epiphany and, as a consequence, no genuinely aesthetic experience without a moment of violence – because there is no aesthetic experience /…/ without the event of substance occupying space.
I am not simply saying that “violence is beautiful” (it can be beautiful, but it is not beautiful in principle), and I exclude any necessary convergence between aesthetic experience and ethical norms.