Hannah Arendt on Power, Violence, and the Targeted Killing Program

This is a course on the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt. In particular, we will look at what she has to say about the problem of political violence. We will pay especially close attention to how her analysis of violence relates the the US’ targeted killing program, but not merely so. Over 40 countries now have weaponized drones, and many more are pursuing autonomous weapons of varying kinds. Do these kinds of weapons undermine democratic institutions? Arendt's immediate relationship with drones stems from an obscure passage in her celebrated essay On Violence in which she voices concern about the rise of robot soldiers. She writes, “Only the development of robot soldiers, which … would eliminate the human factor completely and, conceivably, permit one man with the push of a button to destroy whomever he pleased, could change this fundamental ascendancy of power over violence.” This class will be dedicated to assessing the targeted killing program — and automated weapons more broadly — in light of Arendt’s concern that it will upset the “fundamental ascendancy of power over violence.”

Brian Smith:

Brian Smith received his PhD in Political Science from Boston University. He also earned an MS in Ethics and Public Policy from Suffolk University. Broadly he works in political theory/philosophy. Additional information is available here.