Conscription and Critique

Ertür, Başak. 2019. Conscription and Critique. Critical Times, 2(2), pp. 270-284. ISSN 2641-0478 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article focuses on the discussion of general conscription in Walter Benjamin's 1921 essay “Toward the Critique of Violence.” In the essay, Benjamin presents conscription or compulsory military service alongside his discussions of police violence and capital punishment, and as one manifestation of legal violence in which law-preserving and law-positing forms of violence coincide and mix. This article proposes that Benjamin's discussion of conscription should be read as a formal model for understanding how legal subjectification in the modern state works more generally, and how it circumscribes critique. This reading is offered through a series of snapshots of various veins and elements in Benjamin's essay, while also connecting this interpretation to the work of a number of contemporary scholars of colonialism, namely Talal Asad, David Scott, and Samera Esmeir, who all invoke conscription as a particularly powerful metaphor for modern law's tendency to colonize critique.

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critique of violence, Walter Benjamin, compulsory military service, modern law, legal subjectification

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Visual Cultures > Centre for Research Architecture
Visual Cultures


1 August 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

10 Oct 2023 09:45

Last Modified:

10 Oct 2023 09:45

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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