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Violence as a Quest for Identity: Marshall McLuhan Interview (marshallmcluhanspeaks.com)
4 points by thebigship on Jan 3, 2023 | hide | past | favorite | 4 comments



Mcluhan talked about this on many occasions.

I once heard him phrase it simply as "All identity is created through violence", and of course he qualifies the claim with his particular definition of violence.

It is without a doubt the single most thought provoking line I have ever heard. For years I was bouncing it off other things I saw, read and experienced, trying to find a way to disagree. I cannot find a way disagree with it. He's right, I concede.

His definition violence too is better: To be violent is to forcefully impose oneself upon the world.

Nature is intrinsically violent, and by extension so is human society. It's a spectrum.

This comment is a minor act of violence. I have forcefully imposed myself upon the world. It serves to fortify my identity, even if only in a tiny way.


This is a weird sort of violence. He seems to be equating violence with influence. The woman who taught me to read fed her identity and was a great aid in developing my own identity. There is no hostility or harm to be found in this, nor was there any force. McLuhan seems to be defining the violence out of violence and leaving something else for which the ideas associated with violence (force, harm, hostility, hatred) are absent. What's the use of that? Violence is a way to influence identity, but influence that creates identity is not necessarily violent. To attach the negatives associated with violence to creating one's own identity and those of others sounds nilist.


There is a tendency to associate violence with negativity, but we don't need Marshall to know that that is not really true. Most of us like Law and Order and that is enforced through violence and the threat of violence.

The threat of violence is the same as violence. An armed robbery is conventionally regarded to be violent even if no one is physically harmed.

A stop sign also threatens forceful consequences for failure to comply with it's instructions. A stop sign is violent. Violence is everywhere and we're so inured to it we do not notice.


"Most of us like Law and Order and that is enforced through violence and the threat of violence.

Not always. I conform to law and order because I sense a profound link to some essential but ineffable truth about the human experience.




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