Leviathan in the Service of Pacification: Where, how and why State Intervention Works as a Means of Reducing Violence in the Private Sphere?

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European modernity has developed a new form of intervention by public authorities to the private sphere, aiming at guaranteeing all the members of the family certain equal rights. Interpretations vary, but in all European countries these rights include some version of the right to bodily integrity, e.g. the right to lead a life protected from a violent intercourse. By studying the progress of such legislation in one North-European country, Finland, we have discovered that particularly in the latter half of the 20th century several laws were passed that reorganized the intimate relationships of the family with an attempt to protect the children and the spouse from violent attacks by a member of the household. Taken together these and similar laws comprise a historically unparalleled attempt of the state to intervene in the intimate private sphere of the family and pacify it as one expression of the state’s claim for a monopoly of violence in its area. We ask where, how and why this happens? It turns out that the process is particularly intense in protestant countries and it is related to combats for citizenship rights. These combats again emerge because the expansion of the state from the 18th century onwards turns the attention of the popular classes towards the state and give birth to the idea of equality as the master concept of the political agenda of protestant modernity.


Keywords: Violence, Modernity, State, Family, Protestantism, Equality
Stream: Sociology, Geography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Risto Heiskala

Professor, Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä
Jyväskylä, Finland

Risto Heiskala is Professor and Head of the Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy at the University of Jyväskylä and Docent at the University of Helsinki. He has been a member of the executive committee of the European Sociological Association (ESA), the coordinator of the ESA Social Theory Network and the editor of Sosiologia, the journal of the Finnish Sociological Association. His main research areas are social theory, cultural theory, modernization and globalization. His recent publications include Social Innovations, Institutional Change and Economic Performance (Edward Elgar, 2007, edited jointly with Timo Hämäläinen), Society as Semiosis. Neostructuralist Theory of Culture and Society (Peter Lang, 2003), Action, Habit and Structure. Toward a Constructionist Synthesis in Social Theory (Gaudeamus, 2000; in Finnish --- currently in the process of translation into English ) and Towards Artificial Society (Gaudeamus, 1996; in Finnish).

Marita Husso

Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä
Jyväskylä, Finland


Ref: I08P0280