The Monopoly of Legitimate Violence and Criminal Policy

  • Albrecht Funk

Abstract

The modern state emerged in centuries of bitter fights, in which competing power holders were brought down and robbed of their capacities to use violence as a political means of exerting power. “In the past” Max Weber stated succinctly, “the most diverse kinds of associations beginning with the clan have regarded physical violence as a quite normal instrument. Nowadays, by contrast, we have to say that the state is that human community which (successfully) lays claim to the monopoly of legitimate physical violence within a certain territory, this ‘territory’ being another of the defining characteristics of the state. For the specific feature of the present is that the right to use physical violence is attributed to any and all other associations or individuals only to the extent that the state for its part permits this to happen. The state is held to be the source of the ‘right’ to use violence” (Weber, 1994:310f.).

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