The Moral Difference between Personal and Structural Violence: Masaryk’s Criticism of an Argument in Nezávislé listy

  • Antonie van den Beld
Part of the Studies in Russia and East Europe book series (SREE)


In the middle of the 1890s, Masaryk involved himself directly and indirectly in the affairs of the so-called ‘progressive movement’ in his country. On more than one occasion. For instance, in the Vienna weekly Die Zeit, he informed the German-speaking subjects of the Danube Monarchy about the background of this nationalistic (and more or less socialist) movement in connection with the so-called Omladina affair.1 Some of the Omladina’s leaders were put on trial because of the part they had played in the anti-Austrian demonstrations in Prague in the late summer of 1893, demonstrations which provoked the government into declaring a state of emergency. One of the accused, Antonin Hajn, was sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment for his part in the demonstrations. Despite these adverse circumstances, Hajn had still managed to produce an interesting critique of Masaryk’s views on the development of Czech politics and culture and, in particular, of his interpretation of the notion of humanity.2 He objected to the absolute ideal of humanity which Masaryk was propagating, inconsistently, according to him. Hajn sought to make a distinction between an absolute and a relative conception of humanity. The first is totally incompatible with the use of violence, while, if the ideal of humanity is understood in a relative manner, one should avoid the use of violence as much as possible. Humanity as an absolute ideal and the reality of the human condition are inconsistent with each other.


Good Mark Intentional Action Moral Intuition Structural Violence Rhetorical Question 
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  1. 1.
    T. G. Masaryk, ‘Fortschrittliche Bewegung, Fortschrittspartei und Omladina in Böhmen’, Die Zeit (1894), No. 7 (17 November), No. 8 (24 November), No. 9 (1 December).Google Scholar
  2. see A. van den Beld, Humanity. The Political and Social Philosophy of Thomas G. Masaryk (The Hague, Paris, 1975) pp. 128–9.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    A. Hajn, ‘Časové směry a tužby’, Rozhledy. Sociální, politiché a literární, IV (1895), pp. 249–52, 289–96, 369–73, 423–34.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    T. G. Masaryk, Naše nynější krise (Prague, 1895).Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    H. Marcuse, Kultur und Gesellschaft, Vol. II (Frankfurt on Main, 1965) p. 138.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    here quoted from J. Harris, ‘The Marxist Conception of Violence’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, (1974) pp. 194–195.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    J. Galtung, ‘Violence, Peace and Peace Research,’ Journal of Peace Research, 6 (1969) p. 168.Google Scholar
  8. 20.
    see A. van den Beld, Filosofie van het menelijk handelen, Assen, 1982, pp. 17–19.Google Scholar
  9. 22.
    The example is taken from: N. Richards, ‘Double Effect and Moral Character’, Mind, 93 (1984) pp. 382–3.Google Scholar
  10. 24.
    Cf. A. Kenny, Will, Freedom and Power (Oxford, 1975) p. 43:Google Scholar

Copyright information

© School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antonie van den Beld

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