In Politics as a Vacation Weber says, “we must say that the state is a form of human community that (successfully) lays claim to the monopoly of legitimate physical violence within a particular territory” (Weber).
Now, I agree that a state uses physical violence or force within its territory to achieve its goals. There are times when this use of force is necessary to keep peace and done in the most ideal way, therefore legitimate. However, more often than not the use of force is abused and used under illegitimate circumstances. This can lead to power struggles, internal conflict, and an increasing use of illegitimate violence. I think the conflict in Burma is a great example of how the power of force can be abused.
The Burma conflict began when a military coup took power over the government and began to implement its own rules and values. If you didn’t obey them, you were harshly punished. Although protest have been going on for many years, they did not receive international attention until the 2007 Saffron protest. An article about the Saffron Protests said, “the monks began large peaceful demonstrations all over Burma after the junta raised gas and diesel oil prices by 500%”. While the monks were completely non-violent, the government began to imprison any protesters. In the same article it was estimated that “between 3,000 and 4,000 citizens were detained in connection with these protests”. Here is a video that discusses the Saffron protest and the violence these peaceful protest received.
This incident in Burma reminded me of our civil rights struggles in the 60’s. While the African Americans were strictly non-violent protests, our government and people in charge, used what they thought was “legitimate” physical violence to discriminate and hurt innocent citizens. This is an almost identical situation to that of Burma. The difference being that our government has not been run by a military coup. However, both protest were peaceful and non-violent, and both were put down by imprisonment and harsh, violent responses. This is why I believe giving a state or individual the power to use violence will always lead to corruption. Weber also states that, “whoever is active in politics strives for power” (Weber). No matter what a government is trying to accomplish using violence, people are still going to be hurt and many times killed.
This has been proven over and over again. If the individuals calling the shots are always striving for power as Weber suggest they will be influenced to abuse that power and make selfish, unnecessary choices, which the military in Burma did and the United States did during the civil rights protests.