'Culture' and 'violence' have always been regarded as antithetical terms. In The Culture of Violence, Francis Barker takes a different view.
Central to his argument is the contention that, contrary to post-Enlightenment humanist, liberal and conservative thought, 'culture' does not necessarily stand in opposition to political inequality and social injustice, but may be complicit with the oppressive exercise of power.
The book focuses on Shakespearean tragedy and on the historicism and culturalism of much present-day cultural theory. Barker's analysis moves dialectically backwards and forwards between these two moments in order to illuminate aspects of early modern culture, and to critique the ways in which the complicity between culture and violence has been occluded. Rejecting the tendency of both modernism and post-modernism to homogenise historical time, Barker argues for a genuinely new, 'diacritical' understanding of the violence of history.