Sheffield Doc/Fest Review: The Monopoly of Violence


riot police

The past few years has seen unrest break out in many placed around the world. One of the constants has been the reaction of the police. There have been almost universally robust responses, ranging from unnecessary overreaction to outright murder. The only groups who seem to spared the truncheon, baton, tear gas or Taser are far right nationalists, which probably tells you all you need to know about the mentality of many police forces.

Whilst sociologist Max Weber came up with the concept of monopoly on violence in his essay Politics as a Vocation, the bones of the idea can be traced back hundreds of years. In essence, he believed that the state was on the only actor who has the right to use or threaten force on the citizens of a country. In his new documentary, The Monopoly of Violence, David Dufresne investigates how this works in modern France. The republic famous for its Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Using mobile phone footage captured over the course of two years under the presidency of Emmanuel Macron, The Monopoly of Violence looks at the behaviours exhibited by the police as they use force against protestors. These events are analysed by a number of experts on both sides, including historians, victims, police unions representatives, sociologists and lawyers. The Monopoly of Violence is a fascinating study on the role and attitude of law enforcement in France today. While it’s obviously unbalanced, by piecing these responses together Dufresne identifies a pattern of abuse of power.

The Monopoly of Violence screens at Sheffield Doc/Fest.

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