C.E. G's Reviews > Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair

Conflict Is Not Abuse by Sarah Schulman
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bookshelves: fun-nonfiction

I started out being really into this book, feeling personally challenged by it and writing down some quotes like, "Refusing to be self-critical in order to solve conflicts enhances the power of the state." I found it valuable to look at how both Supremacy and Trauma can lead to unhealthy responses to conflict.

However, the more I read, the more I felt like this book was Sarah Schulman intellectualizing her obsession with past rejections. Like, the title of the book includes "the duty of repair" but I never felt like she made the case for why it's our duty. I definitely agree that it's unhealthy to label someone abusive/threatening and then call the police on them or ask everyone you know in common to start shunning them. But we have limited time, and to me it feels like an unreasonable expectation that every person who crosses your path should process conflict with you. Like, sometimes, a relationship just isn't worth maintaining, and I don't think that's a violence.

It's definitely a book that should be read more in the spirit of self-criticism rather than externally focused criticism. I found myself drifting into the latter at times, but realized that's what was irritating me about Schulman's stance (most of her criticisms were of how other people treated her, rather than how she was behaving). It was worth reading for me and I'd love to discuss it more with people. It helped me articulate and draw connections between certain phenomena in my world.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
February 14, 2017 – Finished Reading
February 15, 2017 – Shelved
February 15, 2017 – Shelved as: fun-nonfiction

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message 1: by Phoebe (new)

Phoebe I don't think you have this quite right: " Like, sometimes, a relationship just isn't worth maintaining, and I don't think that's a violence. " -- She isn't saying you have to maintain a friendship you don't want to maintain, only that you should end it with some dignity and honesty, rather than, say, take your mixed feelings toward a person who did nothing wrong, feel defensive about them, and then somehow punish the other party because you can't be "the bad guy" so s/he must be. It's all maturity and common sense to reasonable people such as ourselves, of course, but for me it was a pleasure to see dissected and held to the light.


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