War after Death: On Violence and Its Limits

War after Death: On Violence and Its Limits

Steven Miller
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    War after Death: On Violence and Its Limits
    Book Description:

    War after Death considers forms of violence that regularly occur in actual wars but do not often factor into the stories we tell about war, which revolve invariably around killing and death. Recent history demonstrates that body counts are more necessary than ever, but the fact remains that war and death is only part of the story--an essential but ultimately subordinate part. Beyond killing, there is no war without attacks upon the built environment, ecosystems, personal property, artworks, archives, and intangible traditions. Destructive as it may be, such violence is difficult to classify because it does not pose a grave threat to human lives. Nonetheless, the book argues that destruction of the nonhuman or nonliving is a constitutive dimension of all violence--especially forms of extreme violence against the living such as torture and rape; and it examines how the language and practice of war are transformed when this dimension is taken into account. Finally, War after Death offers a rethinking of psychoanalytic approaches to war and the theory of the death drive that underlies them.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5679-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction (i.e., the death drive)
    (pp. 1-17)

    War after Death: On Violence and Its Limitsoffers a philosophical reflection upon forms of violence that regularly occur in actual wars but do not often factor into the stories we tell ourselves about war. These stories—from Homer and Virgil to Kant, Clausewitz, Goya, Freud, Schmitt, and Derrida—revolve around killing and death. There is no way, it would seem, to capture the essence of war in word or image without linking it to death. Recent history demonstrates that body counts are more necessary than ever. I argue, however, that war-and-death is only part—a large part, certainly, but...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Statues Also Die
    (pp. 18-50)

    In the immediate aftermath of September 11, there was as much discussion of rescue efforts at ground zero as of the ways in which this event revealed a change—perhaps long under way—in the nature of war. Only two weeks after the attacks, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld himself contributed to this discussion with a now-famous editorial in theNew York Timestitled “A New Kind of War,” in which he analyzes how the coming war—later known as the “war on terror”—would no longer be recognizable as war in the traditional sense. In keeping with a...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Open Letter to the Enemy: Jean Genet, War, and the Exact Measure of Man
    (pp. 51-83)

    This brief text was not actually published until 1991. It was, however, almost published in 1975 in a book of homages to William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. It was to have been preceded by the following explanation of its origins, written by Gysin:

    In Tangiers in 1970 Genet asked me what had happened to the underground English newspaperThe International Times. When I told him that the editors were having trouble with the English authorities because of the personal ads run by people searching for “special friendships” [amitiés particulières], he exclaimed: “Why friends? Personally, I am looking for a suitable...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Mayhem: Symbolic Violence and the Culture of the Death Drive
    (pp. 84-115)

    It is axiomatic that war entails killing and death. Even if we have never had firsthand experience of war and even if no one in our families or communities has ever died in war, we know this to be the case. Lenin famously presaged that twentieth-century imperialism would yield an era of wars and revolutions. The ensuing wars and revolutions did not fail to reconfigure the entire world—“globalizing” it in the process. But these conflicts also brought to light an even more encompassing history: the history of war and death.

    The Cold War, Hannah Arendt suggests in the opening...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR War, Word, Worst: Reading Samuel Beckett’s Worstward Ho
    (pp. 116-142)

    Worstward ho. For each headline transcribed above, in accordance with current bibliographic practices, I have included a note giving both its original publication date and the date (July 9, 2012) on which I accessed it on my personal computer. The list was selected from the results obtained from a single Google search using the search terms “worst violence.” The headlines are presented in the order in which they appeared on my computer screen—that is, in no particular order, chronological or otherwise. They place outbursts of violence side by side in a manner that utterly disregards the specificity of historical...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Translation of a System in Deconstruction: Jacques Derrida and the War of Language against Itself
    (pp. 143-173)

    One of the most ingrained presuppositions of translation theory is that the need for translation results from what Wilhelm von Humboldt called the “diversity of human language construction”¹ (die Verscheidenheit des menschlichen Sprachbaues) and that, at the limit, translation constitutes a congenitally failed attempt to overcome this diversity. Even Walter Benjamin’s inexhaustible essay, “The Task of the Translator,” presumes that this task is defined in terms of the problem of linguistic diversity. In large measure, Benjamin inherits this presumption from Mallarmé—whom he cites in the original French:

    Les langues imparfaites en cela que plusieurs, manque la supreme: penser étant...

  10. Afterword
    (pp. 174-186)

    At various points throughout this book, I observed that war is a matter of mobilization and speed, the traversal, distribution, and occupation of space. Without movement, potential movement, or perhaps even emotion, there would be no war. There would only be conflict without passion, departure, attack, struggle, strike, clash, or contest. Kant’s satiric projection of a pacified world as the vast graveyard of the human race offers a precise image of the opposite of war: stasis and separation for eternity. War on earth necessarily ends when all movement stops (save the movement of the earth itself). There is no war...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 187-216)
    (pp. 217-226)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 227-236)