The biopolitics of the war on terror

The biopolitics of the war on terror: Life struggles, liberal modernity and the defence of logistical societies

Julian Reid
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    The biopolitics of the war on terror
    Book Description:

    This is a book which completely overturns existing understandings of the origins and futures of the War on Terror for the purposes of International Relations theory. As the author shows, this is not a war in defence of the integrity of human life against an enemy defined simply by a contradictory will for the destruction of human life as commonly supposed by its liberal advocates. It is a war over the political constitution of life in which the limitations of liberal accounts of humanity are being put to the test if not rejected outright. Seeking a way out of this conflict must in turn mean learning to question the limits of existing understandings of what constitutes human life and its political potentialities. The pursuit of such a line of questioning is integral to the biopolitical analysis developed in this book.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-337-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. 1 War and liberal modernity: a biopolitical critique
    (pp. 1-16)

    WITNESSED from the vantage point of a twenty-first century characterised by the apparent pacification and interdependence of societies globally, liberalism would look to have proven itself the most authoritative account of the development of modern international relations. Definitive of liberalism has been its belief in the ability to establish societies through the removal of life from the condition of war and the provision of political means to allow human beings to flourish peacefully. From the Hobbesian conception of a society removed from the condition of war by a sovereign state, to the Kantian conception of societies gradually overcoming war internationally...

  5. 2 Logistical life: war, discipline, and the martial origins of liberal societies
    (pp. 17-39)

    THE ADVENT of the War on Terror entails implications for life within liberal societies which testify directly to the paradoxical limits of liberal modernity. In response to the emergence of Terror, we are witnessing a historic shift in the ideological underpinnings of liberal societies where the long professed belief in the possibility of a sustainable peace is being supplemented by a belief in the necessity of a perpetual war. Founded, at their inception, upon the challenge of the mastery of war in the name of a commitment to the promotion and enabling of peace, liberal societies appear today to be...

  6. 3 Nomadic life: war, sovereignty, and resistance to the biopolitical imperium
    (pp. 40-61)

    IN THE previous two chapters we developed a critique of liberal claims as to the superiorly pacific ways of life established in liberal societies through their passage to and journey through modernity. In turn we developed an explanation for the ways in which liberal societies have organised and mobilised for war historically, predicated upon the ways in which they construe and have pursued peace. This account, developed through Foucault’s theory of the relationships between war, modernity, and liberal societies, stands in stark contrast to the thrust of narratives developed by liberal theorists of International Relations for whom the narrative of...

  7. 4 Defiant life: the seductions of Terror amid the tyranny of the human
    (pp. 62-81)

    IN THE previous two chapters we examined the roots of the War on Terror in the development of liberal modernity and the roles of disciplinary and biopolitical regimes in constituting it. This is not a war that can be understood in the simplistic terms ascribed to it in many of the critical responses to it to date, where it is largely argued that we are witnessing in it a return of a form of imperialism grounded in an old-fashioned conception of state sovereignty. It is a biopolitical war underwritten by a commitment to the defence of a liberal conception of...

  8. 5 Circulatory life: 9/11 as architectural catastrophe and the hypermodernity of Terror
    (pp. 82-101)

    THE OVERRIDING response to the event of 9/11 has been to contextualise the attack and the conflict which has ensued in apocalyptic terms. Liberal regimes are variably portrayed as engaged in a war for the defence of common humanity and for the salvation of modernity. The last chapter challenged this widely shared view of the War on Terror by reconceiving it as a war waged in extermination of the fundamental conditions for life against a form of Terror attempting to save life from its biopolitical subjugation to an increasingly global liberal apparatus of discipline and control. Yes, the future of...

  9. 6 Biopolitical life: the ‘war against war’ of the multitude
    (pp. 102-123)

    LIBERAL societies, while founded upon the challenge of the mastery of war in the name of a commitment to the promotion of peace and the enabling of human life, appear today to have rendered their subjection to the condition of war all but intractable. The mere sustenance of liberal societies now requires their permanent mobilisation for the waging of a war without end against an enemy of Terror which threatens the existence of the logistical way of life identified with the development of liberal modernity. Terror can be understood as threatening liberal societies with an excessive fulfilment of the logistical...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 124-129)

    The liberal desire for the removal of life from its subjection to the condition of war, and its will to secure global conditions for the peaceful flourishing of humanity, is futile. This much has long since been known. However the liberal project has not failed simply because it struggles to recognise, as other studies have amply demonstrated, the depth and complexity of the roles of war and violence in constitution of the societies and formations of political power it has sought to transform in the interests of humanity. Nor has it failed because its core principles are open to abuse...

  11. References
    (pp. 130-140)
  12. Index
    (pp. 141-146)