This is a book which aims to overturn existing understandings of the origins and futures of the War on Terror for the purposes of International Relations theory. As the book 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.
This chapter begins with a discussion of the concept of liberal modernity. It then sets out the purpose of the book, which is to trace the development of liberal regimes back to the origins of their emergence in the eighteenth century and the development of the techniques with which they first set out to posit a solution to the problem of war through the pacification of life and the imposition of liberal accounts of humanity within their own and other societies. In order to examine liberal regimes biopolitically, this book develops an overtly Foucauldian analysis. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
War, discipline, and the martial origins of liberal societies
This chapter details Foucault's own neglected account of the origins of modern forms of disciplinary and biopolitical forms of power in the development of the military sciences of organisation. It draws on Foucault to demonstrate how liberal regimes of governance emerged during the eighteenth century in response to the challenge of how to overcome the problem of war within society; how that challenge led liberal regimes to develop unprecedented techniques with which to intervene upon and control the life of societies in the production of ways of living believed to be compatible with peace. And yet how, in turn, the development of such techniques of pacification has functioned historically to exacerbate the problem of war inter-socially in ways that are especially pertinent today. In order to remove the problem of war from society, liberal regimes set about making the life of their societies into so-called logistical life. Logistical life is a life lived under the duress of the command to be efficient, to communicate one's purposes transparently in relation to others, to be positioned where one is required, to use time economically, to be able to move when and where one is told to, and crucially, to be able to extol these capacities as the values which one would willingly, if called upon, kill and die for.
War, sovereignty, and resistance to the biopolitical imperium
This chapter argues that it is a mistake to construe the War on Terror, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that have followed it, and the broader reassertion of American military and strategic power globally, in the simplistic terms of the ‘return’ of a state-fermented form of imperialism. For sure, the 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre did initiate some changes in the organisation of power internationally, but it did not forge a regression. Central to the argument is the continuing and essential role of biopolitical forms of discourse and agency in the twenty-first century. In essence, while the reassertion of the military power of this one particular state, the United States, ought to make us aware of the continuing importance of traditional forms of sovereign power, it remains as, if not more, necessary, to concentrate on the imperial function of biopolitics here in the post-9/11 era. If we want to understand how it is that the United States is able to wage war in the terms that it is doing today, to reassert its capacities as a sovereign state, it is necessary to focus upon the roles of non-state biopolitical forms of agency in constituting and legitimising such violence. Bereft of its biopolitical context, such violence would be meaningless and impossible to sustain. In this sense it is the biopolitical which is the constitutive force within the imperial machine which we see today expanding and intensifying its controls over life globally.
The seductions of Terror amid the tyranny of the human
This chapter explores the strategies with which Terror is seeking to refuse the impositions of biopolitical order through the development of Jean Baudrillard's account of Terror as defiant life. Defiant life is a life which, in contrast to nomadic life, refuses the powers of movement and possibility of alternative modes of communication, guarding its capacities to be obdurate, secretive and obscure. Faced with a form of power the strategy of which functions by governing life relationally, making it communicate and move efficiently, defiant life responds with a strategy of no negotiation, and with the outright refusal of insistences for communication and movement. Baudrillard's theories have received barely any serious attention in domains of International Relations in spite of the fact that much of his recent work has been concerned directly with issues of war in relation to political and social transformation. Most recently, he has written explicitly on the phenomenon of Terror and its relations to the developing global order. Similar to Deleuze and Guattari, his broader theory of modernity and the development of societies and modalities of governance developed in the form of an interlocution and antagonism with Foucault's account.
9/11 as architectural catastrophe and the hypermodernity of Terror
This chapter develops an account of the significance of the 9/11 attack understood in explicitly architectural terms. It focuses on the critique of the bias toward orthogonal and vertical forms in architecture developed by Paul Virilio. It is argued that that to interpret the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001 in architectural terms is to challenge prevailing understandings of its significance and symbolic value. An attack, which liberal critics such as Elshtain argue to have been perpetrated by individuals incapable of humanity, becomes recontextualised as an attack upon a building which symbolised the artificiality and violence of the liberal ideal of human life. Yet this artificiality was disclosed to us not for the first time in the violence of the Terror attack of 9/11. Authors such as Virilio have been arguing it to be the case for many years, and his interventions in debates on architecture have acted to make us think more critically about the ways our experience of life and our relations with others are conditioned by such peculiar spatial forms.
This chapter pursues the problem of what life is and what life may become outside of its capture within the forms of logistical order promoted in the name of a War on Terror, through recourse to the work of two of the most currently influential of all Foucauldian thinkers, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. What defines the work of Hardt and Negri, and certainly what has helped make their work so popular in recent years, is their attempt to reconstitute the historical tradition of refusal of and resistance to the logistical ordering of liberal societies. The chapter is organized as follows. One section provides an account of the development of the theory of the war of the multitude as it occurs in Negri's political thought. The text then examines how this contributes to the more recent account of Hardt and Negri's conceptualisation of the ‘two wars of liberal modernity’ through which, as they argue, the antagonistic relationship between the multitude and liberal regimes has developed. The final section addresses the problem of how this antagonism has been complicated by the emergence of Terror as a resistance to liberal regimes, and the question of whether Hardt and Negri are able to usefully distinguish their account of the contemporary character of the war of the multitude from it.
This epilogue briefly considers where the preceding analyses take and leave us with respect to the War on Terror and the broader problems of relations between life, war, and politics of which this war is an expression. In the context of a war in which liberal regimes are attempting to convince their publics that it is no less than the future survival of the human species which is at stake in a conflict against an enemy stripped of all ordinary attributes of humanity, it is of necessity that we continue to question as rigorously as possible the relations between life, war and liberal modernity. It is of necessity that the problem of liberal modernity no longer be understood as that of how to free life from its subjection to a historical and politically contingent condition of war, but how to free life from its subjection to the means of liberal solutions to the problem of war. There is today not so much a problem with war as such, but more pressingly with prevailing liberal solutions to war. That is to say in the limitations of the ways in which liberal regimes construe social conditions conducive to peace. Understood thus, the imperative question of politics which Foucault specified for us, which the other theorists in this book all seek to respond to, and which nevertheless continues to plague us, is that of how to disengage from the biopolitical techniques and processes through which life comes to be pacified and mobilised as logistical life.