Unparalleled catastrophe provides a timely intervention that challenges orthodox thinking around nuclear weapons by mapping out how and why the world is entering a new era of catastrophic threats. After the first use of nuclear weapons in 1945, Albert Einstein warned the world that ‘we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe’. This book tells the story of how we are no longer drifting, but racing towards unparalleled catastrophe at breakneck speed. As states modernise and increase their nuclear weapon stockpiles, and develop new weapons systems, and as the global nuclear arms control regime faces pressures like never before, Unparalleled catastrophe provides a chronicle of events, and an analysis of developments that have brought the world into a Third Nuclear Age. To make sense of our contemporary moment, Unparalleled catastrophe puts forward the case for critical nuclear studies, traces the dangers of recent epoch-defining developments, and provides a political intervention into contemporary security debates about nuclear weapons. The book is the first of its kind to document and critically analyse the dawn of the Third Nuclear Age. Drawing on a diverse range of source material – from policy documents, military doctrine and news reports to pop songs and social media memes – Unparalleled catastrophe examines the causes of the Third Nuclear Age and how it manifests in our everyday lives. In doing so, Unparalleled catastrophe explores what has brought us to the brink of catastrophe, and suggests what can be done to avoid it.
THE WAR AND NATURAL
THE MORON AS AN ENEMY FORCE
Congenitally incapable of adjusting themselves to an advanced social order, the
degenerate inevitably become its enemies – particularly those ‘high-grade defectives’ who are the natural fomenters of social unrest.1
‘Undesirable’ community groups, especially those which can be framed as
potentially destructive to society at large, are often described through the
employment of military or natural catastrophe metaphors. In such cases, the
group is put forth as a primary and imminent threat
it as pretentious while Assayas’ arthouse
following may find it just plain tacky. ( 2002 : 32) 1
In his later reassessment, however, he
suggested that the film wasn’t simply a catastrophe but rather
‘a film made in the catastrophic mode’, arguing provocatively
‘that a cinema truly attuned to our times can make sense only if it
partakes of catastrophe, of a collapse of
Theatres of catastrophe after Auschwitz
The two place names featured in this chapter’s title call to mind atrocities
of the Second World War, specifically the Holocaust and the dropping
of the atomic bomb in Japan – catastrophic events that are distinguished
even within the twentieth century’s catalogue of horrors involving mass
death.1 The genocide of up to six million European and Soviet Jews,
along with the murder of other groups (e.g., Sinti and Roma, people with
disabilities, gay people, and political prisoners), by the Nazis between
The Captain catastrophe and
the politics of authority
The government of England has been making a large experiment, in which
the whole English people take a profound interest, personal as well as national.
That experiment has just concluded with a result absolute, decided, and overwhelming. The object of the experiment is therefore obtained: it has settled
all the questions it was to decide – one way. The experiment has cost at the
least £350,000, and some 500 human lives. That is no doubt an experiment on
a sufficiently grand scale to warrant the deep
The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.
Albert Einstein, 25 May 1946
In 1946 Albert Einstein warned that nuclear weapons were leading the world towards ‘unparalleled catastrophe’. Einstein did not always think this way. Less than a decade earlier, on 2 August 1939 (eighty years to the day before the collapse of the INF
very conspicuously amongst the concerns of moral or political philosophers in general.
It was a human catastrophe which may be thought, for all that, to pose some troubling questions for anyone committed to radical and progressive change, and it is certainly not a good reason for ignoring these questions that troubling is what they are. The words of the Polish sociologist Anna Pawelczynska, herself a former prisoner at Auschwitz, are to the point here:
People living within the orbit of European civilization today defend themselves from the
Cognitive justice, engagement and an ethic of care in learning
University responsibility in a world of
environmental catastrophe: cognitive justice,
engagement and an ethic of care in learning
Steve Garlick and Julie Matthews
ducation, the area to which we usually first turn for human transformation,
has failed us when it comes to environmental matters (Orr, 1992). Much of the
environmental mismanagement we see around us today comes from the decisions
and actions of ‘educated’ people and, despite talk of the need for an ‘education
revolution’, governments are unwilling to address the real question of ‘what
out of their homes, especially in densely built-up areas.
This military strategy has been extremely effective in regaining most opposition strongholds at the expense of civilian suffering and humanitarian catastrophe. Moreover, this strategy, especially the forced displacement part, could have serious long-term consequences, such as forced displacement and demographic engineering, that could be almost impossible to reverse in post-conflict Syria.
All data used in this paper are publicly accessible. The authors declare that they have no
The escalation of systematic, if random, violence in the contemporary world frames the
concerns of the article, which seeks to read Baldwin for the present. It works by a
measure of indirection, arriving at Baldwin after a detour which introduces Chinua Achebe.
The Baldwin–Achebe relationship is familiar fare. However, here I explore not the shared
congruence between their first novels, but rather focus on their later works, in which the
reflexes of terror lie close to the surface. I use Achebe’s final novel, Anthills of the
Savanah, as a way into Baldwin’s “difficult” last book, The Evidence of Things Not Seen,
suggesting that both these works can speak directly to our own historical present. Both
Baldwin and Achebe, I argue, chose to assume the role of witness to the evolving
manifestations of catastrophe, which they came to believe enveloped the final years of
their lives. In order to seek redemption they each determined to craft a prose—the product
of a very particular historical conjuncture—which could bring out into the open the
prevailing undercurrents of violence and terror.