Book Reviews

The Liberal Way of War, The Liberal Way of Policing?

Tim Dunne, professor of international relations and head of humanities and social sciences, University of Exeter, reviewing the new book The Liberal Way of War:Killing to Make Life Live in Times Higher Education:

In the West, the thawing of the Cold War coincided with a revival in liberal internationalist ideas about the importance of regime type. Leading American thinkers including Michael Doyle and Francis Fukuyama seized on a claim initially articulated by Kant about the peaceful character of democracies. From Reagan onwards, every US President has endorsed the mantra that democracies are more peaceful than authoritarian regimes.

In The Liberal Way of War this hubris is dramatically punctured. Kant appears not as an exponent of a separate peace forged among republican states but as a philosopher of biohumanity. The consequence of the emergence of the human species as a referent for security is that war “becomes war without end”. On this logic, liberals are pushed closer and closer to the realist position that war is necessarily a recurrent feature of politics.

via Times Higher Education – The Liberal Way of War: Killing to Make Life Live. (emphasis added)

If the argument is that once the referent for security becomes “the human” that the result is a temporally indefinate state of affairs best described as “a war without end,” what do we make of the anagolously indefinate state of policing?

My first impression is that there are least two issues at stake here:

  1. What is/are the object(s) of contemporary policing?  What, exactly, is being “policed” in each of our projects?  In my own fieldwork, the answer to this question certainly varied–was a point of considerable debate, actually, but in a daily sense it was certainly not “the human species” itself.  yet the temporality of “security” seems the same (perhaps)…
  2. In a more tangential manner–though key to understanding what, exactly, we’re up to here in this blog–is the question of police vs. military, or quotidian policing vs. war (even the variety “without end”).  Certainly there exists a now almost overwhelming amount of social science, anthropology being one of the key contributors, on war and its aftermaths.  Oftentimes the instinct is to take the insights garnered from this material and apply it to the kind of situations that we study, leading to descriptions of police as a broadly “paramilitary” exercise.  Again, I know form my own work that this is only partly true, at best.  how to articulate the difference?
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