The Liberal Way of War
Killing to Make Life Live
Routledge – 2009 – 196 pages
Series: Global Horizons
The liberal way of war and the liberal way of rule are correlated; this book traces that correlation to liberalism's original commitment to 'making life live'. Committed to making life live, liberalism is committed to waging war on behalf of life, specifically to promote the biopolitical life of species being; what the book calls 'the biohuman'.
Tracking the advent of the age of life-as-information - complex, adaptive and emergent - while contrasting biopolitics with geopolitics, the book details how and why the liberal way of rule wages war on the human in the cause of instituting the biohuman. Contingent and emergent, the biohuman is however continuously also becoming-dangerous to itself. It therefore requires constant surveillance to anticipate the threats it presents to its own flourishing.
The book explains how, in making life live, liberal rule finds its expression, today, in making the biohuman live the emergency of its emergence. Thus does liberal peace become the continuation of war by other means. Just as the information and molecular revolutions have combined to transform liberal military-strategic thinking so also has it contributed to the discourse of global danger through which global liberal governance currently legitimates the liberal way of war.
'The Liberal Way of War is a remarkable book: theoretically sophisticated and conceptually nuanced. Building on, critiquing, and updating Foucault’s analyses of biopower and liberal governmental strategies, Dillon and Reid provide a powerful and challenging account of how contemporary politics operates both globally and over life itself.' - Stuart Elden, Professor of Political Geography, Durham University and author of Terror and the State of Territory (University of Minnesota Press, 2009).
'The Liberal Way of War will prove essential reading for anyone perplexed by Foucault’s pithy observation – that ‘massacres have become vital’. Not only does the book shed new light on such topics as the liberal rationalization of killing, the humanitarianization of biopolitics, and the informationalization of war; it shows there to be complex relationships between them.' - William Walters, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University, Canada.
'Although it has long been asserted that liberal democracy, like any political system, is based not simply on consensus but also on the exercise of violence, Dillon and Reid cast new light on an old problem by bringing it into the "information age" -- which for them is also the age of "biopolitics". They argue that liberalism must be understood neither simply in terms of individual rights, nor as an economic system, but as effort to organize the reproduction of "life" through "breeding" and "adaptation" as "being-in-formation". The militarization of politics thus emerges as a necessary correlative of a politics that increasingly identifies the protection of life -- security -- with the administration of death. A provocative thesis that will be a focus of discussion in the years to come.' - Samuel Weber, Avalon Professor of Humanities, Northwestern University, USA
'The Liberal Way of War concedes to realism the inevitability of war in the system while suggesting a different account of how it comes about. Rather than looking to the pathologies of an anarchic international order, Dillon and Reid implore us to interrogate the pathologies of liberal biopolitics.' - Times Higher Education Supplement
1. Introduction: From Liberal Conscience to Liberal Rule Part 1 2. From the Liberal Subject to the Biohuman 3. War in the Age of Biohumanity 4. Informationalising Life Part 2 5. Global Triage: Threat Perception in the 21st Century 6. Military Transformation in the Age of Life as Information 7. Biohumanity and its Rogues: Securing the Infrastructures of Liberal Living 8. Conclusion: Good for Nothing
Michael Dillon is Professor of Politics at the University of Lancaster, UK. He publishes widely in political theory, cultural theory and security studies and is the author of Politics of Security (1996).
Julian Reid is Lecturer in International Relations at Kings College London, UK, and Professor of International Relations at the University of Lapland, Finland.