“War is the continuation of politics by other means.”
This claim, borrowed from German political theorist Carl von
Clausewitz, is arguably repeated with the same frequency at which it is misunderstood. In the opening chapter of Multitude, the second collaborative work by literary theorist Michael Hardt and political philosopher Antonio Negri, one finds an instructive exploration of war. In particular, one finds an account of how its contemporary instances reflect significant departures from its historical meaning, particularly Clausewitz’s. For him, politics had no domestic significance; it was a term strictly applied to relations between sovereign states. War was quite narrowly, as Hardt and Negri explain, “an instrument in the state’s arsenal for use in the realm of international politics.” In fact, they argue, the very construction of the modern, liberal state was intended to banish war from the domestic sphere. “If war is isolated to the conflicts between sovereign entities, then politics within each society is, at least in normal circumstances, free from war,” most from Clausewitz’s time thought. “War was a limited state of exception.”
Exception, as well as the standard(s) against which it is defined, is key here. First, war in this equation was something with spatial and temporal specificity. That is, it occurred somewhere that could be distinguished from somewhere else, and in an historical moment that could be distinguished from some other moment. There were places and times in which war was not happening. These functioned as a norm against which war figured as an exception. Additionally, the domestic suspension of democracy and civil liberties that invariably accompanied war figured as similarly exceptional, bolstering the legitimacy of the liberal state in its normative, peacetime form. More still, peacetime had historically allowed societies to heal, recover, and mature from the trauma of these exceptions. In the post-9/11 era, amidst what Dick Cheney declared as a global and unending war on terror, we breathe an entirely different air. “War is becoming a general phenomenon, global and interminable,” Hardt and Negri observe. “Because the isolated space and time of war in the limited conflict between sovereign states has declined, war seems to have seeped back and flooded the entire social field. The state The state of exception has become permanent and general.”
Indeed, it seems to saturate every surface. The War on Poverty. The War on Drugs. The War on Crime. The War on Obesity. The War on Illiteracy. Each with its own state of exception; each an utterance constructing its object as an existential enemy, outside the boundaries of democratic action or accountability. State acts in these narratives, whatever their texture, are justified in advance, subordinating all other considerations, normalized. Perhaps, nowhere is this more apparent than in the militarization of police. To the extent war has, in fact, “seeped back and flooded” civil spheres, often with military-grade weaponry and mounting body-counts – particularly in black and brown communities—what, then, of an anti-war movement?
This issue of WIN seeks to explore this question, not merely in terms of police militarization as it has been conventionally reported (particularly in the mounting aftermath of the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO), but in terms of its global dynamics, its economics, and those seeking to challenge and dismantle it. Xloi Fayre sits down with author and activist Kristian Williams to discuss counter-insurgency and its migration from foreign wars to domestic repression. Jimmy Johnson details how military tactics and technology deployed in advance of Brazil’s recent World Cup events were tested by Israel in the West Bank, representing not just an industrial export, but the construction of “surplus populations” within economic development. Yiannis Baboulias offers an, at times, personal look at police militarization in Europe under austerity measures, particularly in Greece. Ali Issa interviews Drake Jones from Boston Pink and Black about urban queers and youth of color challenging criminalization of their communities and hyper-incarceration, and we take a look at how the responses to these trends might suggest a renaissance for nonviolent resistance.
The timeliness of these reflections is gravely apparent. Struggles against police militarization and violence in the US are unfolding at staggering rates, capturing headlines daily, with Understanding these as a new –critically important—terrain for anti-war movements is now non-negotiable. The question is: How will we meet them?
- Joshua Stephens, Editor