Friday, 23 January 2009

Christopher Coker's "War in an Age of Risk"

Granted the topic is interesting, but how exactly is it distinctive in comparison to Randy Martin's Empire of Indifference? I'm already thinking that Mute will be waiting in the wings to execute an identical critique to the number they did on Martin. More importantly though, one should not forget Hans Joas's critical review of Ulrich Beck in War and Modernity, insofar as Christopher Coker frames his discussion with reference to risk discourse. This is not to say that Martin and Coker's approaches are not without merit, (and the same might be said about Yee-Kuang Heng's study from 2006, War as Risk Management, and Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen's The Risk Society at War), but to some degree they may have the [unintended] effect of fostering benign neglect toward a more expansive understanding of the military as an important unit of socialisation in modernity. I'm thinking here of earlier works such as Andreski's Military Organization and Society, which contemporary specialists such as Martin Shaw treat, (in The Encyclopedia of Social Theory, edited by Harrington), as touchstones. And then there's James A. Tyner to consider for investigations of the military's spatial imagination.....

Unsurprisingly, I'm more interested in tracking down Coker's earlier book, The Future of War, which argues that biotech gives war a new lease of life, and attempts to illustrate its thesis in part with reference to various works of fiction and films. BTW, here is a balanced critique of one of Coker's earlier books.

By: Christopher Coker



Wars throughout history have been fought in the name of ideology, religion and the pursuit of peace. Our thinking about war - when it is justified, how it should be fought and how it is perceived - has changed dramatically over time. Whereas in the past war has been seen as a battle of wills, this provocative and illuminating new book shows how war has evolved into an exercise in risk management.

In a rare blend of political science, sociology, history and cultural thought, Christopher Coker peels away the layers of meaning shrouding our current understanding of war and warfare. Using the ideas of writers such as Zygmunt Bauman, Ulrich Beck and Frank Furedi, he shows that risk has become the language of business, politics and public policy and so we should not be surprised that it has now become the language of war. The book highlights the increasing difference between homeland security and national security in the modern world, arguing that the defense of the citizen is often now more challenging than the defense of the state. By demonstrating the changing character and complexity of conflict from World War I to the current the current fight against terrorism, the book provides a powerful and highly distinctive account of the re-branding of war in an age of risk.

This book is set to ignite debate amongst students and scholars of international politics as well as appealing to anyone interested in war and its place in contemporary society.

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