Politics and Suicide: The philosophy of political self-destruction, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Politics and Suicide

The philosophy of political self-destruction, 1st Edition

By Nicholas Michelsen


192 pages

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Politics and Suicide argues that whilst the historical lineage of suicidal politics is recognised, the fundamental significance of autodestruction to the political remains under examined. It contends that practices like suicide-bombing do not simply embody a strange or abnormal ‘suicidal’ articulation of the political, but rather, that the existence of suicidal politics tells us something fundamental about the political as such and thinking about political violence more broadly.

Recent world events have emphatically shown our need for tools with which to develop better understandings of the politics of suicide. Through the exploration of several arresting case-studies, including the ‘Kamikaze’ bombers of World War Two, Jan Palach’s self-immolation in 1969, Cold War nuclear deterrence, and the suicide-terrorist attacks of 9/11 Michelsen asks how we might talk of a political suicide in any of these contexts. The book charts how political processes ‘go suicidal’, and asks how we might still consider them to be political in such a case. It investigates how suicide can function as ‘politics’.

A strong contribution to the fields of philosophy and international relations theory, this work will also be of interest to students and scholars of political theory and terrorism & political violence.

Table of Contents

Kamikaze 1.1 State suicide 1.2 Politics, the assemblage of desire 1.3 The fascist assemblage 1.4 Revolution and annihilation 1.5 Mishima’s revolution Self-burning 2.1 Immolāre 2.2 Death and Desire 2.3 Events and Death 2.4 Palach’s revolution Hunger-striking 3.1 Crossing the threshold 3.2 Bodily Inscription 3.3 Decoding death 3.4 Exchange 3.5 Terror and Production Terror 4.1 Human bomb 4.2 The Despot 4.3 Liberal Suicides 4.4 Terror and Liberalism 4.5 A politics from the outside Cult and Revolution 5.1 Revolutionary suicide 5.2 Jonestown 5.3 Millenarianism 5.4 Dying well 5.5 Afterword: On machines

About the Author

Nicholas Michelsen is Lecturer in International Relations Theory in the Department of War Studies at King's College London.

About the Series


The Series provides a forum for innovative and interdisciplinary work that engages with alternative critical, post-structural, feminist, postcolonial, psychoanalytic and cultural approaches to international relations and global politics. In our first 5 years we have published 60 volumes.

We aim to advance understanding of the key areas in which scholars working within broad critical post-structural traditions have chosen to make their interventions, and to present innovative analyses of important topics. Titles in the series engage with critical thinkers in philosophy, sociology, politics and other disciplines and provide situated historical, empirical and textual studies in international politics.


We are very happy to discuss your ideas at any stage of the project: just contact us for advice or proposal guidelines. Proposals should be submitted directly to the Series Editors:

  • Jenny Edkins (jennyedkins@hotmail.com) and
  • Nick Vaughan-Williams (N.Vaughan-Williams@Warwick.ac.uk).

‘As Michel Foucault has famously stated, "knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting" In this spirit The Edkins - Vaughan-Williams Interventions series solicits cutting edge, critical works that challenge mainstream understandings in international relations. It is the best place to contribute post disciplinary works that think rather than merely recognize and affirm the world recycled in IR's traditional geopolitical imaginary.’

Michael J. Shapiro, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, USA


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General