1st Edition

Theorising Future Conflict War Out to 2049

By Mark Lacy Copyright 2024
    252 Pages
    by Routledge

    252 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book explores the changing tactics, technologies and terrains of twenty-first century war.

    It argues that the world in 2049 is unlikely to look like the climate change/artificial intelligence (AI) dystopia depicted in Blade Runner 2049, but nor will it be a world where conflict and war has been transformed by a ‘civilising process’ that eradicates violence and conflict from the human condition. 2049 is also the year that the US Department of Defense has suggested China will become a world-shaping military power. All states will be engaged in ‘arms races’ across a variety of new tools and technologies—from drones, robotics, AI and quantum computing—that will transform politics, economy, society and war.

    Drawing on thinkers such as Zygmunt Bauman and Paul Virilio, the book suggests that future war will be shaped by three broad tendencies that include a broad range of tactics, technologies and trends; the impure, the granular and the machinic. Through discussions of cybersecurity, urban war, robotics, AI, climate change, science fiction and new strategic concepts, it examines how these tendencies might evolve in the different geopolitical futures and types of war ahead of us. The book provides a thought-provoking and distinctive framework through which to think about the changing character of war. It concludes that for all the novel and dangerous challenges ahead, the futuristic possibilities of warfare will likely continue to be shaped by problems familiar to students of international relations and the history of war—albeit problems that will play out in geopolitical and technological contexts that we have never encountered before.

    This book will be of much interest to students of critical war studies, security studies, science and technology studies, and International Relations in general.

    1. Introduction: A Mug’s Game

    Part One: War and Peace in the 21st Century

    2. The Liberal Way of Future Warfare?

    3. The Lethal State of Modernity 

    Part Two: The Tactics, Terrains and Technologies of Future Warfare

    4. The Impure 1: On the Sub-Threshold of Modernity and War

    5. The Impure 2: Glitches in the Digital War Machine: The (Hu)Man, the State and (Cyber)War

    6. The Granular 1: The Changing Scale in Conflict

    7. The Granular 2: The Granularity of Future War

    8. The Machinic 1: The Battle Angels of Our Better Nature

    9. The Machinic 2: The Great Accelerator? AI and the Future of Warfare

    10. Cyberpunk International Politics? Enter The Shimmer


    Mark Lacy is a senior lecturer in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University, UK, and author of Security, Technology and Global Politics: Thinking with Virilio (2014) and Security and Climate Change (2005).

    'Theorising Future Conflict takes us on a thrilling journey into the cyberpunk politics of war and security that the near future may well have in store. Weaving a path amid sci-fi dystopias, liberal theory, and war studies, Mark Lacy offers us a sobering assessment of how global security (and society) may be transformed this side of 2049. Exactly the kind of free and clear thinking we need in a moment too often in hock to glib optimism or dark dystopias.'

    Ruben Andersson, University of Oxford, UK

    'Lacy takes us to a future of ‘shimmers’, ‘hybrids’ and ‘cyborgs’ that speaks to our present. How did we reach it? What alternative futures were discarded on the way? Instead of ready-made answers, this book proposes materials, tools and spaces to speculate, face and form our futures.' 

    Anna Leander, Geneva Graduate Institute Geneva, Switzerland

    'Drawing inspiration from science fiction, Mark Lacy's Theorising Future Conflict is an innovative and theoretically sophisticated mediation on the possible trajectories of armed conflict.'

    Duncan Bell, University of Cambridge, UK