Sovereignty and its Discontents

On the Primacy of Conflict and the Structure of the Political

By William Rasch

© 2005 – Birkbeck Law Press

166 pages

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Paperback: 9781859419847
pub: 2004-08-18
US Dollars$67.95

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About the Book

This book argues for the centrality of conflict in any notion of the political. In contrast to many of the attempts to re-think the political in the wake of the collapse of traditional leftist projects, it also argues for the logical and/or ontological primacy of violence over 'peace'.

The notion of the political expounded here is explicitly 'realist' and anti-utopian - in large part because the author finds the consequences of attempting to think 'the good life' to be far more damaging than thinking 'the tolerable life'. The political is not thought of as a means to implement the good life; rather, the political exists because the good life does not. Indeed, if one sees 'globalization', with its emphasis on efficiency and economy, as a threat to the autonomy of the political, then one ought to be wary of political ideologies that reduce the political to species of moral or legal discourse.

As laudable as the aims of human rights activists or political theorists like Rawls and Habermas may be, the consequences of their thought and actions further reduce the scope and possibility of political activity by, in effect, criminalizing political opposition. Once 'universal' norms are instantiated, political opposition becomes impossible. A fully legalized, moralized, and pacified universe is a thoroughly depoliticized one as well.

Academics and advanced students researching and working in the areas of political theory, legal theory and international relations will find this book of great interest.

About the Series

Birkbeck Law Press

Birkbeck Law School has been recognised as an international centre of research excellence, specialising in legal theory and theoretically informed socio-legal research and pioneering critical approaches to scholarship.

Birkbeck Law Press aims to develop a distinct publishing profile by addressing the legal challenges of late modernity. Globalisation and the move towards universal legal values, which should respect cultural specificities and local conditions, has created the urgent need for greater dialogue and understanding between the major schools of thought and legal systems in the world. Most legal publishing, driven by the needs of specialisation and the state-based nature of positive law, has not systematically addressed these concerns.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / Reference