Politics of past and present

March 19, 2009

Frank Furedi pretends that my book, Civic War and the Corruption of the Citizen, is a theory of international relations, but it is exactly the opposite: a study of constitutional politics that explicitly treats the "war on terror" as a feature of domestic political culture (Books, 12 February).

Had Furedi read the book properly, war might "mystify" him less. He would learn how domestic political actors have constituted "civic war" in America since the 19th century. Instead, he accuses me of "rediscovering the present in the past", whereas I make clear that the past is still very much with us. He seems to accept that the world started afresh on 9/11; I argue that this is dangerous nonsense.

Although I spend 100 pages exhibiting long-term transformations of war, emergency powers, popular sovereignty and so on, and demonstrate that conditions for post-9/11 politics were in effect before that date, Furedi calls the book "ahistorical". He must also call black "white". My book pushes backwards from 9/11 to show that each account of "the beginning" of the "war" serves some political interest, and that the judgment of democratic citizens will depend on the version they adopt. Furedi's bizarre view that "confusion and disorientation" are explanations for all political processes should be rejected outright.

Peter Alexander Meyers, University of Paris 3 - Sorbonne Nouvelle and Princeton University.

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