Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Murad Idris's "War for Peace"

Murad Idris is an Assistant Professor of Politics, University of Virginia, and co-editor of forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Comparative Political Theory.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, War for Peace: Genealogies of a Violent Ideal in Western and Islamic Thought, and reported the following:
On page 99 of War for Peace, I argue through a close reading of the philosopher al-Fārābī (c. 872–950/1) that the form of a collective bond is predicated on an enemy. The bond does not only enfold those who live together; it establishes those alongside whom they wage war and those against whom they wage war. The page distinguishes this interpretation of al-Fārābī from Carl Schmitt’s friend/enemy distinction; summarizes how al-Fārābī schematizes each bond and its corollary antagonism; and introduces al-Fārābī’s description of the view that people must seek conquest after conquest, or war for its own sake. The page ends with a contrast: “Recall Cleinias’s claim in book 1 of Plato’s Laws, that there” is an everlasting war against cities, between cities, or between neighborhoods, households, men, and inside each person.

Al-Farabi’s descriptions are symmetrical. My discussions of symmetry underscore how aesthetic features quietly arrange constructions of the world—the agents and spaces that a schema prioritizes, and the erasures and hierarchies it installs. He lists “bonds (and antagonisms) produced through procreation or intermarriage (against other kin-based groups); a shared first or original ruler (against outsiders); alliances (against other forces); similarity in a nation’s character, nature, and language (against other nations),” and so on. Thus, “clan is distinguished from clan, city from city, a set of allies from another set of allies, and nation from nation.” Al-Fārābī then describes the view of warlike groups and of a “peaceful” city. Other scholars have taken al-Farabi to suggest that the “peace-loving cities” are either insignificant or non-violent. I show that, based on al-Farabi’s own description, this group’s structure is actually strikingly similar to the “warlike cities” that al-Fārābī discusses in another text. The “peaceful city” wages war, insists on peace, and resembles those whom it designates as warlike.

This analysis is part of the chapter’s attempt to interrogate the economies of morals that configure “war for the sake of peace” and to recover their logics beyond the grammar of “just war” and “good intentions.” This grammar’s neutrality is too often taken for granted. The chapter pursues this argument through its juxtaposition of al-Fārābī and Thomas Aquinas.

Page 99 reflects the book’s challenge to critically situate thinkers, their concepts, and their schematizations across histories of political thought. It turns from al-Farabi back to Plato’s Cleinias; later chapters resituate both in light of the schematizations of war and peace by Erasmus, Ibn Khaldun, Hobbes, Pufendorf, Kant, and Sayyid Qutb, among others, to tease out how idealizations of peace re-entrench hierarchies within humanity, reflect the distinction between empire and native, and authorize various forms of policing in the name of peace. From this page alone, one could say that War for Peace gives the genealogies of the frames that structure theorizations of universal peace, war, and the globe.
Learn more about War for Peace at the Oxford University Pres website.

--Marshal Zeringue