Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-first Century

In This Review

Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-first Century

By Philip Bobbitt
Knopf, 2008
688 pp. $35.00

This sprawling and probing account of violence in the modern world begins with the bold claim that almost everything currently "known" about terrorism "must be thoroughly rethought." Bobbitt, a noted constitutional scholar, argues that explanations for terrorism that focus on cultural and religious clashes or poverty and underdevelopment miss the bigger picture. Terrorist violence, he argues, has evolved over the eras in complex interaction with the changing character of states and political rule. As he did in his earlier book, The Shield of Achilles, Bobbitt builds his grand historical narrative around a schematic view of the stages of Western political development. The types of "constitutional order" have evolved over the centuries, from princely states to absolutist and national-territorial states to what he sees as the emerging twenty-first century "market state," in which governments exist primarily to maximize individual opportunity in a globalized world system. In each era, terrorists have developed their ideology in reaction to the legitimating logic of the reigning constitutional form. The nation-state called forth the violence of the Irish Republican Army and the Japanese Red Army; the U.S.-led market state is calling forth the decentralized and networked terrorism of al Qaeda. Bobbitt's message is that an effective response to the coming threats will require the reinforcement of legal and institutional capacities that bridge the gap between homeland security and international security. Some readers will find the notion of a market state more of a caricature than a useful archetype, and scholars of international relations will wish that the book more systematically explored the implications of growing security interdependence for international cooperation.

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