My brain doesn’t work in summer, but here’s a thought on Vincent’s penultimate talk in the series The Power of Thought – this time around. The topic is related to political philosophy and the guest is Ole Kværnø who is the director of the Defence Academy. The two talk about current perceptions of war and how they unfold against the background of older definitions of notions such as the state, sovereignty, and civil rights. I like the fact that Kværnø didn’t come to the studio unprepared. And he even addressed the issue of how we legitimate claims to going to war from a philosophical perspective. Symmetry and asymmetry were the main operative keywords in a discussion about structural and normative codes that involve agents going to war not against other agents but against concepts. If in the cold war the situation was one of symmetry where two parties were concerned – each wanted to beat the other leaving from the same premise or using the same intelligence apparatuses – nowadays states such as Denmark go to war also against people who do not possess either the same belligerent culture, or the same military intelligence, or the same type of weapons. Kvarnø made a reference, on the one hand, to Kant, for whom going to war when one state has too much power over another is not a sign of good, ethical and moral behaviour, and on the other, to Hobbes who basically claimed the opposite.

So, yes, the military. What can one say? Things are always quite mechanical where strategies and the like are accounted for in philosophical terms that avoid the work of deconstruction. I was thinking how the whole discussion would have been infinitely more dynamic if Vincent or Kværnø had said something about Carl Schmitt or Giorgio Agamben’s idea of the homo sacer, sovereignty, and how we deconstruct political concepts and show that, at their base, they are secularized theological concepts – which is what Schmitt originally claimed. Agamben, following Schmitt, suggests some pretty intelligent things about the relations: subject against subject and subject against object, when he claims that the "so-called sacred and inalienable rights of man prove to be completely unprotected at the very moment it is no longer possible to characterize them as rights of the citizens of a state.” (Means without an End,19-20; revised version in Homo Sacer, 2002). Obviously the consequences of Agamben’s postulate have implications for the way in which we thematize free will – which, just for the record, I don’t believe in myself – and it complicates Kværnø’s statement that governments today, when thinking about going to war, pick and choose as if they were at a supermarket. The association is good, but things are more complex than that. In the face of thinking that just because one doesn’t have a well defined enemy, one can afford to invent things and then go to the supermarket and get the bullets according to the invention, I thought that particularly Schmitt’s idea that “Everything must be forced to the extreme so that it can be overturned out of a dialectical necessity” (The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy, 1924/1988: 59) is relevant to consider for a few seconds. Vincent, who knows about ‘forcing’ even though in another context – will understand what I mean. The rest, enjoy your summers, your Riviera suits, gray soft cottons over white shirts, and white pants – don’t go black – or think strategies, or career moves, by donning dark stripped suits and red ties – don’t forget about human causes though, which you can mark by penetrating your lapels with a pin.


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